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A Death in Belmont

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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  4,013 Ratings  ·  537 Reviews
From The Perfect Storm to a perfectly horrendous crime: a 1963 murder in Belmont, Massachusetts, that mimicked the Boston Strangler scenario. Perhaps the wrong man was convicted, after all. A native of the Belmont area, Junger takes a new look at the story via his own family's connection to one of the suspects.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 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 a
...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
'A Death in Belmont' is guaranteed to be a great book club selection for discussion! In 260 pages it manages to offer several possible topics for a vigorous airing of opinions:

1. A white man, Albert DeSalvo, confessed to a dozen of the rape-strangulation murders of women around the Boston, Massachusetts area from 1963 to 1965. He was sentenced - first to a mental institution, and then later he was moved to a hardcore prison called Walpole. All of the murders had similar clues - rape, and strangu
...more
Mike
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Kurt Schuett
A Death in Belmont

Junger, Sebastian (2009-05-30). A Death in Belmont. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Reviewed by Kurt C. Schuett and posted on Great Britain's #1 Horror Site, Ginger Nuts of Horror on 3-18-2015

Sebastian Junger performs a rear-naked chokehold, also known as a “blood choke,” on his readers by restricting the vital fluid to their brains in A Death in Belmont. But instead of pinching his readers’ carotid arteries, he squeezes their emotional, moral, and psychological vein
...more
Jill Hutchinson
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I have read Junger's other blockbuster, The Perfect Storm, and liked his style of writing. When I saw this book, which I normally wouldn't have picked up, it was his name that prompted me to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

The story plays out at several levels and involves the author's family peripherally in the Boston Strangler case which dominated the headlines in the early 1960s. Albert Desalvo, who finally confessed to being The Strangler, worked as a handyman at Junger's home when Jun
...more
Walter
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Martyna
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed it immensely, even though some of Junger's philosophising can occassionally be grating/not that deep or original. Also, his writing style occassionaly lacks certain finesse ("[this] meant that she never stood up after she was raped. She never stood up because she was dead." - yeah, way to bring the point home) but it is made up for by his good scene-setting skills which put you right in the middle of a scene. All in all quite a satisfying read!
Angus McKeogh
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A extremely fascinating read about race relations in the 60s, the justice system, and the Boston Strangler's personal connection to the author's family. Junger stated in an interview that the best part of the whole book was that it had no concrete, definitive ending. I'd have to agree. It made it a highly recommended read.
Darlene
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron Million
Interesting book about a murder that may or may not have been part of the infamous Boston Strangler murders of the early and mid 1960s. An older woman is raped and strangled to death in her home in 1963. She lived in Belmont, a white suburb of Boston. A black man is convicted of the murder but not the rape; many believe that the man is innocent, yet his own past - while at times arguing against him committing a violent crime such as this - helps to lend possible credence to him being the murdere ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mary
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes true crime
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
It was the finding of an odd family photograph that initially led Sebastian Junger to investigate the murder which forms the basis of this extraordinary true story. Actually, it wasn't so much the photograph itself that was strange, but who was photographed with a one-year-old Sebastian and his thirty-four-year-old mother, Ellen. The story behind the taking of this photograph is actually the most horrifying revelation of all, as this information only further highlights just how close the Jungers ...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
Katherine
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Cindy
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Suzanne
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brinn Anderson
A Death in Belmont, was intriguing with lots of drama and crime. The story follows a troubled man, Roy Smith, whom is being tried for the murder of Bessie Goldberg. There have been many other murders that are almost the exact same crime scene. This name-less murderer earns the reputation of being called “The Boston Strangler”. Throughout the book, other people find their way into the Sheriff’s station, pleading guilty. I was originally interested in this book because of the legal and political i ...more
Janellyn51
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Will Byrnes
Oct 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Coralie
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Drew
Sep 14, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, found
This "New York Times" bestseller concerns a murder that happened down the street from Sebastian Junger's childhood home. Was it a black handyman from Mississippi who did it or a white workman in the Junger household, who may also have been the Boston strangler? Junger never wholeheartedly attacks how racist the American judicial system is for Suspect 1 nor makes a convincing argument that Suspect 2 is neither the famed serial killer nor the local assailant. He also quotes a doctor who says a ser ...more
Alisa
This book felt forced, like Junger had been obsessed for so long, changed his mind so often, and was still so deeply conflicted, that writing the book was his only way to purge the topic from his immediate consciousness so he could move forward. I did appreciate his explanations of the legal processes, and the ways that even lawyers trip over explaining very serious ideas that impact our sense of justice and its impacts on our forms of democracy.
Glenn Roberts
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very much like In Cold Blood, but did not contain the drama I remember in Capote's work. Interesting personal tie to the suspect and the victims. I found Tribe by Junger to a more compelling and interesting read. I'll keep my eye out for his other works.
Maddy
Nov 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book “A Death in Belmont” was about a murder mystery that occurred in the 1960’s in Belmont, a small suburb in Massachusetts. The murder that occurred was shocking because Belmont was a rich quiet area, and it fit a series of killings thought to be committed by The Boston Strangler. The woman that was murder was name Bessie Goldberg, a white, elderly woman. A black man named Roy Smith was the man thought to of committed the crime, and was sentenced to life in prison. Roy was blamed because h ...more
Karyl
I'd never heard of the Boston Strangler before Goodreads suggested this book to me. I'd also read Junger's The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea just last month, so the author was familiar to me. Being fascinated with serial killers, this book seemed perfect for me.

I have to say, this book blows A Perfect Storm out of the water. Junger seems to really have come into his own as a writer, whereas in A Perfect Storm he delves a little too deeply into the very technical, both regard
...more
Chris Gager
I semi-read this last night and wasn't all that impressed. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for a meandering heavily procedural take on the Boston Strangler case. I was living(in a boarding school) near Hartford while this took place and had family up by Worcester, so there was a bit of a cultural connection at the time. Certainly my interest was piqued by the author's name(The Perfect Storm) and then there's the startling picture inside the cover - if you know what Albert De Salvo looks like. Junger' ...more
Marsha
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Although Sebastian Junger was a baby when the infamous Boston Strangler was killing women in the Boston area, his family had a brush with danger. Albert DiSalvo, the man popularly believed to be the strangler, was employed as a construction worker in the Junger home at the time a woman in their town, Belmont, was brutally raped and murdered.
Junger takes us through the locations of the killings, the victims, the accused and the mania of terror that surrounded the entire series of events.
Although
...more
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Sebastian Junger is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of War, The Perfect Storm, Fire, and A Death in Belmont. Together with Tim Hetherington, he directed the Academy Award-nominated film Restrepo, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. He is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and has been awarded a National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for journalism. He lives in New Yo ...more
More about Sebastian Junger...
“The story about Bessie Goldberg that I heard from my parents was that a nice old lady had been killed down the street and an innocent black man went to prison for the crime. Meanwhile--unknown to anyone--a violent psychopath named Al was working alone at our house all day and probably committed the murder. In our family this story eventually acquired the tidy symbolism of a folk tale. Roy Smith was a stand-in for everything that was decent but utterly defenseless. Albert DeSalvo, of course, was a stand-in for pure random evil.” 2 likes
“They had not yet started out across a continent of grief that a lifetime of walking could not cover.” 0 likes
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