A compelling account of an American life marked forever by a crime.

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Music You Will Never Hear

Kaltsos (The Boy Who Was Shanghaied, 2014, etc.) explores a dark chapter of his family’s history in this memoir.

The author was raised by his Greek immigrant grandmother in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston in a house full of aunts and uncles. One night at dinner in 1946, the family gathered around the table to discuss the recent murder of a police sergeant: “It made big headlines in all the papers. The city hadn’t lost too many police in the line of duty up to this time. It was major news, and there was a big manhunt for the killer or killers.” The only member of the family not present at the table was the author’s uncle Bill Goudas, who was laid up in bed with a hurt ankle. Goudas suffered from a lifelong heart condition that kept him from overextending himself. He did not graduate from high school, but he taught himself how to play guitar and had dreams of attending the New England Conservatory of Music. The family was therefore shocked when a swarm of police officers showed up at the house to arrest Goudas for the murder of Sgt. William Healy. All the men of the Goudas family were taken into custody (including the author, who was 16 at the time), though only Goudas was charged with participating in the nighttime burglary that led to Healy’s death. The book follows the absorbing story of Goudas’ trial and the surrounding media storm as well as his time in prison and eventual parole. He is an intriguing character, and the nature of his crime, imprisonment, and release is fertile material for literature. Kaltsos is not a particularly strong prose writer, but his proximity to the case and his willingness to tell the story through scenes give the work an emotional energy that keeps the reader invested enough to keep going. For the author, the tragedy of the title refers not so much to the death of the police officer but to the life that was slowly destroyed as Kaltsos looked on helplessly: that of his Uncle Bill.

A compelling account of an American life marked forever by a crime.

Pub Date: June 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-9599-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2016

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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Apt tribute to family endurance in the face of grievous loss.

A RIP IN HEAVEN

A MEMOIR OF MURDER AND ITS AFTERMATH

A wrenching tale of a notorious murder’s long echoes for its survivors.

Cummins terms her debut “both a true crime [story] and a memoir,” intending it to celebrate the lives of her young cousins, Julie and Robin Kerry, killed during a chance encounter in the summer of 1991. Traveling with her family from Washington, D.C., to vacation with relatives in St. Louis, Cummins ruefully recalls, “I thought I was tough.” On their last night in St. Louis, her older brother Tom snuck out with Julie and Robin; the rebellious 18-year-old rookie firefighter had developed a deep emotional bond with his cousins, both lovers of poetry and social justice. The trio went to the decrepit Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, where they ran into four local young men whose friendly demeanor quickly turned savage. The men beat Tom, raped Julie and Robin, then pushed all three into the raging Mississippi River. Only Tom survived, and his family’s horror was compounded when investigators inexplicably charged him with his cousins’ deaths. Tom was held for several grueling days before a flashlight found at the scene led authorities to the real killers, who quickly implicated one another. The least culpable accepted a 30-year plea; the others received death sentences. Identifying herself by her childhood nickname “Tink,” Cummins re-creates these dark events in an omniscient third-person narrative that lends the tale grim efficiency. Although her prose is occasionally purple (“Tink’s blood turned to ice and the room started to spin out from under her feet”), she succeeds overall in acquainting the reader with the horrific toll exacted by proximity to violence. The conclusion, which examines how the cruelest of the murderers became a cause célèbre thanks to his youth, offers astringent commentary on our society’s fascination with killers, who in media coverage often overshadow their victims. Cummins’s memoir does a good job of retrieving the lives of Julie and Robin from that obscurity.

Apt tribute to family endurance in the face of grievous loss.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-451-21053-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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