Friday, October 28, 2016

Review of "Fatal Passions" by Adrian Vincent




This book, which contains 16 true tales about gruesome and unusual murders, is just the ticket for true crime aficionados. Each story gives a brief profile of the people involved in the events, describes what led up to the crime (or crimes), and relates what happened afterward - usually a trial followed by imprisonment or hanging. But some people got away with murder.

These curious cases were often 'the talk of the town' when they hit the news, usually because of the dastardly culprits. Some examples follow.

"The Love Bungalow" (England, 1924): Patrick Mahon - a married father - kills his lover, Emily Kaye, and hides her body in a bedroom of a rented bungalow. He then calmly brings his new lover, Ethel Duncan, to spend Easter weekend at the same love nest....with Emily decomposing in the bedroom next to theirs. Ewww!

"The Cupboard Lover" (United States, 1922): Walburga Oesterreich - a large, passionate woman - is married to overbearing, sexually inadequate Fred Oesterreich. To satisfy her sexual needs Walburga takes a 17-year-old lover, a slim lad named Otto Sanhuber. Otto is Walburga's paramour for the next 19 years, usually living hidden in the attic of the Oesterreichs' home. Otto spends his days reading books and writing stories in his eyrie, coming out for whoopee when Fred is away....until Walburga gets rid of Fred for good. Apparently Fred was a pretty unobservant guy!

"A Mother's Tender Concern" (United States, 1958): Middle-aged Elizabeth Duncan enlists the help of an elderly friend to get rid of Elizabeth's hated daugter-in-law, Olga Kupczyk. Elizabeth - who wants her son Frank all to herself - warned Olga not to marry Frank, but Olga (being pregnant) paid no attention. So Elizabeth and her accomplice head to the rough part of town where Elizabeth hires a couple of Mexican youths to knock off Olga. The inexperienced 'hitmen' get the job done (badly) after which Elizabeth pays them $120 rather than the almost $3000 she promised. Turns out Elizabeth is a murderer AND a scammer!

"The Sausage King" (United States, 1897): Adolph Luetgert, who owns a sausage factory, is hugely overweight and drinks too much beer. Adolph is married but he's a profligate philanderer, going so far as to put a bed in his office for his extramarital liasions. Wanting to be rid of his wife, Louisa, Adolph murders her. He then puts Louisa's body in a sausage vat and dissolves her with caustic chemicals. Luckily for sausage lovers Adolph is bankrupt and the factory is being shut down forever. Whew!

"A Brickbat For Mrs. Parker" (New Zealand, 1954): Two 15-year-old schoolgirls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, spend all their time together sharing secrets and fantasies. The girls' parents disapprove of the relationship, which they find worrisome. Dr. Henry Hulme decides to move to South Africa with his daughter - who wants her buddy Pauline to come along. However, Mrs. Parker (Pauline's mother ) squashes that idea. So the girls invite Mrs. Parker out for a walk and smash her skull in with a brick - a feat that takes 45 blows. The girls are convicted but spend only five years in prison because of their youth.
(Note: The book doesn't mention this but Juliet Hulme changed her name to Anne Perry and became a famous novelist. Perry is the author of the very popular 'Thomas Pitt' and 'William Monk' mysteries as well as other books. Some people refuse to read Perry's books because of her past....but I like them!)

"A Passion For Poison" (United States, 1954): Nannie Doss loves "True Romance" magazine and - inspired by the love stories - longs to find the perfect mate. So Nannie marries one man after another, fatally poisoning each husband when he doesn't live up to her expectations. Nannie doesn't confine her murder spree to husbands though. By the time Nannie is arrested she has killed eleven people, including four husbands, her mother, her two sisters - and according to Wikipedia: two children, a grandson, and a mother-in-law. It's a bad idea to eat at Nannie's house!

All the stories, which span a wide array of crimes and perpetrators, are engrossing. And it's interesting to see how the justice system has changed over the years. At one time a person could be tried and hanged within a matter of weeks. Now multiple appeals can delay executions for years.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to readers who like true crime stories.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of the book.


Rating: 3.5 stars

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