Book Review: The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank

30845340Title: The Boston Strangler

Author: Gerold Frank

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

New York Times Bestseller and Winner of the Edgar Award: The definitive true crime account of Boston’s most notorious serial killer—and the exhaustive manhunt that ensued in the wake of his rampage.

On June 14, 1962, twenty-five-year-old Juris Slesers arrived at his mother’s apartment to drive her to church. But there was no answer at the door. After waiting a half hour, Juris shoved his way inside. He found fifty-five-year-old Anna Slesers lying on the kitchen floor, dead, the cord of her housecoat knotted tightly around her neck and turned up in a bow.

Between 1962 and 1964, twelve more bodies were discovered in and around Boston: all women, all sexually assaulted, and all strangled—often with their own pantyhose. None of the victims exhibited any signs of struggle, nothing was stolen from their homes, and there were no signs of forcible entry. The police could find no discernable motive or clues. Who was this insane killer? How was he entering women’s homes? And why were they letting him in?

More than a gripping chronicle of an American serial killer on par with Jack the Ripper, The Boston Strangler is a shocking story about what happens to a city under a siege of terror. Drawn from hundreds of hours of personal interviews, as well as police, medical, and court documentation, author Gerold Frank’s grisly, horrifying, and meticulously researched account was awarded the Edgar for Best Fact Crime.

I first heard about The Boston Strangler – the man, not the book – through a true crime TV show, the name of which I can’t recall. However, even back then, I was wary of Albert DeSalvo being the murderer. DeSalvo wasn’t a good guy by any means, but capable of such murders? And why? Anyone who investigates the strangler case knows that it’s a weird one: eleven (or thirteen) murders by strangling, using nylon stockings tied around the victims’ neck.

The first victims were middle-aged to elderly women. The second group of victims were young girls, twenty-somethings. Killers don’t just change their target victims overnight.

Gerold Frank’s book is an in-depth investigation of the murders. He starts by describing the victims, what happened to them, possible suspects, and the first half of the book reads very well. The cases are gruesome, so the book isn’t for the squeamish or faint of heart, but it provides an interesting insight into the profile of a man capable of such killings. Psychiatrists, profilers, people used to working on serial killings, all come up with a profile that doesn’t even closely resemble the man eventually charged with these murders.

Then for the latter half, the book focuses on Albert DeSalvo, his confessions, the trial that confined him to stay in Bilgewater Hospital for the rest of his life.

The book has a phenomenal wealth of information, now just from the victims, the alleged killer, the police forces, but also from psychis who were brought in to work on the case, regular people in Boston describing the fear that gripped the city, and more. The writing flows well, at least for the first part. I found that the second part dragged on much longer, and became slighty repetitive.

Either way, if you want to get a more in-depth knowledge of the killings that haunted Boston from 1962-1964, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

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