Kirkus Star


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On July 1, 1874, four-year-old Charley Ross was stolen from his well-to- do home in Philadelphia. It was the first official kidnapping case in the history of the U.S. and the crime was to cause coast-to-coast consternation and touch off one of the wildest investigations recorded in the annals of crime. Mr. Zierold has set it all down in three parts, from the morning of the abduction to the advertisement in the Lost and Found column days later in which Charley headed a list which included a silk umbrella, a pair of gold spectacles and a striped cat answering to the name of Dick. Then came the first threatening letter, the first of an astonishing correspondence that was to continue for months. The writer was particularly adept in putting himself into the father, Christian Ross', position Christian was a man eventually driven over the edge of insanity by the case. Pressured, censured by the press and police, he tried not to compound the felony, desperately attempting to work with the authorities all the while knowing that he might be sacrificing his child in the public interest. The press turned the public into a national posse but the two kidnappers had disappeared...left no clue. And they were diabolically ingenious in their letters and demands. Ironically, both were killed in a burglary attempt and Charley's whereabout was lost forever. But what was now to become a farce continued: in later years over 5000 were to claim that they were the missing child as the family continued the search. Suspense, melodrama, pathos, even humor are contained in this bitter-sweet fascinator. Quite remarkable.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1967
Publisher: Little, Brown