Murder at Smutty Nose

by Edmund Pearson | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0849543290 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 4/21/2003
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, April 21, 2003
Pearson is among my favorite authors. I first encountered him via quotes from this book, regarding the "Murder at Smutty Nose" [a famous local crime that took place on the Isles of Shoals in 1873, was written up by poet, gardener, and Isles of Shoals resident Celia Thaxter, and has since appeared in Shreve's "The Weight of Water"]; Pearson relies heavily on Thaxter's account, but his own dryly humorous style comes through. This book contains several other crimes as well, including the Parkman case (in which a Harvard professor stoops to homicide), a discussion of the Benders of Kansas (homicidal innkeepers of the "you can never leave" variety), and some comments on several famous British murderers - something for everyone.

He does not go into the Borden case here, having addressed that in Studies in Murder, but he does add a cute chapter in which he discusses the letters he got from some readers who were irate at his calling the Borden case "the most interesting, and perhaps the most puzzling murder which has occurred in this country". Some Chicago reviewers accused Pearson of being a "provincially minded New Englander" to ignore Chicago's crimes, especially the Leopold and Loeb case. Pearson's response:

"To this I could have answered that I had heard of those young men; their fame was in the ascendant the month my book was finished. And that, moreover, I am unrepentant, believing firmly that the unknown assassin of Mr. and Mrs. Borden could give the two bright youths from Chicago not only cards and spades, but a stroke a hole, half-fifteen, ten yards start, and any other handicap known to sport, and still beat them, hands down - in courage, in coolness, in resolution, in audacity, in intellectual power, and in everything that goes to make up the 'perfect murder,' which they set out to commit and so egregiously foozled."

[I'm not sure whether the differences in the cases come down to coolness and "intellectual power" or to luck - but whether he's right or not, I just *love* Pearson!]

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