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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping account of America's oldest unsolved mystery, the people racing to unearth its answer, and what the Lost Colony reveals about America today 

In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina to establish the first English settlement in the New World. But when the new colony's leader returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, his settlers had vanished, leaving behind only a single clue - a "secret token" etched into a tree.

What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke? That question has consumed historians, archeologists, and amateur sleuths for 400 years. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler sets out on a quest to determine the fate of the settlers, finding fresh leads as he encounters a host of characters obsessed with resolving the enigma. In the course of his journey, Lawler examines how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness.

Incisive and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony and its fate, but of how its absence continues to define - and divide - America.

©2018 Andrew Lawler (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Part detective novel, part historical reckoning, Lawler’s engrossing book traces the story of - and the obsessive search for - the lost colony of Roanoke...[l]eading to a thoughtful and timely discourse about race and identity.... Lawler makes a strong case for why historical myths matter.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[Lawler] creates a vivid picture of the roiling, politically contentious, economically stressed Elizabethan world.... [T]he author doggedly traces down frauds and hoaxes, no matter how improbable.... In this enjoyable historical adventure, an unsolved mystery reveals violent political and economic rivalries and dire personal struggles.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"The 'Lost Colony' of Roanoke is one of this country's most enduring mysteries. Andrew Lawler turns Roanoke into one of our history's best stories, recounting not only the fascinating, little-known history of the colony itself but that of the incredible swirl of historians, archaeologists, hoaxers, actors, priests, Native Americans, and experts on arcane subjects who have been caught up in the quest to find it. A tale of cock-eyed historical obsession, The Secret Token is also a serious look at America's confused ideas about itself." (Charles Mann, New York Times best-selling author of The Wizard and the Prophet and 1491)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent take on Lost Colony history

Wow! Best Lost Colony story I've read in years. Roanoke Island is my home and the author took me back to the Outer Banks and eastern NC with ease.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Than
  • Earth
  • 11-20-18

Good Enough

You probably already know something about the story if you're reading this book. If you're completely new to the topic you'll enjoy it and if you know a lot to begin with it goes down every hypothesized outcome established over the centuries. The last portion of the book talks about the bizarre history, Virginia Dare fanaticism, and obsession in modern times around the Lost Colony.

This book reminded me of a good book called "Where is Dr. Leichhardt?" about a vanished expedition in Western Australia. Both have scant evidence to go on, both led to extensive searches that turned up very little, but you do come away from both books with a sense that you do generally know more than you started the books with. Is this audiobook worth your time? I'd say it is worth your time, but it's not the best book you'll ever read. It's good book if you're interested in Roanoke. It's good enough

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

the first half of this book is terrific

The first half of this book is good history, probably worth the $ for the entire audiobook. The second half is rambling. In the first half, Lawler tells the history of the voyage and colonization, include a good deal of background about what was going on in England around colonization in the late 1500s and some information that was new to me about the settlement. In the second half, he reverts to newspaper-style journalism rather than history and historical analysis. The one piece of history in the second half he uncovers, and is interesting, is about the Portuguese pirate/navigator/investor but this section isn't connected up to the broader theory of the lost colony, is perhaps irrelevant to it. To readers interested in the historical portions, you might (as I did) slow those sections to 1x, and in the journalistic and more rambling sections, speed the MP3 player to 1.5x (as I did). If I had had the physical book, I probably would have read the thesis statements at the head of each paragraph or section in the second half of the book, but that is not possible in the audio format.

I would still give a 5-5-5 star grade to the first half, and in the second half, a lower grade to the "story" portion. Which explains the overall score in the story category of 3. The narration performance is excellent throughout.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful