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Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease

3.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  157 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
In 1953, six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, the son of a wealthy Kansas City automobile dealer and his wife, was kidnapped from his Roman Catholic elementary school by a woman named Bonnie Heady, a well-scrubbed prostitute who was posing as one of his distant aunts. Her accomplice, Carl Austin Hall, a former playboy who had run through his inheritance and was just out of the M ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published July 21st 2009 by St. Martin's Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 314)
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Anne Hawn Smith
Dec 26, 2012 Anne Hawn Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, true-crime
I thought this book was the most complete of all the books I've read. At the time Bobby Greenlease was murdered, I was a 9 year old kid in a Catholic school in St. Louis just like Bobby, and I thought I might get kidnapped also:>) My father worked for the FBI and he worked long hours on this case.

Most books don't report the second half of this story, the disappearance of a portion of the ransom money and the suspicions surrounding Lou Shoulders who was the Sheriff at the time.

Other reviewers
Quick read, compelling simply due to the nature of the crime. But where was the insight? The telling of this story was absolutely bloodless. I was left with little more than facts and no insight. The author of this book states boldly (in the afterword) that as a child his father took him on a search for the ransom, and I felt that the ransom still held sway in his mind throughout the book. He cared far more about the money trail than he did the characters.

I wanted background. The author sums up
Margaret Sankey
This is like the perfect storm of stupid criminal behavior, made tragic in that it caused the death of a child. In 1953, having run through his family's money, Carl Hall and his alcoholic hooker girlfriend kidnapped (and immediately murdered) the six year old son of St. Louis' biggest car dealer. Although the family promptly paid the ransom, Bobby was dead, and the dimwit duo attempted to spin out their plot by involving other stupid people (hiring their own personal taxi driver for 24/7 service ...more
Dixie Diamond
Mar 03, 2011 Dixie Diamond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently I'm the only reviewer who liked the straightforward writing of this. I don't want an author to inject too much melodrama into my nonfiction. Just the facts, ma'am. The crime itself was awful enough; it doesn't need to be dramatized.

I liked this but it doesn't quite give the reader a full feel for the people involved. Or maybe it does, and it's just that Hall and Heady (is it pronounced "heddy" or "heedy", anyway? Heedy, I guess) were basically unremarkable people who turned out to be
Apr 01, 2014 Shawna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
The “good old days” were never really all that good. This case fell the same year as the Rosenbergs’ execution and five years before the infamous “In Cold Blood” murders. I was interested in this case – which I wager is largely forgotten today, because it happened partially in St. Louis, where my family is from, and my great grandmother had actually cut out articles from the paper about the case and saved them. This book was clearly painstaking researched – but that level of minute detail might ...more
Apr 08, 2010 Kathleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how the author managed to make this tale of kidnapping and murder boring. He included everything in excruciating detail. A few of these details, as it turns out, would be crucial to the story later. But just a few. If you can slog your way through the first half, the rest is less dull. Personally, I read this as fast as I could hoping that it would get better, then just to finish the thing when it didn't.
Oct 18, 2011 Teri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exciting read for someone living in St. Louis South City. Most of the places described (Hampton Village, the rented apartment on Arsenal across from Tower Grove Park, Gurney Court) are still here today.
Catherine Woodman
I readily admit that non-fiction is not a genre that I read widely or deeply, so take my opinion with a grain of sale, but I thought this was less than wonderful--it is the retelling of a kidnapping by two really incompetent people, who miraculously pull off nabbing the kid and getting a large ransom--which is amazing considering that they are constantly drnk and occasionally high. They do not plan to hold the child either, which is wise because they would never have been able to keep him quiet- ...more
Lisa Mcbroom
The writing style was as if okay folks this is going to age me... if Joe Friday was narrating Dragnet. @ people kidnap a trusting child and kill him for ransom for his rich parents. Really the ID series A crime to Rememember covered it much better!
Jan 03, 2010 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author was a high school junior in 1953, living in St Joseph Missouri, when 6-yr-old Bobby Greenlease was kidnapped from his private school in the same city, by a woman posing as his aunt. This gripping book recounts the deed, the subsequent killing of little Bobby (briefly-it does not dwell on this sad tale), and the eventual capture of two privileged people, Bonnie Heady and Carl Hall, gone bad. The $600,000 in ranson money they received is the second largest cash haul in US history; about ...more
A quick and interesting read about a crime that was front-page news in its time but seems to have been largely forgotten (or at least eclipsed by others). Fact: time from kidnapping to execution = 91 days.
Judith Hannemann
Jul 05, 2016 Judith Hannemann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Read

Interesting look into the Bobby Greenlease kidnapping case. The side story about the missing ransom money and the corrupt cops involved was an added bonus.
Lisa Stethem
Not a bad read. The book didn't answer the questions I wanted answered like what was the reason they killed the boy? I didn't get much about their psyche but I guess those things we aren't supposed to know in murders.
Jan 02, 2016 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An incredibly convoluted plot executed by two people who had no chance of succeeding, that gets away from them.
Other reviewers are right; this is a pretty dry, unimaginative retelling of the Greenlease kidnapping. I kept waiting for the gun that appears in the first act to go off in the third act but no, there really are just a lot of inconsequential facts included for the sake of inclusion. Still I love true crime and this is a really well researched book. It's set between Hyde Park, Mission Hills and St. Louis, places where I live, work, and have lived (respectively) so it's hard for me not to take int ...more
Jun 25, 2010 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good account of a pivotal event in Kansas City's history. Unfortunately the St. Louisan who authored it focused too much on his city's connection to the case and not enough on its impact in Kansas City. The incorrect use of place names and other local lingo was also somewhat annoying.

Like most things in Missouri, this book could have less STL and more KC.
Dec 10, 2009 Alecia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It kept me going as these two drunken, amoral 1950's psychopathic criminals were too heinous (and stupid) to believe. The writing is straightforward and almost journalistic. Nothing lyrical or poetic about this writing. But somehow, the laying out of the plan of this kidnapping and murder is horrendous and compelling in the simplicity of the telling.
Kara Thomas
Jul 11, 2013 Kara Thomas rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I usually reserve 1 star reviews for books that I can't finish. And while I did complete this book, it was only for a reading challenge. The writing was redundant and disjointed. The best thing about this book was the title. I wouldn't waste your time.
Very compelling true story, which I had not been aware of around the time and place I was born. Simply written, but gets the job done describing the pathetic moral structure of the kidnappers.
Jessica Fure
Sadly, this goes astray in the last half. It's disconcerting when there's so much detail in the first part and the second half is noticeably rushed. I feel like I've just read one of my old papers...
Jun 26, 2012 Shana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True crime nuts like myself
Shelves: true-crime
A decent portrayal of a horrible crime. It was a little slow in parts. Not my favorite true crime book ever but if you're a real true crime buff, you will probably still enjoy it.
Dec 09, 2011 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting if poorly-written and edited. I remember this case from when I was little as being sensational and scary and so I wanted to know more about it.
Aug 27, 2009 Hilary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I actually only got 1/4 of the way into this one before I gave up. The real murder case was depressing enough, and the author's writing style didn't help.
May 23, 2012 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not the most exciting writing style, but the true story was interesting enough to keep me reading.
Jun 30, 2010 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick read and an interesting account of the Bobby Greenlease murder. Good KC history included
Oct 15, 2013 Meleya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was ok, not great but not bad. I learned a few things that were unique to this case.
Jun 23, 2010 Stacie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story with lot of potential but not very well written.
Michael Hermann
Decent read if you are into Kansas City history
Sep 14, 2010 Carrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story from KC's past
Kayla rated it liked it
Aug 30, 2016
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Founding editor of St. Louis Magazine and the St. Louis Literary Supplement. Former executive editor of The Week.
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