The Sinners All Bow: Two Authors, One Murder, and the Real Hester Prynne (Hardcover)

Pre-Order Now Badge
The Sinners All Bow: Two Authors, One Murder, and the Real Hester Prynne By Kate Winkler Dawson Cover Image
Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now


Acclaimed journalist, podcaster, and crime historian Kate Winkler Dawson tells the chilling true story of a young woman whose scandalous life was rumored to be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s inspiration for The Scarlet Letter—and whose shocking death inspired the first true-crime book published in America.

On a cold winter day in 1832, Sarah Cornell was found hanging in a barn, four months pregnant, after a disgraceful liaison with a charismatic Methodist minister, Reverend Ephraim Avery. Some (Avery’s lawyers) claimed her death was suicide…but others weren’t so sure. Determined to uncover the real story, intrepid Victorian writer Catharine Williams threw herself into the investigation and wrote what many claim is the first American true-crime narrative, Fall River. The case and Williams’ book became a sensation—one that divided the country and inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. But the reverend was not convicted, and questions linger to this day about what really led to Sarah Cornell’s death. Until now.

In The Sinners All Bow, acclaimed true-crime historian Kate Winkler Dawson travels back in time to 19th century small town America, emboldened to finish the work Williams started nearly two centuries before. Using modern investigative advancements—such as “forensic knot analysis” to determine cause of death, the prosecutor’s notes from 1833, and criminal profiling which was invented 55 years later with Jack the Ripper—Dawson fills in the gaps of Williams’ research to find the truth. Along the way she also examines how society decides who is the “right kind” of crime victim and how America’s long history of religious evangelism may have clouded the facts both in the 1830s and today. Ultimately, The Sinners All Bow brings justice to an unsettling mystery that speaks to our past as well as our present, anchored by three women who subverted the script they were given.

About the Author

Kate Winkler Dawson is a seasoned documentary producer, podcaster, and true-crime historian whose work has appeared in The New York Times, WCBS News and ABC News Radio, PBS NewsHour, and Nightline. She is the creator of two hit podcasts: Tenfold More Wicked and Wicked Words, and the cohost of the Buried Bones podcast on the Exactly Right network. She is the author of American Sherlock, Death in the Air, All That Is Wicked, and is a professor of journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593713617
ISBN-10: 0593713613
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: January 7th, 2025
Pages: 336
Language: English