Catnip for true-crime buffs.

ELIOT NESS AND THE MAD BUTCHER

HUNTING AMERICA'S DEADLIEST UNIDENTIFIED SERIAL KILLER AT THE DAWN OF MODERN CRIMINOLOGY

A sharp history of crusading detective Eliot Ness (1903-1957), a man who was vastly more complicated than the square-jawed hero of The Untouchables.

Ness began his career as a hard-charging special agent tasked with enforcing Prohibition in gangster-ruled Chicago. As crime writer Collins and historian Schwartz chronicle, he ended up a heavy drinker with a heart condition, thrice-married and unhappy. Having moved to Cleveland to take the post of head of public safety, he’d been broken by “one case he could never publicly close—the monster who emerged to prey on the city’s weakest and most vulnerable even as Eliot Ness began cleaning up their town, a killer who made Capone seem benign by comparison, branded in the press a ‘Butcher’ for what he did to his victims.” And what he did to his victims—most of them marginal people whose disappearances didn’t excite much interest from the police—was horrific: The Butcher, “a killer who preyed on strangers, for reasons incomprehensible outside his own twisted pathology,” cut off heads and genitals, eviscerated and dissected, left torsos and arms scattered along the shore of Lake Erie. Finally, upon Ness’ arrival, the police began to take notice, but they never could quite piece together the serial killer’s pattern until a resident of a veterans’ convalescent home in Sandusky voiced his suspicion that the killer was a resident there. The cat-and-mouse game that ensued makes for a careening read that’s full of surprises, especially once the killer decided that he ought to take the opportunity to taunt his pursuer. Collins and Schwartz deliver a nimble, taut tale. More importantly, they offer a portrait of a complex crime fighter who believed in science and reason at a time when most officers smacked suspects around with a blackjack, a portrait set against a backdrop of ethnic and class collisions, labor unrest, and political intrigue.

Catnip for true-crime buffs.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288197-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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