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Book Review: The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank

bostonAbout the Book

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.

Published August 31st 1967 by Signet (first published 1966)


I have mentioned it before on this blog that I do read and watch True Crime documentaries/books. This is what drew me to this book although I hadn’t heard much about this particular case.

This book gives details about the murders which occurred in Boston between 1962 and 1964. The first victims were elderly women who are all strangled using nylon stockings and then posed in a sexual way. The victims had been sexually assaulted. The women were as old at 75 years old. I have to admit, this was really uncomfortable to read. I kept wondering what would cause such depravity in a human being. Who does things like this? The strangler later targeted three younger women aged 19, 20 and 23. The way the murders are presented in the book is though a brief introduction of each victim. We are told a little bit about the person and their death. We then get more details later on in the book when the police interview the strangler and he confesses to each murder giving more details on how he carried out each one.

The book delves deep into the investigations .The strangler left no clues behind apart from the signature stockings and the posing of victims. This made it a very complex case. The author introduces the suspects the same way as the victims. We get to know them and see how the investigation unfolds before they are dismissed from the list of suspects. Interestingly, we don’t just get investigators but there were also psychics involved in the case.

The last section of the books introduces the strangler to us and the reasons behind his actions (according to him). This was just as creepy and really, really disturbing as the murders themselves. The strangler tells the police about each murder. He narrates each one without much emotion. Casually, like how you would tell your friend about how your weekend was.

Here is an excerpt from one of his confessions:

He all but stuttered. “I—I—to—to explain it or to express it, as soon as I saw the back of her head, right?—not her face, seeing nothing but the back of her head, right?—everything built up inside of me. Before you know it I had put my arm around her and that was it. And from whatever happened through that time, I can remember doing these things. As for the reason why I did them, I at this time can give you no answer.” He remembered doing what he did, he remembered biting her breast…

 Did you draw blood?”“Oh, no—” almost shocked. “Nothing like that.”

 After everything had been done, the telephone rang. “I was sweating like anything and when it rang I just took off. It was still ringing when I went down the stairs. I stopped on the stairs for a minute when I saw a woman getting into the elevator—”

 Once outside the building, he walked to his car. Two elderly women, carrying packages, were coming from the parking lot. He passed them, he looked at them, they looked at him. He got into his car and drove home. “It was coming close to six o’clock then.”That was Saturday, June 30? Yes. In his shamed, small boy’s voice: “It was the same day I was in Lynn the morning Mrs. Blake died.”

 Honestly, I don’t think that I’ll be reading any true crime novels again anytime soon. This was truly horrifying although I still recommend this book to fans of true crime. Gerold was a journalist involved in the case and there is no other detailed account of the case like this.

BostonThe Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank is  well written. It delves deeper into the investigations detailing the police determination (and sometimes obsession) in catching the strangler. This may sound a bit weird but the book was also kind of atmospheric. The author describes Boston before and after the killings. He goes beyond the actual crime into the life of the city’s residents before and during the murders. For instance; there is a story of woman who opened the door and found a man on the other side (he wasn’t the strangler) but she was so terrified that she had a heart attack and died. Everyone was afraid, especially the women in the city. I can’t imagine what it was like to be woman living alone at that time in Boston. What surprised me though was the fact that despite all the murders and the fear, women still kept opening their doors to strangers. The ruse that the strangler used about maintenance worked each time.

“It was not the stranglings that shook Boston so much; it was the abhorrent sexual aspect that summoned to mind in Bostonians deep lurking fears of Sodom and Gomorrah.” Gerold Frank

I recommend this book to fans of police procedural and true crime.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

3 comments on “Book Review: The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank

  1. Annie
    September 20, 2016

    I read a true crime once but didn’t like it. I prefer fiction. I used to watch a documentary show though called here “Crimenes imperfectos” that I found fascinating XD

    • Diana
      September 21, 2016

      I think I prefer fiction too. This was pretty well written though it had a mix of journalistic and fiction writing and was also quite detailed. The thing that scared me though is how horrible the crimes were and the fact that they were real.Fiction is way better and saner. Crime documentaries are okay though:-)

  2. Pingback: Monthly Wrap-up :September/October TBR | A Haven for Book Lovers

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2016 by in Bookish Post and tagged , , .
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