Reviewed by: TBBManiac Sian
Henry Howard Holmes, for unexplained reasons, appears to have been overlooked by many true crime enthusiasts. Set partly in the era when “Jack the Ripper” was terrorizing the foggy streets of London with his gruesome slayings, Holmes was committing his nefarious crimes in Chicago, undetected.
We are all aware of the violent times we live in and are constantly reminded of this unfortunate reality through newspapers and television news channels. This though is not a modern problem, humans have always been susceptible to cruel and violent acts. Many have had murderous intent and carried it through. The rare few are capable of much worse and commit evil monstrous acts that both horrify and yet intrigue us. The person who is the focus of this book, was such a man.
Though the majority of his victims were women he charmed and ensnared in his murderous grasp, he also murdered men and children.
To achieve an easy way to entrap and dispose of his intended victims, Holmes constructed a huge building that when his crimes were revealed, the newspapers of the time named the “Murder Hotel.” And this is a fair description as there can be no doubt the building was constructed for the sole purpose of killing his victims and the disposal of their corpses.
Some of its stranger features included maze like corridors and dead ends, doors that opened on to brick walls, airtight soundproofed rooms, a shaft that led from the top floor to the basement, secret rooms, staircases and passages, and in the basement, which also contained a secret chamber, acid vats, quicklime pits, and a huge furnace capable of reducing a human body to ash. This was just a few of Holmes unusual additions that seem to have been included to torture, kill and then dispose of the evidence.
He also profited from many of his victims, either insuring their lives for large amounts, with himself as the beneficiary, or sold their corpses to medical institutions, who at this time, never had enough corpses for their many students to dissect. So desperate were they to receive another corpse, questions were rarely, or ever, asked as to the provenance of the body purchased. Another way he profited from his victims was to strip their flesh from the bones and have a professional articulator join the bones together so he could sell the skeleton to those in the medical profession in need of such things.
It is believed he enticed some of the many visitors flocking to Chicago to visit the grand sights of the 1893 World’s Fair, and sought advantage of the influx of vulnerable young women, some who had ventured from their small home towns for the first time.
Charm and trust were Holmes’s most effective weapons and he welded them as expertly as any surgeon would a scalpel.
He married four different woman and not one of them suspected they were not the only one.
As the trial judge said when charging the jury responsible for convicting Holmes: “Truth is stranger than fiction, and if Mrs. Pitezel’s story is true—(and it was proven to be true)—it is the most wonderful exhibition of the power of mind over mind I have ever seen, and stranger than any novel I have ever read.”
After 2 years of research and consultation with modern day serial killer profilers, I believe this to be one of the most accurate dramatised accounts of America’s first documented serial killer, H. H. Holmes.
As an avid serial killer enthusiast (I promise it’s just an interest) and an equally fascinated H.H. Holmes enthusiast; I will beg you to indulge me as I explain how EXCITED I was to read this book. I have picked up on Holme’s references in so many books; series and movies as well as having completed a lot of research for fun in my spare time so when I saw a this book I knew I had to read it. With that also came a sense of doubt because there is no greater disappointment than being a fan of something and reading a book about it that isn’t good. So you could say that I went into this book with two minds already.
My mind was set at ease from the beginning of the first chapter. Not only is the writing amazing; but there was obviously a lot of careful research done before it was written. As I weaved my way through the life of America’s first documented serial killer I could feel; see and taste everything he was experiencing. It was an excellent read that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I was rewarded with even more information on Holmes and his spree of marriages; cons and killings than I already had and the way in which it was laid out in this book was just perfect.
Carefully not to jump too far ahead or to muddle facts; Hammott and Wilkinson take us on a carefully guided tour through the life of one of the most manipulative; cunning and bloodthirsty killers in history (I say this knowing that the true count of how many people Holme’s murdered has never been accounted for as he had so carefully disposed of the bodies.)
This is a well written; well researched book and the only problem that I had with it was when Holme’s was finally apprehended and the trial began. Although it is noted at the end of the book that a lot was cut from the section about the trial because it wasn’t relevant to the case; I felt a lot that was relevant was repeated and although I understand the authors were staying true to the fact it did get a bit tedious and boring in this section – especially when several witnesses are called to confirm the same fact. I felt that that particular section could have been handled different and written in such a way that it would not have been as hard to get through.
That being said; all in all this was a very on-the-edge-of-your-seat enjoyable book that I would wholly recommend to anyone with an interest in serial killers; mysteries; thrillers and H.H. Holmes.
Review Rating: 3/5
Published by: BestBooks Publications; 1 edition
Published Date: June 15, 2015
Genre: Thriller & Suspense