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Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  861 ratings  ·  126 reviews
A charismatic young soldier meets a tragic end in this moving and mesmerizing account of the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and no-safety-net America

Zackery Bowen was thrust into two of America’s largest recent debacles. He was one of the first soldiers to encounter the fledgling insurgency in Iraq. After years of military service he returned to New Orleans to tend bar an
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  861 ratings  ·  126 reviews


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Start your review of Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans
Lisa
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have a lot of thoughts about this book and I don't know how to even begin to put them into words.
This book is so much more than I thought it was going to be. I bought it because I spend a lot of time in New Orleans and was familiar with The murder/suicide of Addie and Zach. I had even met Addie once when she was bartending at the Spotted Cat. I thought it was going to be another grisly "true crime" recap of the horrific details of the murder. I was not expecting to read such a thought provoki
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Humangirl
May 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
I just finished reading this book & agree with Doug that this is short stories; (1) the story of the 527 MP Co. in Iraq & Afghanistan (2) Mr. Brown's experiences living in post-Katrina New Orleans, which I have no interest in. Mr. Brown is also very obvious with his sympathies to Zack Bowen. He attempts to justify why Zack killed then dismembered Addie.

Quite honestly, I was appalled that while Mr. Brown was humanizing Zack Bowen he painted a picture that other murderers in post-Katrina New Orlea
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Carla
May 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: true-crime
The author finally admits, when the book is almost complete, that he is sympathetic to the murderer. He stops shy of this admission, actually, writing that his wife felt he was, to the point of being angry with him. This book is an apology for the murderer, and the author forgot that the murder was not a quick act of passion, but rather a planned, gruesome saga that involved living with the corpse for over two weeks, and setting up a horrid tableau in order to scar those who followed the instruc ...more
Dachokie
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
Half Crime Story and Half Blame Game ...

This book intrigued me primarily because I distinctly remember the initial news story that first drew national attention to Zack Bowen and Addie Hall: Two young adults who weathered the wrath of Hurricane Katrina and found a way to find happiness together amid the devastation. While the story was meant to be a "feel-good" story, I distinctly recall the accompanying pictures telling a different story ... battered survivors finding a way to keep the N'awlin
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Halley Sutton
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it
First of all, let me say that I have huge respect for Ethan Brown. His book on the Jeff Davis 8 was one of the more memorable books I read in 2017 and his reporting is thorough and engaging throughout this book. He took an unbelievably horrific crime--and I'm kind of a murder junkie, I feel like my tolerance is higher than the average--and humanized the murderer and makes a super strong case about the tolls of PTSD and the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina on Bowen's psyche. Also a beautiful and ...more
Brenda
Oct 16, 2009 rated it liked it
I wrote a long, quite possibly fabulous review of Shake the Devil Off and then accidentally deleted it. Basically what I wanted to say was that it was quite clear that Ethan Brown's sympathies were with Zachary Bowen, who strangled and dismembered girlfriend Addie Hall in 2006. We read of numerous interviews with Zack's family, friends, co-workers, and military colleagues but do not hear from anyone who knew Addie outside of the few years she spent in the French Quarter. Brown even travels out o ...more
Khris Sellin
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Part true crime story, part exposé on how badly our military members are treated and their mental health issues ignored, and part love letter to New Orleans.

Zack Bowen saw death and devastation in Iraq and lost people close to him in horrific ways. His wife was also going through medical issues, yet he was not allowed time to go home to be with her and help with their young children. That seems to be the beginning of the end for him. He began having mental health issues and instead of helping hi
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Katrina
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Adult's Interested in New Orleans
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
I found parts of this book interesting and I did finish it, so that says something but overall, this book was underwhelming.
However Brown tries to draw a parallel between our military's indifference to many of its veterans and the indifference that our government showed during Katrina. The parallel is easy to make because Addie Hall was murdered in New Orleans and Addie and Zack decided to ride out the hurricane and subsequent tragedy in the French Quarter rather than evacuating. But that is as
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Sam Jasper
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a New Orleanian who saw this story when it hit the news and was also acquainted with both people I read this with great trepidation. I was so glad that Mr. Brown told the story with the no sensationalism. Bowen was not a monster and Hall was not a saint. He told the story well and many of us here were glad he did.
Megan
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I vaguely recall reading the headlines a few years ago about this young couple.

Fast forward a few years. I see an episode on ABC of a program called Final Witness. It features the commentary of the now infamous Margaret Sanchez, suspect in the recent murder of Jaren Lockhart. Google it.

I got around to checking this book out from the library, and I couldn't put it down.

Things I liked:

-It pulled me back into the nonfiction realm. I hadn't read a NF book in awhile. Now I'm adding all sorts of tru
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Doug Beatty
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
This book is about Zachary Bown, who, on a morning in New Orleans, goes to an expensive hotel and spends the afternoon drinking. After a while he goes up to the roof of the hotel and throws himself off to his death. The police find in his pocket a suicide note that is also a confession to a murder. He has killed and dismembered his girlfriend Addie Hall, and the note leads the police to their shared apartment.

Although this is a true crime novel, it cannot focus on the police investigation or a
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Mary
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Eh, Bowen falls victim to the Jon Krakauer tendency of inserting oneself into the narrative. While he does manage to bring some humanity to the players in this gruesome crime, he also does a lot of heavy lifting and extrapolating to try and turn it into a narrative of how one person's tragedy illustrates the failure of the federal government. While PTSD and lack of support for Iraq vets played a major role in this murder, you get the sense after all the background about Zack Bowen (and major cri ...more
Cindy West
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Downloaded this book after a ghost tour through the French Quarter in NOLA which included the story of the murder upon which this book was based. The book is well written, but is much more about NOLA politics following Hurricane Katrina and the difficult transition of veterans returning home after the Middle East conflict than about the murder itself.
MaryPat
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
First of all, I am not sure how to rate this book. I liked it and read it very quickly but I am not sure I really liked it. Wish I could give 3.5 stars. I knew nothing about this book, never heard of it. Just happened to walk past it in the library and it caught my eye. I was hooked by the book jacket alone. I think the book is really 3 books in one. There is the Zach Bowen story-his life and military experience. 2) Zach's story in New Orleans as an Army vet trying to survive before and after Hu ...more
Andrea Galbusieri
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2014
Ethan Brown's unabashedly apologetic account of Zack's story doesn't sit right with me, nor do his less than subtle hints that Zack's PTSD somehow drove him to commit this heinous crime, especially since he can't come up with anything that would hint at traumatic events during his tours in Kosovo and Iraq. It's almost offensive to anyone suffering from PTSD how Mr. Brown, in a lengthy description of the condition, tries to find a connection. For Heaven's sake, the guy married a stripper when he ...more
Colleen Mooney
Oct 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Good journalistic rendition of what all transpired leading up to this horrific event in a battered city that those who weathered it can truly appreciate. The author did a lot of background into the characters and while I was expecting more of their story, the last third of the book morphed into government bashing and how awful we treat our troops. While I am in total agreement that health care, especially mental health care for people returning from wars is woefully inadequate I think it was bel ...more
Gina
Oct 17, 2009 rated it liked it
"I don't want realism, I want magic."---Blanche DuBois
A Streetcar Named Desire
Thomas Lanier Williams III of Columbus, Mississippi
Tennessee Williams

Eris, Goddess of Discord and Strife

"nothing is funnier than unhappiness"---Samuel Beckett

"narcissistic wound" - transitioning from the military to a low-level civilian job

US Marines: FIDO "F it and drive on"
...more
Florence
Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a description of New Orleans before and after Katrina and life in the military in Iraq as much as it was about the infamous murder where Zack strangled and dismembered his girlfriend, Addie. The author evokes sympathy for both the victim and her killer.
E.J. Cullen
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
A myriad cast of derelicts, all of whose self-created woes and tribulations are by the author blamed on Iraq and hurricanes. Sorry.
SouthWestZippy
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and blah! To many details and politics.
Nathan Albright
Dec 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: challenge-2020
There are a few essential problems with this book, and it is worthwhile to consider such problems as they materially affect the seriousness of this book and its importance to the reader. The author seems to assume that his subject matter is more important than it really is, as I had never heard of the admittedly brutal murder case discussed here before reading the book nor did I know or care that the murderer and victim were famous for being among the die-hards who refused to evacuate the post-K ...more
Jessica
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime, local
In New Orleans in late 2005, Iraq war veteran and Hurricane Katrina survivor Zack Bowen murdered and dismembered his girlfriend Addie Hall. This book does a deep dive into the case (the author moved to New Orleans to write the book and struck up acquaintances with many of the secondary players in it) and also looks into the broader circumstances surrounding the murder - namely the way the U.S. lets its veterans down and the way the U.S. let New Orleans down after Hurricane Katrina.

Something tha
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Katherine Coble
2.5 stars.

Parts of this book are brilliant and Brown is a master storyteller who knows how to withhold information until it’s going to have maximum impact on the story he’s telling.
If this were fiction I’d probably have given it four stars.

But it’s not fiction. It’s the story of a man’s abusive relationships with multiple women, a man who has two children for whom he regularly fails to pay child support. Zack Bowen may indeed have been a good-looking guy who was fun to party with if you were
...more
Megan
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
This is hard to give a star review, but if I had to, it’s a 2-star read. It wasn’t so egregious that I hated it, but it’s rife with some major issues.

Okay. Nobody wakes up and just commits a murder. There are reasons for it, things that happened that led them to that place. I appreciate that Brown spends so much time exploring Zack Bowen’s upbringing, marriage, and military career, establishing his PTSD and low sense of achievement and self-worth. But I feel that his mission of rationalization
...more
ErikaShmerika Wine
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, 2018
This is a really interesting book, though it focuses more on the multiple failings of the government with regards to post-discharge care for soldiers and the aftermath of Katrina, than on the case. I came in expecting the story of the murder, which ended up being more of a side-note to the author’s critique. More energy was given to the people Zach served with than to his victim. However, it’s a really in-depth look at how the system failed one person so horrifically that he was unable to cope w ...more
Angelina
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I gave this three stars because the author is a good writer and I finished the book but really this is a two star book.
This is not really a true crime book it's more of a book about Post Katrina New Orleans.
We know who the murder is and what he did from the get go (all you have to do is read the prologue if you're pressed for time. No need to read the entire book). There was no solving or police work to this story. Its 100 pages on Zach's military service, 100 pages on crime rates in New Orlea
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Ashley ✩☽ ☆ Buchwald
I became interested in the case when my dad & I went on a haunted ghost tour in New Orleans last summer & the tour guide showed us the hotel Zach jumped off of & summed up the murder. I really was wanting the author to keep it just about the Zach and Addie murder case instead of going into different stories about his own personal life and experience in New Orleans. There was also quite a bit of repetition throughout the book. I also would have wanted to see more pictures of Zach and Addie & even ...more
Sarah
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was so much more than I was expecting. I liked how you got a sense on what life in general was like in that area post Katrina. I think the author did a very good job with this one although I would have liked more of a back story on Addie. Dispite the fact she was murdered I felt no sympathy for her as she was portrayed as an abusive woman who drank too much and used people with no remorse for her actions. I'm just wondering if she really was as bad as she is portra ...more
Ben
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: louisiana
After getting through the first chapter I thought I was going to love this, yet remarkably it never did. Being a former New Orleans resident who worked in a French Quarter restaurant/bar (2008-2011) and that Iraq/Afghanistan War books are one of my favorite genres it should have been right up my alley, yet for some reason it never did and I can't put my finger on it. One thing I will say is that I listed as an audio book and sometimes the authors voice/pronunciation did a great job to capture Ne ...more
katrina linton
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been mildly obsessed with this case for years

This book satisfied my itch to learn more behind the goings on of this tragedy. I don't typically read true crime or non fiction because it's often dry but this book told the story of these two individuals in a way that was engaging and respectful. I only wish there were more photos to accompany the events. I often find myself disengaging from the book too look up pictures of locations and people.

Overall very well done. I think Zach and Addie wo
...more
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