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For the Thrill of It

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,896 ratings  ·  192 reviews
It was a crime that shocked the nation, a brutal murder in Chicago in 1924 of a child, by two wealthy college students who killed solely for the thrill of the experience. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had first met several years earlier, and their friendship had blossomed into a love affair. Both were intellectuals—too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. ...more
Unknown Binding, 560 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Harper (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Eric_W
I suppose that anyone who has read about the career of Clarence Darrow is familiar with his famous defense of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. In short, a little Jewish boy (Richard’s cousin!) from a wealthy Chicago family, Bobby Franks, was kidnapped after school and murdered by two intelligent and wealthy college students, both also Jewish. Suspicion initially fell on teachers at the school Bobby attended, the Harvard School, and despite lots of exculpatory evidence several of them were held b ...more
Kavita
This is one of the most boring true crime books I have read. When I read a book of this sort, I want to know about the crime, the criminals, the victims, and even the way a particular crime resulted in changing the law or society. What I DO NOT want is a biography of the lawyers involved in the trial. What I am not looking for in a book of this sort is a list of cases and personal beliefs of the lawyers. Moreover, what I certainly don’t want is judging these lawyers for doing their job.

This boo
...more
Lord Beardsley
*Okay this is when I press up my MwyTotal mNyuERD glasses up with my middle finger and let loose a giant rant* I am quite disappointed with this book. I have been fascinated with the Leopold and Loeb case for many years now, and have read a considerable amount on the subject matter to be pretty well-versed in it. That being said, I found some major flaws of the factual kind running throughout this book, which makes me highly doubt the validity of it.

This book is marketed in a very sensationalis
...more
Arnie Harris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Derek Davis
This one deserves at least 6 stars for effort and completeness, about 2 or 3 for the telling. Could anyone make the Leopold-Loeb case boring? Baatz, a history prof, manages it for much of the book.

There's no doubt that this is and will probably remain the definitive study of the case, and it brings out in horrific detail the socially abandoned minds of the killers. In today's terms, they would certainly be called psychopaths, but even within that category they seem unique. Garrulous, confident,
...more
Michelle Wegner
This was a super interesting read on many levels. Two boys in their teens committed the "perfect crime" or so they thought. They spent the better part of a year planning to murder someone, anyone...as long as they could get away with it, just "For the Thrill of It."

On a personal level, I found this book to be fascinating, because the crime happens just blocks away from where my Grandparents and Great Grandparents were living at the time in the 1920's. All of the streets and places discussed in t
...more
Jessie
This book was pretty disappointing because it provides no real historical context. The jacket and all of the positive reviews refer to the book's backdrop of hedonistic 1920s Chicago, but this is hardly explored. Instead the author (Baatz) chooses to focus on the tiniest details of the case and never gives the reader the bigger picture. While the book disappoints as a history, it also lacks the intrigue endemic to the more sensationalist true crime genre. It's as if Baatz intentionally sucked al ...more
Bob Schnell
The story of Leopold and Loeb has often been told in fictional form, including the films "Rope" and "Compulsion". However, the real story hasn't had a complete telling until Simon Baatz' "For the Thrill of It". Although the author tries to tell it in a literary style, the book comes off as more of a Law and Order-style procedural, but that isn't a negative criticism. The attention to detail as well as using direct quotes to act as dialogue make this a compelling read, more of a narrative non-fic ...more
Kc Chapa
Definitely a detailed look into one of the most infamous cases in Chicago history. This book combined my favorite things...Chicago history, the 20s and a murder mystery. SCORE.
Marti
Feb 20, 2015 Marti rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
Prior to reading this, I knew Leopold and Loeb as one of the most sensational crimes of the 1920s. However I did not know much beyond the fact that they killed a young boy and were caught because one of them accidentally dropped a pair of unusual prescription eye-glasses next to the body. Therefore, it was a little surprising that a couple of supposed geniuses could be so stupid. Of course the crime itself may not have been indicative of terribly good judgment; but considering that it had been p ...more
Aaron Million
Interesting and highly-detailed look at the vicious murder of 14 year-old Bobby Franks by two petulant, rich, amoral teenage boys in 1924 Chicago. Baatz does a solid job of explaining Loeb's and Leopold's backgrounds, their plotting of the murder, and the actual murder. That part of the book was riveting.

Then, it slows down considerably when he devotes a chapter each to defense attorney Clarence Darrow, and Cook County State's Attorney Robert Crowe. I understand why he went into such detail abo
...more
David
One Sentence Summary - The true story of two sociopathic lovers, their murder plot, and how their ensuing trial showcases the legal perception of mental illness during the 1920’s.

Full Review:

In the world of notorious, romantic criminal duos, most of us are likely to recall figures like “Bonnie and Clyde,” but we would be remiss to forget about those infamous clandestine lovers and Jazz Age murders: Nathaniel Leopold and Richard Loeb. Simon Baatz’s novel, For the Thrill of It, provides us with an
...more
Colleen
A masterful, well-researched engrossing book primarily about the murder and sentencing of Leopold and Loeb. While the murder and court case are thoroughly covered (some details like the psychological profiles and tests run a bit too much maybe), I was interested more in the implications of what the public's reaction was to the case. This was alluded to in many spots but never directly addressed in a chapter format (which because of the title I was sort of expecting).

In the age of Court TV and mu
...more
Kevin
An incredibly well researched, meticulous account of the murder, but especially the psych exams and hearing (not trial) of these two teenage murderers. The problem is, it’s a bit too meticulous. Too much detail, whole sections of the hearing transcriptions are here. The psych exam results are especially dry. I can appreciate the historical significance of this book, apparently the only legitimate history there is. But it doesn’t make all that compelling of reading. I’d have liked more context. W ...more
J.M.
Recommended to me by a Goodreads friend (thank you, jv poore!) who saw it listed in a HuffPost article titled, "9 True Crime Books That Will Absolutely Disturb You."

Interesting, though I will admit I got a little bored during the long and (in my opinion) drawn out section dealing with the courtroom testimony. Much was made of Leopold's and Loeb's mental capacity at the time, when psychoanalytic research was still fairly new in and of itself. From the murderers' lack of emotion or empathy, they'r
...more
Lisa
Did not find the author very good and found a couple errors (about Loeb's time at the University of Michigan). I am surprised, also, that Baatz barely ever strayed from the effects on the two murderers themselves -- very little info on the impact on the city, the law, or on the Franks family. It's jarring also how Baatz just suddenly makes a pronouncement, like "Darrow's psychological defense was a failure..." without much evidence. Baatz really painted a negative picture of Clarence Darrow that ...more
Turner Stansbury
For the Thrill of It, by Simon Baatz, is the roller coaster ride of two college students who think they have it all figured out in one ofthe most prosperous times in United States history. Leopold and Loeb are two highly intelligent students at the University of chicago where they think they have found a bullet proof plan to do what they have wanted since they were little kids, evade the police. These boys have everything ahead of them, armed with intelligence, money, and education. Why throw it ...more
Ellie
This was an excellent read, both interesting and detailed, about the real trial of the 20th century. I remember my parents discussing it when Leopold finally gained parole, and the horror of the incident is echoed in the movies, Compulson and Rope.

The emphasis in this telling is the legal and psychiatric backgrounds of the trial and the aftermath, and Baatz manages to make what could be very dry testimony relevant and interesting.

I recommend this book very highly.
Kai Palchikoff
It was a crime that shocked the nation: the brutal murder in Chicago in 1924 of a child by two wealthy college students who killed solely for the thrill of the experience. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were intellectuals__too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. When they were apprehended, state's attorney Robert Crowe was certain that no defense could save the ruthless killers from the gallows. But the families of the confessed murderers hired Clarence Darrow, entrusting the li ...more
Kristin
I should have written my review of this book when I had finished it two days ago. My resulting review will now lack the acuity it could have had previously. With that said... I did like the book. It's an interesting account of a murder that took place in the 1920s, committed by two extremely intelligent rich kids that had had all of the advantages, and their trial for murder. I think much of the interest in this case is based on the fact that such people (smart, rich people who can afford a team ...more
Sarah Lyall
I love True Crime novels so I was excited to find this one in a used book store. This book covers the trial Of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb who killed a fourteen year old boy, as the title suggests, for the thrill of it. This book was written for students of law and students of psychology. Being a doctoral candidate in psychology, I was exceptionally interested in how Clarence Darrow used psychology to plead his case. The author also spend a considerable amount of time helping the reader unde ...more
Carrie
fascinating courtroom drama. A book that covers what happens to Leopold and Loeb after their convictions for kidnapping and murder. Started my current interest in Clarence Darrow
Jenn
A very complete history of the famous Leopold and Loeb case. I thought it dragged a bit in the section on the trial, but legal buffs (and especially those interested in Clarence Darrow) will enjoy that part. What interested me about the trial portion was the role of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and even an endocrinologist in the sentencing phase. The two had already pleaded guilty without an insanity defense, but Darrow was trying to prove mental illness to mitigate the punishment. The study o ...more
Page Sihani
The wealthy and brilliant college young men Intended to commit a perfect crime, especially as Richard Imagined himself to be the "master criminal" or as the criminal he read about who committed crimes that could never be solved. It was a premeditated murder, but just because something is premeditated it's never guaranteed that nothing could ever go wrong. Lastly, I don't think the killing was more about the thrill of it so much as it being a perfect crime. They both could distinguish right from ...more
Sheila
I have a big interest in Chicago history and when I realized that the two murderers at the center of this story attended the university that my daughter is currently enrolled in, I just had to learn more. So I read this book and found the events very disturbing. Two wealthy, intelligent young men arrogantly decide to commit a crime just to see if they can get away with it. This book is very detailed, particularly about the field of psychiatry in the 1920's, which Clarence Darrow uses for his def ...more
Katie
This is the best written and most thoroughly researched account of Leopold & Loeb I have read yet.

Baatz is unique in his writings about this Crime of the Century, in that he provides in depth coverage of the killers' lives leading up to the crime in a manner which invokes the reader's empathy for these young men without excusing their crime. Baatz also provides the most detailed account of the alienists' reports and the trial yet, and does a magnificent job of presenting the facts without t
...more
Jill
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Here I am, living in Chicago, about to read a book about a sensational murder trial in Chicago during the wild 1920s, and I haven't heard of or seen a single other person reading this book. I started to wonder if this new (to me) author might have mangled the story. I'm happy to say that this book was well written and very enjoyable. It told the story with plenty of detail, but skipped the lengthy asides that some non-fiction writers use to fill pages ...more
Kristine
For the Thrill of It by Simon Baatz, a Kindle book I began reading on December 29th on my way back from moving my mom into a new apartment. Thanks a heap, The Girls of Murder City, you kind of already gave away the ending of this book, but I forgive you.

As the intro to this review and my previous review of The Girls of Murder City, this book was practically screaming to be read, since it dealt in the same era and the same criminal justice system of Chicago. For the Thrill of It takes a multi-dim
...more
Richard
A solid retelling of the infamous 1924 Leopold and Loeb case where two young men in Chicago kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy just to see if they could get away with the crime. The book covers the crime, the investigation, and the trial. It takes an unnecessarily lengthy detour around the middle to give the biographies of the defense attorney (Clarence Darrow) and the prosecutor. What's most interesting is seeing how different things were handled in 1924 than they would be today. Leopold ...more
Jason
Maybe it's not fair to criticize a story from history for lacking a unified narrative where all of the pieces fit nicely together. Real life doesn't work that way, and history is ideally the retelling of real life stories. Nevertheless, a lack of unity and overall coherence is what keeps this book, in my mind at least, from being as memorable as it could be.

The story of Leopold and Loeb--wealthy 1920s Chicago scions turned thrill killers based on some sort of Nietzschean superman egotism--is int
...more
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