Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
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Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest

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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,466 ratings  ·  246 reviews
In 1911 two wealthy British heiresses, Claire and Dora Williamson, came to a sanitorium in the forests of the Pacific Northwest to undergo the revolutionary “fasting treatment” of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard. It was supposed to be a holiday for the two sisters. But within a month of arriving at what the locals called Starvation Heights, the women were emaciated shadows of t...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 1997)
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Monica!
As y’all know, friends, I love me some middle-of-nowhere, killer-you-never-heard-of, true-life-story dramatic narratives. (Have you ever heard of Belle Gunness? And the way more than forty dismembered bodies were discovered on her property?! Jesus Christ!) This one didn’t quite meet all my expectations, but it was still pretty epic in its horrifyingness.

Let me take you back to 1911, when Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard (“fasting fiend” of “Starvation Heights”) is arrested and put on trial for the mu...more
Kimberly
The first half of this book was amazing; equal parts gripping, terrifying, and heart-wrenching. The writing brought both the setting and the characters vividly to life for me. I was RIGHT THERE with these two poor sisters. Only two true crime books have disturbed me to the point of giving me nightmares, and this was one of them. This is not only an historical account of the murders committed by "doctor" Hazzard, but also an interesting study on the dangers of good people, such as the Williamson...more
Lucy
Gregg Olsen's account of the exposure and trial of early-twentieth-century Seattle "healer" Linda Burfield Hazzard chiefly interested me because of the striking similarity between Hazzard's ideas about health and some ideas that are current among first-world health faddists--indeed they may never have really gone away. Hazzard, who was yet another played-down, Minnesota-grown serial killer (Carl Panzram didn't hail from Lake Wobegon, evidently), was a proponent of "the fasting cure." People's bo...more
Laura
Aug 19, 2007 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True crime buffs
Shelves: truecrime
Although this is certainly categorized as true crime, it's atypical of the genre in that it's not the usual contemporary "Husband kills his wife to profit from the life insurance policy and run away with the mistress" sort of thing. (This means I can feel less stupid for reading it. Just kidding. Sort of.) Rather, it's set in the early 20th century; two middle-aged, unmarried sisters from England arrive at a sanitorium in the Pacific Northwest to undergo a "starving treatment" that's meant to im...more
John Hager
This is a terrific book about the nature of small towns and authority and the need to feel healthy at all costs. I'd hesitate to describe it strictly as non-fiction; some of the passages in the book provide personal information that couldn't come from newspaper accounts, interviews or even diaries. If you're looking for the lurid, gory details of true crime, look elsewhere. This book provides little of that; what details there are come across as more clinical than titillating. They provide a gri...more
Trixie Fontaine
GREAT true crime: well-researched, engaging/absorbing, richly detailed. LOVED it partly for the local lore and how deeply rooted it is in King, Kitsap and Pierce counties (WA state) and partly loved it because it's about a woman (killer) who seized/exercised power in a time period when most women didn't (her victims, for example). Timely reading for me picking it up now with the New Age sweat lodge deaths/"murders" in the news recently.

There are many appealing aspects of the women's stories: the...more
Karen
Oh good lord, whatever you do, don't sign yourself up for a fasting cure courtesy of Linda Hazzard, the kind-of not-really "doctor" who ran a remote, isolated spa-type sanitarium in Olalla, WA back in the first decades of the century. Hazzard had one prescription for all her patients: stop eating, take daily enemas, and submit to hard-fisted "osteopathic" treatments that consisted of being smacked and pummeled in an effort to expunge the body's "poisons."

Amazingly, plenty of people signed up. M...more
Xysea
Jun 26, 2008 Xysea rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction lovers and true crime afficianados
Boy, this book is a doozy.

It's the story of two British heiresses and an unscrupulous con-person of a doctor who fleeces them of their money, their excess poundage and one of them of their lives.

Dr Linda Burfield Hazzard is a 'fasting specialist'; ie, she believes in fasting as a cure of most diseases and ailments and applies the 'practice' rigorously. Maybe a little too rigorously. Under her care, 40 patients waste away to death from starvation.

But Dr Hazzard is nothing if not resourceful. She...more
Elizabeth
An interesting book for several reasons. First, it is based on a true story of what people in the book have referred to as medical quackery and others as murder. I'm still not sure what I would call it, since I think the convicted "doctor" was not right in the head anyway. Second, the thought that people would submit themselves to "medical" treatments, especially one based on starvation, is something that amazes me. Third, that this fake doctor, even after causing the death of so many people who...more
Kavita
This book is about two rich sisters who encounter a quack and pay with their lives. There is not much wrong with the sisters that a nine to five job and some brisk exercise could not have cured. But having too much money, they instead get themselves admitted to a sanatorium run by Linda Hazzard to undergo a fasting treatment, and one of them dies due to starvation. It comes out that the doctor had tricked the continuously weakening sisters to turn over their fortune to her. After the death of on...more
Nancy Oakes
A far cry from the sensational stuff on the shelves today, this book of true crime is based in solid research and the writing is excellent.

Here's the story: Set in 1911, two sisters, Claire and Dora Williamson, were firm believers in alternative medical treatments and had the reputation among family and friends as being "faddists," or latching on to all types of non-medical therapeutical cures. While vacationing in Canada that year, they came across some information relating to a "fasting cure"...more
Christiane
Dr. Linda Hazzard was an osteopath who wrote a small book called “Fasting for the Cure of Disease”. Two British sisters (orphans in charge of a large fortune) came across this book as they visited Victoria, B.C. and convinced themselves that if they took the treatment at Dr. Hazzard’s sanatorium they would be restored to perfect health. Only one of the sisters would survive their encounter with the "fasting specialist". Dr. Hazzard is a fascinating character; it's difficult to know whether she w...more
Veronica
I've never read True Crime before, and it still doesn't interest me as a genre. I read "Starvation Heights" while hearing about the woman it centres on ("Dr." Linda Hazzard) during a historical walking tour of Seattle. The guide recommended the book, and because it's set in the early 1900s, a favourite period of mine, I bought the book.

What a read! Linda Hazzard was a cruel con-artist dressed up as a doctor promoting "the fasting cure" to those with wealthy pocketbooks. Basically, she starved pe...more
Rikelle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lizzie
Claire and Dorothea Williamson were rich British hypochondriacs. When they met charismatic Dr. Linda Hazzard in 1910, they were convinced her fasting cure could help them. They were desperate to go to her "sanitarium", Wilderness Heights, in Olalla, Washington, where patients fasted for days, weeks, or months on a diet of small amounts of tomato and asparagus juice and occasionally a small teaspoon of orange juice. What could possibly go wrong? While some patients survived and publicly sang her...more
Mary
Aug 30, 2008 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Coreen Schnepf
This true crime novel wasn't gruesome or violent or graphic, but it was still quite morbid and shocking nonetheless. It was so interesting to me to see the similarities and differences between early American culture and our own modern culture. Between the way the locals viewed the problem, the media coverage, and the courtroom methods, I had plenty of material to do little compare-and-contrast sessions in my head. I love true courtroom stories, and find myself protesting that certain methods/app...more
Constance
I would recommend this to any fan of true-crime, especially those who enjoy a little northwest atmosphere in the mix. Yes, the writing is a bit over-the-top with a torrid love of adjectives that could only be rivaled by the likes of, say, V. C. Andrews ("It was one of those sweltering summer days when the saffron light of the sun smacks the back of the neck, causing baby fine hairs to adhere to the skin and armpits to rain down..."). And the style, which intermixes details of the events leading...more
Mary
This book was creepy. I was glued to it but it's hard to give it a higher rating when I'd have to say "I really liked it" or "loved it." I had a vague remembrance of this title when I saw it on the shelf near the homeschooling books at the library. When I picked it up and saw that it took place in Olalla, just ten minutes away, and it was true, I wanted to read it. Creepy story and now I'm creeped out that something so awful happened here. Just as upsetting as this woman's psychotic nature was t...more
Dana Lee
True crime in Olalla Washington circa 1910. Two sisters check into a health resort and only one checks out. The cure at this resort was fasting - for a month or more - and daily enemas. Whoopee! So far the story is getting really good. The evil starvation doctor is shameless and bold. The day after one sister died, she immediately went through her trunks to see which of her clothes she wanted, and then wore them in front of the surviving sister who was too weak to respond. Questioning relatives...more
Nina
A fascinating tale, showing how faddish diets have a long history beyond the many touted today. Linda Burfield Hazzard pioneered the fasting cure with her book Fasting for the Cure of Disease, which appealed often to the desperate and sometimes to the bored rich hypochondriac and it frequently resulted in starvation to death. It's interesting given the intermittent fasting diet gaining some notoriety now.

The book itself was really engagingly written and I have to say I enjoyed the first third of...more
Annie LaVerdure
This is a disturbing and fabulous story that only a true Northwestern could write. Starvation Heights takes you into the cold and wet forests of the old pioneer days in Seattle and surrounds you with mystery and a feeling of panic to escape while you turn every page.

In my travels I have noticed that the East of the Rockies is rich with creepy stories of betrayal, deadly ghosts and gruesome acts of human carnage. But this brilliant book brings evil and history together and makes my Northwestern h...more
Debbie
I read this book shortly after moving to the Vancouver/Portland area but have been recommending it to quite a few people lately so decided it was time for a reread...as always very interesting and shocking that someone was able to get by with what Dr. Linda Hazzard did those many years ago!

This is a true story, a tale of medical murder set in the early 1900's in the Seattle area. Dr. Linda Hazzard considered herself a specialist in the field of a "fasting cure" that would take care of most anyth...more
Michael
Pretty good book. Well written. I will never understand the gullibility of some people. It seems that some people truly will believe any thing if they are told the right way. Tell someone you're an expert.... and they'll believe you. Not to mention in the end you realize the justice system in America was just as reliable 100 years ago as it is today. A very interesting story and a well written book. As much as I despise the so called "doctor"... it is hard to feel sorry for such ignorant people....more
Suzanne
Fascinating story from the early 1900s. A couple of British heiresses learn of a "doctor" that uses fasting to cure disease. Thinking they are going into the countryside to reclaim their health, both are submitted to brutal treatment. One ends up dead and the other one saved from the same outcome by the timely arrival of a former servant. The American legal system is not keen on prosecuting the doctor, but the British vice-consul is relentless in his efforts to see justice for the British citize...more
Alisi ☆ needs to stop starting new books ☆
Mrs. Hazzard was truly born a century or two too early. She could've made a killing in today's world (pun intended.)

This is better then some of Olsen's other true crime books but that's not really saying much. I have a love-hate relationship with his books. It's not as mind numbing as Bitter Almonds was.

He did jump around in history a lot, however, and these jumps had very little to do with the presented case (such as it was.) And they were too short to boot. He'd go on a bit with the case then...more
Shannon
Two well-off sisters decide to go to the spa to get their health on track, when in reality their health problems were minimal. Their treatment began at their apartment, while the spa was getting prepared for their arrival. They were given broth, colon cleanses, and extremely rough massages to begin the detoxification process.

Once relocated to the spa and out of the watchful eyes of others, the treatment continued and their health only declined until by luck a hero came to their rescue. Unfortun...more
Chrissie Bentley
It's incredible that a story like this could unfold in the name of medicine, but even more stunning than the local (Seattle and environs) authorities should be so untroubled about mass murder taking place on their doorstep. A brilliant, chilling book that everyone should read - preferably right before they throw themselves into whatever the latest health fad might be.
Kathleen
Fascinating book. I read it because the group I am with investigated the house in Olalla, and I wanted to know more. I'm impressed with the amount of research that went into writing it and that it was very well written from the very beginning of the story of Dr. Linda Hazzard. I also had the opportunity to investigate the mortuary, which was fascinating.
Amy
I try to limit my true crime novels because they can be so gruesome. This was was not necessarily gruesmone or graphic but gave enough to care about the victims of the "fasting" doctor who basically killed some of her patients. It was a horrible crime involving unsound alternative treatments and inhumanity. I do not think I am in danger of starving to death.
Joleen
I was able to hear this author talk at our last library conference. That is why I bought this book to read. His talk was based on the book. I have to say that I am really enjoying this book so far.

Well I still really liked this book. I haven't really read "true crime" before. This was written more in story form which made it more interesting to read.
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Throughout his career, Gregg Olsen has demonstrated an ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

A New York Times bestselling author, Olsen has written seven nonfiction books, three novels, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest o...more
More about Gregg Olsen...
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