4 out of 4 stars
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In the early 1900s, Dayton, Ohio is suddenly haunted by a savage personality who terrorizes the city's women. Bodies revealing brutal murders, immediately followed by sexual assaults, are discovered at one point or the other, and in different parts of the city during this period. Cold Serial: The Jack the Strangler Murders tells the story of the gruesome murders of five young ladies namely Ada Lantz, Dona Gilman, Anna Markowitz, Elizabeth Fulhart, and Mary Forschner, who turns out to be the author's great aunt and whose discovery instigates his further investigation of these cases. These murders occur within a decade and are followed by a failed attempt, which leads to the arrest of the culprit, Smith White.
With the use of available materials (such as newspaper accounts, autopsies, death certificates and summary of trials), Forschner endeavors to paint a true picture of the life and death of each victim. He reveals to us the routines, dreams, and family dynamics in each situation, giving us a deep understanding of the young women.
The author reveals various societal ills of that period. One prevalent one is the blaming and shaming of women for being raped. This is evident in the preacher's choice of words when addressing his congregation after almost every case. Even in eleven-year-old Ada Lantz's case, the press and pulpit use words such as 'modesty' and 'chastity' to assure the masses that she is actually free of blame. The other victims are not so lucky as they are indirectly demonized even after death. This also hindered the swift arrest of the culprit as some women were ashamed to come forward to report an assault. Another issue addressed was the economic climate of this period, which forced the mass movement of families to an unsafe environment in search of jobs, and forced young ladies out to assist with finances at home. The inability of the police to tackle these cases effectively due to the unavailability of some modern aids, sloppiness of officials, and personal interests is also largely addressed.
I appreciate the fact that the author makes extensive use of researched facts in this book. This renders it much more realistic and makes it easier for the reader to empathize with the victims and their families. Moreover, it was suspense-filled. I was greatly relieved when justice was finally served at the end of the book. I also like the descriptive use of language. It really expanded my imagination and gave me a sense of being present in each situation.
I rate Cold Serial: The Jack the Strangler Murders 4 out of 4 stars. Although it elicits sad emotions, it is definitely worth reading. I only noticed a few errors in the book, but these did not adversely affect it. I recommend this to readers who enjoy stories based on historical occurrences, murder, and detective investigation.
Cold Serial: The Jack the Strangler Murders
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