Harsh, chilling, lurid and gripping.



St. Louis Magazine founding editor Heidenry (The Gashouse Gang, 2008, etc.) delivers a lean, mean account of an infamous 1953 kidnapping and murder.

The victim was Bobby Greenlease, the six-year-old son of a wealthy Kansas City car dealer. On Sept. 28, the boy was kidnapped by one of the most dysfunctional and tragically inept crime couples on record: Carl Hall, a dissolute sociopath and congenital failure, and his girlfriend Bonnie Heady, an alcoholic and prostitute. Heidenry’s narrative is meticulously detailed and devoid of sentiment or attitudinizing. The horrific actions of Hall and Heady, their outrageous bungling and the web of deceit and betrayal following their crime play out with the cold-eyed terseness and resigned nihilism of classic film noir entertainments like Detour or Born to Kill. After successfully snatching Bobby from his tony private school—an operation that depended heavily on luck—Hall and Heady embarked on a series of snafus that would seem funny if not for the sickening crime at their center. Hall couldn’t even manage to strangle Bobby, as he had planned, because the length of rope he brought was too short. Paranoid and awash in alcohol and drugs, he compulsively complicated plans for the delivery of the ransom money—a staggering $600,000, the largest ever payout—sending the Greenlease’s representatives on a series of wild goose chases undone by Hall’s inability to get an address right or formulate coherent demands. After finally successfully retrieving the money, Hall went on a spending spree, aligning himself with another hardened prostitute and an ex-con cab driver, who quickly cottoned to Hall’s situation and colluded with a prominent mobster and a couple of crooked cops to take the prize for themselves…with predictably botched results. All the while, the distraught Greenleases desperately clung to hope, not knowing that their son was already dead

Harsh, chilling, lurid and gripping.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37679-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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


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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Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will...


A stunningly crafted and unsparing account of the author’s rape as a college freshman and what it took to win her case in court.

In 1981, Sebold was brutally raped on her college campus, at Syracuse University.  Sebold, a New York Times Magazinecontributor, now in her 30s, reconstructs the rape and the year following in which her assailant was brought to trial and found guilty.  When, months after the rape, she confided in her fiction professor, Tobias Wolff, he advised:  “Try, if you can, to remember everything.”  Sebold heeded his words, and the result is a memoir that reads like detective fiction, replete with police jargon, economical characterization, and film-like scene construction.  Part of Sebold’s ironic luck, besides the fact that she wasn’t killed, was that she was a virgin prior to the rape, she was wearing bulky clothing, and her rapist beat her, leaving unmistakable evidence of violence.  Sebold casts a cool eye on these facts:  “The cosmetics of rape are central to proving any case.”  Sebold critiques the sexism and misconceptions surrounding rape with neither rhetoric nor apology; she lets her experience speak for itself.  Her family, her friends, her campus community are all shaken by the brutality she survived, yet Sebold finds herself feeling more affinity with police officers she meets, as it was “in [their] world where this hideous thing had happened to me.  A world of violent crime.”  Just when Sebold believes she might surface from this world, a close friend is raped and the haunting continues.  The last section, “Aftermath,” has an unavoidable tacked-on-at-the-end feel, as Sebold crams over a decade’s worth of coping and healing into a short chapter.

Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will inspire and challenge.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85782-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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