Coss’s book is like having three good, small scale biographies surrounded by the drama of a deadly disease. We get to know a doctor, Puritan preacher, and Founding Father.
Zabdiel Boylston, Cotton Mather, and Ben Franklin are characters most of us know in the order I listed them: from obscure to well-known. Coss makes it clear and quite compelling why we ought to know Boylston and Mather better. And even though I have read several books about Franklin, there were some fresh insights in this terrific book.
One other person who is not part of the aforementioned triumvirate, but looms large is James Franklin, the older brother of Ben. Coss does a terrific job of showcasing how much Ben benefited from the prickly and mercurial James. At times, I felt the author was a bit generous towards James, especially in downplaying how cruel he could be to Ben, but Coss makes his case very well.