Monday, May 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Fiend. The Shocking True Story of America's Youngest Serial Killer by Harold Schechter

My next book for the nonfiction challenge is from the "True Crime" genre. I never read True Crime. When this arrived at my library for me, I couldn’t think why I requested it, but finally remembered that recent reading about events in Massachusetts in the late 1800s had brought this particular criminal to my attention and I thought it would be a good book to show me more about political and social goings-on.

Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America’s Youngest Serial Killer by Harold Schechter introduces
modern readers to the horrific teenage serial killer, Jesse Pomeroy, who preyed on children (primarily boys) from ages ~4 to 8 in South Boston in the 1870s. He was first arrested at the age of twelve for abducting, molesting, torturing and mutilating a series of young boys. Convicted of the crimes, he was sent to reform school. There, he managed to behave himself long enough to win early release after only about 18 months. Shortly after he returned home, he graduated from torture to murder.

Fiend is well researched and presented in a concise, journalistic style. It shows the horrific crimes of this sociopath in graphic detail that make parts of the book difficult to read. Schechter does a good job recounting the reaction of the public to the knowledge that there was a child-killer loose in Boston. It explains how Pomeroy was caught, tried, sentenced, and eventually punished. The author’s theme is how little has changed over the centuries: sociopaths and serial killers have always been with us. There have always been "evil" children. And there has always been societal confusion and controversy over how to deal with them.

I’m not going to become a devotee of true crime stories, but this was an interesting account of a notorious criminal, whose actions are placed within the historical context of the time between the Civil War and WWI.