MORTAL REMAINS by Henry Scammell


A True Story of Ritual Murder
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 A cool-tempered combination of police science and forensic anthropology that tells of satanic murders in Fall River, Mass.- -where Lizzie Borden chopped up her parents. Scammell, a free-lancer who writes about aerospace, medicine, and archaeology, was assisted by Douglas Ubelaker, a ``bone man'' from the Smithsonian, in writing this true-crime exposÇ that reads more like an adventure in evidence-gathering. Revolving around Carl Drew--a Satanist and pimp with Manson-like powers who ordered his followers to kill two young prostitutes and 20-year-old Karen Marsden, whose skull fragment is the main piece of evidence in the forensic jigsaw puzzle--the ``lurid metaphysics'' of devil worship and ritual sacrifice take back seat here to detailed accounts of how police and prosecutors made sense out of a murder case with no body. Instead, they had to rely on bones, hair clumps, torn clothing, and the contradictory testimonies of the accused and his accomplices. Unfortunately, Scammell often resorts to the Dragnet- style Q&As to integrate the mounds of interrogation transcripts. He is most interesting when he wanders from the narrative path and treats us to brief histories of skeletology, religious cults, and even Lizzie Borden's life. For the most part, though, Scammell's misplaced emphasis on technicalities makes us forget the real hideousness of the case. Though neatly written and edited, Scammell's story of sex, slaughter, and Satanism is too dry to live up to its subject.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-06-016327-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


NonfictionGIANT KILLERS by Henry Scammell
by Henry Scammell
NonfictionBONES by Douglas Ubelaker
by Douglas Ubelaker