A slice of American crime history both instructive and tragically entertaining.




The story of an 1874 kidnapping in Philadelphia that received sustained national attention.

In her first book, Philadelphia resident Hagen uses the backdrop of her city to re-create the uproar when at least two kidnappers snatched 4-year-old Charley Ross from his yard on July 1, 1874. The kidnappers issued ransom demands to Charley's father Christian, a dry-goods store owner, and Charley's mother Sarah. The author writes that before 1874, there had not been a recorded kidnapping for ransom in the United States. Without solid leads at first, police in Philadelphia and later in New York City (where a potentially knowledgeable informant resided) eventually identified likely suspects. The two leading suspects, career criminals William Mosher and Joseph Douglas, soon died in a shootout during a burglary unrelated to the kidnapping. During 1875, a former New York City police officer named William Westervelt received a prison sentence from a jury convinced he had served as an accomplice in the kidnapping. Westervelt was Mosher's brother in law, and he never stopped maintaining his innocence. Despite reward money of at least $25,000, nobody came forward with information reliable enough that it led to the return of Charley to his family. The kidnappers either killed the boy or left him somewhere under an assumed name, never to be reunited with his parents and his siblings. Hagen skillfully narrates a saga that transcends one kidnapping, a saga tied up with the World’s Fair that was about to open in Philadelphia. City officials feared the negative publicity from the kidnapping would reduce attendance, and thus cost Philadelphia much-needed revenue. In addition, Hagen folds in historical perspective about inefficient and sometimes even corrupt police practices in Philadelphia, New York and other metropolises. New York City police superintendent George Walling serves as an especially sharp example of the author’s accomplished character development.

A slice of American crime history both instructive and tragically entertaining.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59020-086-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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