Tabitha's Reviews > The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars

The Murder of the Century by Paul  Collins
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's review
Mar 29, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: first-reads, author-or-publisher-provided
Read from April 06 to May 18, 2011

I received this book as a part of the GoodReads First Reads program.

So, there's always a line to straddle when someone writes historical fiction or a true-crime novel. Obviously you can't add too much assumed detail or it will muddle over into actual fiction. I would guess that maintaining credibility would be pretty vital.
On the other hand, if the book is purely what can be found elsewhere, you're left with re-hash, a textbook style dull book.
What to do, what to do?
It helps to choose events and people to write about that are a little on the ridiculous side. William F. Howe, Martin Thorn's defense, is such a character. He was well known for being a persuasive bully, and using various courtroom antics to swing the jury to his side. Paul Collins did a great job of integrating Howe's background in to the main story. It wasn't always vital information, but it help to liven up a book that erred on the side of historical dryness.
Even the dead body of W. Guldensuppe had a pretty fascinating side-thread that added nicely to the background of the trial, and was nearly a character on its own. It was really interesting and enlightening to see how the city was captivated by this gory discovery. Even just with newspapers and word of mouth, an insane number of people crowd into the morgue to get a look at the city's latest big news. The more places that the body was admitted to have been, the more hot spots for gawkers there became, like a physical embodiment of a newsfeed.
This doesn't even touch on what are theoretically the main players, the murderers, Agusta Nack and Martin Thorn. This book, while interesting, shouldn't be read for the sake of narrative, but it's a great book to start further investigation and does an admirable job of getting the facts to the audience.

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