A Death in Belmont
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A Death in Belmont

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3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  2,611 ratings  ·  395 reviews
In the spring of 1963, the quiet suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts, is rocked by a shocking sex murder that exactly fits the pattern of the Boston Strangler. Sensing a break in the case that has paralyzed the city of Boston, the police track down a black man, Roy Smith, who cleaned the victim's house that day and left a receipt with his name on the kitchen counter. Smith is...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 12th 2006)
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Mara
Sebastian Junger is a great non-fiction writer in any circumstance, but he's especially well-suited to cover the Boston Strangler story. Why? Well, because the man who was in all likelihood the culprit of said stranglings was also working on an addition to his family's house in 1962 in Belmont, Massachusetts. At the very least, the fact that his mother, Ellen, was home alone with this man on multiple occasions is a creepy anecdote.

Of course, Junger's family connection to the case serves only as...more
Michael
Not completely sure I understand the low ratings for this book. I will assume they are from regular readers of the True Crime genre.

I think the main difference this book has from other True Crime novels--and it is certainly a perk--is that the author is not writing this book third person. He is not simply reporting a compilation of events and articles. The book is completely autobiographical but it's so thorough on the research you are often surprise when the first person "I" comes up every now...more
Cathy DuPont
Many years ago I was on an Ann Rule binge reading her vast library of true crime novels. One that was of interest, in part because it was set in Florida, was The Stranger Beside Me, an account of serial killer Ted Bundy.

Before his name was in every household as a prolific murderer, Rule had worked next to Bundy as a volunteer at a suicide prevention center in Seattle, Washington, where she lived and worked. (Yes, really, Bundy was a volunteer for a suicide prevention crisis line.)

Sebastian Jung...more
Walter
This book, essentially the examination of the Boston Strangler case of the early 1960s (but with a personal twist), is very well-written, a page turner, in fact. Yet, upon finishing it, one can't help but be a tad disappointed, as the concluding chapters lack the decisive, incisive and compelling quality of what precedes them. So, the book starts strong and stays that way until the very end, ultimately ending with the reader feeling a little bit disappointed that Junger becomes more (/too) equiv...more
Will Byrnes
When Sebastian Junger was a kid, a neighbor was murdered in a way consistent with the Boston Strangler, who was then stalking the city. A black man was convicted of the crime on rather inconclusive evidence. At the time, the construction crew working on a renovation project in the Junger household included an extra hand by the name of Albert DeSalvo. This is Junger’s look-see into how likely it might have been for DeSalvo, the confessed Boston Strangler, to have been guilty of the crime. It is a...more
Darlene
Every now and then, I like to binge on true crime stories. This book, A Death in Belmont, written by Sebastian Junger is one of the best true crime stories I have read in a long time. Sebastian Junger is a fantastic investigative journalist whose most recent book, War,provides and excellent look at the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Junger followed a single platoon through their 15 month tour of duty. What sets A Death in Belmont apart from other true crime stories is that Sebastian Junger provides a p...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 12, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - Crime
Junger wrote one of my favorite books, The Perfect Storm. (Made into a mediocre film, but that shouldn't be held against it.) I can't rate this book quite as high--that book had some absolutely awesome, spine-tingling moments I'll never forget, and this book doesn't match it. I also wouldn't agree with the blurb inside that called it reminiscent of Capote's In Cold Blood, which I read only a few days ago. It might similarly be about a gruesome murder, but their virtues are quite opposite. Capote...more
Cindy
I was shocked when I heard that Sebastian Junger (journalist for National Geographic, and author of “The Perfect Storm”) had written a book about the Boston Strangler I could not help wondering why he would pick such a topic to write about. It ends up that he has a very good reason to write about him…it is because he knew him. Well at least he knew Albert DeSalvo who was convicted of being the Boston Strangler. Junger gives the history behind Albert DeSalvo and his victims. He also goes into gre...more
Katherine
Jul 22, 2008 Katherine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nonfiction Readers and Thriller/Murder/Mystery Readers
I had a hard time in the beginning immersing myself in the story, perhaps owing to the fact that this is a rare example of nonfiction verging on fictionalized writing, which was something I had to get used to. Having favored fiction in the past few years, it took me a while to settle into the journalistic fiction style reminiscent of Joan Didion's writing and Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."

But after reading a couple of chapters, I found myself really enjoying the story and how author Sebastian...more
Krista
Sebastian Junger grew up with a family legend. When he was a small boy, a neighbor was strangled in her living room in Belmont, Massachusetts. A man was convicted of the crime. But the day of the murder, another man was working in the Junger house, a man who would later confess to being the Boston Strangler. Could that man have committed the murder of the neighbor? Could an innocent man be in prison? The justice system never reached a satisfactory resolution of that doubt.

Over forty years later,...more
Suzanne
This is a fascinating piece of true crime writing centered around the 1960's Boston Strangler case. It has a personal twist, as Junger's young mother had briefly hired a handyman who later confessed to many of the killings. Although it was a more transient relationship than Ann Rule had with Ted Bundy, there were moments where the author (and of course, the reader) are left thinking, "Oh god, what if..."

Those encounters, of course, became part of the Junger family lore, which prompted the autho...more
Emily C.
Sebastian Junger goes on a a quest for the truth based on his mother's brief, terrifying encounter with the Boston Strangler during Junger's childhood. A spate of gruesome strangling murders causes great alarm in the greater Boston community. Yet when the title murder occurs, law enforcement officials are so desperate to solve a case that they arrest and charge a black man on circumstantial evidence. Junger follows the path of that man, and the man later arrested for all of the other Boston stra...more
Janellyn51
I thought this was really good. It mainly apealed to me because I remember the Boston Strangler time so well. I've spent the night in an apartment where one of the girls was found, I knew someone who discovered one of the bodies....and when Albert DeSalvo broke out of Bridgewater Correctional Institution for the Criminally insane...I lived one town over. I remember my mother saying If anyone comes to the door, you go upstairs and throw the kids out the window and I'll call the police. I had no i...more
Coralie
This was an amazing true crime story. Sebastian Junger was a baby when the Boston Strangler terrorized Boston. There was a murder right in his neighborhood. A black man was arrested, prosecuted and convicted for this murder, yet women were still murdered after this man was behind bars. Eventually, another man was arrested for the crimes committed by the Boston Strangler. This man claimed to be the Boston Strangler. Horrifyingly enough, the second man arrested for the crimes had done some remodel...more
Michael  Malone
Junger is a heckuva reporter, but is clearly averse to any authorly flourishes. Too bad--it would've jazzed up his narrative a bit. Very interesting true crime story related to the Boston Strangler, and Junger has a compelling personal connection to it.
His straightforward/no frills approach is also evident in the title. Couldn't the guy who introduced the phrase "perfect storm" into the world's lexicon have come up with anything better than A Death In Belmont?
Barbara
I loved this audiobook.

I loved that the author was personally connected to the story from childhood. I loved that he took so much time researching it. I loved the way he structured the book. I loved the narrator who brought it to life. I loved the ending because, after all, Sebastian Junger is a journalist and this was, in fact, non-fiction.

If you listen, don't forget to listen to the q & a at the end. It's not brilliant but it's worth taking the time.

I don't understand why our library onl...more
Pat
All you fans of true crime will dig this mockumentary set in the Bean at the time of the Boston Strangler. Junger's writing is fierce. In another life he chased rebels and hung out with the likes of Foday Sankoh in the jungles of Sierra Leone. And he doesn't overuse commas which is sweet!

Regards friends

prp
Astraia
Really well written novel about the Boston Strangler. Junger elevates the so-often told tale by adding an insight into the society of Boston during the hunt for the killer. I also really enjoyed it because I used to live on the Arlington/Belmont line (so I may have bumped up the star by a half.)
Rebecca
Apr 05, 2008 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dennis Hultstrom
Really good non-fiction crime drama. Different than his others, but just as compelling - maybe a little more readable than "Perfect Storm" (I would get distracted by the several-pages long tangents on the physics of waves).
Emily
Great book! In the style of In Cold Blood and Devil in the White City and about The Boston Strangler of the 1960s. Fascinating, well-researched, and well-written.
David Quinn
Highly readable and interesting with digestible facts and tidbits sprinkled throughout. The story and the details never overwhelm or get bogged down. And there’s plenty of doubt to keep you wondering about the guilt or innocence of Roy Smith and Albert DeSalvo to the end of the book. (*Semi-spoiler alert - DNA testing in July 2013 brings more certainty to the matter.)

The subject matter is very troubling, however. The author doesn’t provide too many explicit details but does convey enough informa...more
Christine
This is the story of the Boston Strangler. The author, Sebastian Junger, has an interesting storyline in this book because he and his mother had one of the suspects in their home during the time a murder occured in their neighborhood.

I enjoyed reading this book because I never really knew the full story of the Boston Strangler, the victims, his signature, etc. Junger does a good job in building up the story and having the reader constantly turning pages for more.

My complaint about this book is t...more
Matt
While I put 4 stars down, it's really 3.5 for me. I love Junger as an author and journalist. I probably would not have been as into this book as I was if I were not from the Boston area and had not gone to school about half a mile from the murder scene the book revolves around.

The murder is that of Bessie Goldberg in Belmont, Massachusetts that appeared to be a typical Boston Strangler case until the police picked up a black vagrant by the name of Roy Smith who had been cleaning Goldberg's house...more
Elliot
I've never read a true crime book before, so I can't comment on how this book stacks up next to others in the genre. As a neophyte, however, I thought A Death in Belmont was wonderful: full of suspense, well-written, and able to alternate seamlessly between the facts of the Boston Strangler case and other more general considerations (the definition of "beyond reasonable doubt", the assassination of JFK, the state of race-relations in the 1960s, etc.).

As I finished the book, I realized that its g...more
Kate
Though there is no doubt Sebastian Junger is masterful at the precise, clinical detail, the plot wandered around through historical details which were ultimately irrelevant to the narrative arch. As a study of detail and successful expository writing, this book balances both with skill. The book is almost entirely exposition, but the details draw a reader in so that it feels more like a camera panning across a scene, rather then someone standing in front of the class relating details. Two things...more
Eric Klee
On March 11, 1963, a woman by the name of Bessie Goldberg was murdered in the surburban town of Belmont, outside Boston, Mass. "A Death in Belmont" examines her death, along with flashbacks and asides about the U.S. justice system, U.S. law, and related crimes. Sebastian Junger, the author, has a personal interest in the subject matter of this non-fiction book. He lived in the same neighborhood of Belmont as Bessie Goldberg when she was murdered and possibly even met the real Boston Strangler in...more
Ashvin
Junger's two longer books (this and "A Perfect Storm") are pretty good, but I'm not a huge fan of his shorter stuff (some of which is collected in "Fire"). I think some of that is because he takes the time to describe the context of situation, e.g., the backgrounds of the towns and peoples relevant to the book. Though such descriptions are somewhat superficial, they're deep enough lend some weight to the overall "story." As such, I feel like I learn a good deal of stuff along the way. Some of it...more
Eva Nickelson
True crime isn't a genre I normally gravitate towards, and this was a book club read. I found the story somewhat unsatisfying. As one member of the book club put it, it felt as though this was a really, really long article about the Boston Strangler. An article on the subject may have made for a punchier, more forceful book. Instead, this book meandered through a number of subjects about the Boston Strangler, the Jungers's handyman, Roy Smith, trial law, prison conditions in Massachusetts and th...more
Jim
The hook for this “true crime” story is that Junger’s childhood home was once worked on by the man who was convicted of being The Boston Strangler, and that he may have murdered one of his victims while employed by the Junger household. To be fair, this isn’t the focal point of the book – it’s much more a modern account of the crimes of The Boston Strangler and the man who may have been falsely convicted of the murder in Belmont that Junger became fascinated by.
Despite the connection, Junger rem...more
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Sebastian Junger is an American author and journalist. He graduated from Concord Academy in 1980 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in cultural anthropology in 1984. He received a National Magazine Award in 2000 for "The Forensics of War," published in Vanity Fair in 1999. In 1997, with the publication of his work, The Perfect Storm, he was touted as the new Hemingway,...more
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