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Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University by Richard White

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Reading like a conversational history lecture in book form, Stanford professor emeritus White's (California Exposures, 2020) mostly captivating book chronicles the deception around the death of Jane Stanford, cofounder of Stanford University. More than 100 years after Stanford's death from strychnine poisoning, White seeks to uncover why the university, citing Stanford’s death as “natural causes,” covered up the details all those years ago. At the same time, he digs into the politics of the university’s founding, and it’s here that White at times gets bogged down in responding to all the questions presented by the mystery. Outside those chapters, though, this is an eminently clear, sharp, and readable account, featuring staccato sentences and breezy chapters. As he interrogates the past, White leaves the reader wondering if the truth is always in the answers.- Booklist