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For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,166 Ratings  ·  212 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published 2008)
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Lord Beardsley
Aug 24, 2011 Lord Beardsley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2011
*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
Mar 01, 2015 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, legal
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
Dec 02, 2013 Kavita rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, true-crime
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
Arnie Harris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Derek Davis
Jul 06, 2012 Derek Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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, 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
Jan 18, 2009 Jessie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2015 Bob Schnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kenneth Barber
Aug 28, 2015 Kenneth Barber rated it really liked it
This book details the kidnapping,murder and attempted ransom of 14 year old Bobby Franks in May,1924. The perpetrators were Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Both were rich, spoiled, and above average in intelligence. The crime was done for the thrill and see if they could get away with it. The victim was chosen at random. The author tells the story of their lives, the planning of the crime and its aftermath.
The author developes the society as it existed at the time and puts the crime in context
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.
Feb 20, 2015 Marti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2012 Aaron Million rated it liked it
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
Jan 08, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed-books
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
Oct 20, 2009 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Jan 13, 2011 Kevin rated it it was ok
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
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
Aug 17, 2010 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Jeff Swystun
This was my first book on the Leopold and Loeb case having been overly influenced by Hitchcock's Rope. It straightened out misperceptions and illuminated whole new areas. What first struck me was just how young the two were and just how warped their relationship. The crime itself also shocks given how cold and horrific the act. Baatz lets all of this out in a detailed historic narrative.

I was struck by the media and celebrity aspects that foreshadows our own times. The lawyers and accused's ever
Oct 05, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simon Baatz wrote the thrill of it to try and understand why some people kill. He also tried to categorize the two type of people in this world. The “ordinary” always follow the rules the “extraordinary” feel as if the laws don’t apply them and they can do what they choose. In the book “For the Thrill of it” two smart and wealthy boys believe that they can get away with anything and love the thrill of doing it. They start with just a robbery, but that is not enough for them. They want to take b ...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
Oct 05, 2012 Ellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2015 Li rated it liked it
Shelves: purchased
While the case material and surrounding history is fascinating, I was less impressed with the sob sister tone of some of the filler. There are places, specifically toward the beginning, where the focus on what people were thinking and feeling is so detailed that it began to feel like novelization. I was also annoyed by the straightforward explanation of Loeb's murder toward the end as though there was no doubt what had happened, which is not the case.

On the other hand, the introduction of simila
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
Mar 29, 2015 Sarah Lyall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2008 Carrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 06, 2015 Jenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2014 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katherine Addison
(Most over-used words in the genre of true crime: "shocked" and "shocking.")

For the Thrill of It suffers from a number of problems, the first and probably worst of which is that Leopold and Loeb just aren't that interesting. Or, perhaps, the ways in which they are interesting are things that this book failed to illuminate.

Baatz is an academic historian deliberately trying to write a "popular" book, which is not an auspicious combination. He says in his author's note that he wanted to write about
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