Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Murder of the Century

by Paul Collins

I think this book was trying to be too many things and therefore couldn't be any of them very well. The Murder of the Century is a true crime murder mystery, a courtroom battle and the history and evolution of the newspaper in New York City all wrapped in one. Independently each of these stories could be a very good book in its own right, but all together it is too much information to do justice to any one of the subjects, but still it's pretty good.

The murder happened in the summer of 1897 when some boys discovered a torso floating in the river. Shortly afterward, the lower half of the body was found across town in a ditch and so begins a search for the head, the identification of the hacked-up person and capturing the person who committed this heinous crime.

At the time of the discovery of the dismembered body, William Randolph Hearst was breaking in to the newspaper business with his NY Journal and his fiercest competitor was the NY World headed by John Pulitzer. This was the battle that ushered in a new type of journalism known as "yellow journalism" where the headlines did all the talking and the articles themselves contained little factual information. It also produced a journalist who was out to MAKE news rather than report news.

Shortly after the identity of the body is discovered two suspects are named and brought to trial, Martin Thorn and Augusta Nack. Theirs is a love triangle gone wrong and now they will have to pay. But that is only if the prosecutor can do his job!

Overall, I liked this book. It has lots of interesting information and a writing style that captures your attention. The biggest problem is that it lacks focus because too much is being covered. I'd say this would appeal to you more if you like history than if you want a good true crime or murder mystery novel. The facts of each subject are well researched and Collins does make it interesting and readable.

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