Book review: The Boston Strangler, by Gerold Frank (Amazon / Book Depository) (P.S. – $1.99 ebook alert for that one on Amazon)
I know I have to take a break from true crime sooner or later, but this kept getting recommended as a good example of the genre, and then I noticed a newly released ebook version from Open Road Integrated Media on Netgalley. I wasn’t even particularly interested in this story. I read Sebastian Junger’s book, A Death in Belmont, years ago when it first came out, and that’s all I really knew about the Boston Strangler. And I wasn’t impressed. I can’t even remember why now but I really didn’t like it. So I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if it hadn’t come so recommended.
It’s a page turner, and the narrative is really engaging. I can see why it’s endured as a popular title for decades already. It’s just well-written and consistently interesting, aside from a few pages relating to legal details and bargaining near the end which I skipped through, the rest was enough to keep me up late reading to finish. You learn the bulk of what happened during Albert DeSalvo’s bizarre murder spree throughout the greater Boston area, some of his background, a little about the women who were his victims.
What I would’ve liked to read more about were the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of breaking and entering incidents he claimed he did, specifically why the women involved didn’t report any information about him when the Strangler case became so notorious. That just struck me as odd, if it had really happened as often as he claimed. Then again, the psychiatrists and lawyers dealing with him after his confession always seemed suspicious that he was actually guilty. I’m not sure why, since the unpublished details he could recall about the cases related here seemed pretty conclusive to me. A 2013 DNA match proved pretty definitively that he did at least kill the last victim too.
Speaking of lawyers, did you know F. Lee Bailey was actually the lawyer that defending DeSalvo and kept him from having a trial? I had no idea he’d done that as a young attorney. You can learn a lot about some elements of American history from this book.
There are some linguistic snags, unfortunate relics of the time in which it was written, that are unpleasant to read. And of course, it should go without saying, but it’s very sad. Both for the conditions that contributed to DeSalvo’s mental state and for his victims. But it does stand well as a very readable true crime account, even with an element of the cautionary tale to it.
I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.