So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?
After recently reviewing Fever by Mary Beth Keane, I knew I had to go back to my library and pull this one out as well. If I'd written this review first, though, I would have only given Fever 4 stars because, if I'm grading on a curve, The Murder of the Century gets the definite edge.
Not because Fever is any less well-researched and written, or any less well-narrated, but because Collins just had so much more to work with here in terms of a story.
That being said, if you're trying to decide about this book, I would say you should probably consider it to be-- first and foremost--an historical account, with the deliciously gruesome murder mystery (in all its tabloid splendor) being more of a bonus than the main draw.
In other words, if you read a lot of non-fiction and history, but mysteries (especially police/detective procedurals) are your guilty fiction pleasure, you need to stop reading and start downloading this sucker right now, because, trust me-- this is right up your alley.
Or if you have any connection to, and/or love for old-school newspaper journalism, you'll want to strongly consider this as well, not only because the paper wars play such a strong role in the story, but also because it was the scrappy investigative reporters--rather than the already bureaucracy-bloated NYPD--who ultimately solved the crime.
And for those of you who are too young to have even studied the history of New York's newspapers, it's hard not to appreciate the parallels between the old paper wars and today's digital wars...(think Nick Denton v. Arianna Huffington).
On the other hand, if you love mysteries and true crime but don't have the patience for arcane details and long digressions (as in, Can you please stop talking about Hearst and Pulitzer and get back to the plot already?), you might want to read through the one- and two- star reviews before you put this in your cart, because there definitely IS a lot of background woven into the storyline. (It may be billed as a page-turning mystery, but it's really much more than that, so if you're looking for a plot-driven thriller to keep you awake on that 10-hour overnight drive--this is probably not it!)
But--for me at least--this book has it all: a CSI (Scrappy Reporter's Unit) --worthy plot, boldfaced names, and 19th century New York City. Not to mention a cold-hearted femme fatale and the men who loved her--or at least pretended to. (TEASER!!)
And I have to say William Dufris's narration is pitch-perfect--with just enough of that old-timey trans-continental inflection to make if feel authentic, but never hokey or over-the-top. His diction and pitch was distinctive enough for each character to be able to tell them apart in dialogue without being distracting, and, as far as I can recall, there was no annoying/ amateurish falsetto for the female characters. With what appears over 300 titles under his belt, I think it's safe to say this dude's a pro.
(I always feel a little bad when I mention the narrator as an afterthought, but it's actually the highest praise, since the best narrators are the ones who are able to become so infused into the story that you virtually forget they're a separate element.)
In any case, if you liked Fever, you'll probably like this too--and visa-versa.
This is a very well told murder story. The clues and new information are introduced at just the right time to keep the reader's interest, and there are several possibilities so the outcome is not obvious until towards the end. The characters are gradually developed as the story progresses, and the background story of newspapers and journalists is also interesting. It is all very well done. The narrator is perfect for this book - his voice, his accent, the pace of his presentation, and his accents for the different characters, are all spot on.
Spoiler alert - I was so fascinated by the various characters that, before I finished the book, I looked on the internet for any photos I could find and accidentally discovered who was found guilty.
Endless details and descriptions turn this novel into a word picture book. The reader sees, imagines and even smells the action and squables. The newspapers part in the drama is interesting and perhaps something that all these years later would be overlooked. I am not sure I needed this much information about this henious crime but I did enjoy being transported into the tabloid wars.
how the author wove the historical times into the storyline. Very descriptive and easy to follow
I say messy because of their rookie mistakes so to speak.
I really liked this book. It's based on a 19th century NYC crime that no Chicagoan I know ever heard of. The author really gives a good foundation on the mindset of the era. Wow, what the press got away with and what cops did & didn't do really catches your attention. The best part is the role this case had in the creation of today's tabloid news & paparazzo. Great epilogue rounds out what happened to all the players even the newspapers in the aftermath & into the 20th century. First time I've heard the narrator, haven't decided about him yet.
This was not a bad book, but not a great book either. It tells the story of a fascinating murder case and of the era of yellow journalism wars. That part of the book was quite interesting although I do feel that there was miscarriage of justice as Augusta Nack should have been executed also.
The most interesting bits of the story are the search for the identify of the victim once various body parts come to the surface and then the trial. The running back and forth and the dirty tricks of the various reporters and the papers were fascinating, but in part went on too long and too much was made of a lot of events.
The incompetence of the prosecutor was astonishing. He went on to prosecute someone where if he had revealed all the evidence he would have lost. Also it shows the sloppy forensic work of the time and how little forensics actually played in the case, although if a full discussion of the wounds on the body had come out in court, Mrs. Nack would have been found guilty. The fact that the prosecutor cut a deal with her so he could get at least one conviction shows the low quality of courts at the time especially in a major case.
The narrator was rather a monotone, although in the part of the trial the narrator was excellent in portraying the defense attorny Howe, who was the leading defense attorney of the time. I found it hard to believe that he lost the case. However, Victorian sensibilities played a role here -- and it is noteworthy that women were excluded from the court after a discussion of how the identification was made, despite the lack of a head.
However, large sections of the books simply go on too long. The whole ending of book was dragged out to the point I stopped listening to it. The writing was on the whole a bit too wordy and an editor should have cut it down in length. There was a lot of unnecessary detail which was dragged out beyond their merit.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I think Paul Collins needed to figure out just what kind of book he was trying to write. It wasn’t a murder mystery because the culprits were fairly obvious and brought to trial before the book was half done. It didn’t really document the beginning of Yellow Journalism, because we were told the term had been tagged before this incident occurred, and the wars between the various newspapers were already well underway. Although we hear most about the Hearst-Pulitzer rivalry, these two potentially colorful characters remained mostly flat and in the background.
What is left is a somewhat disorganized description of a grisly murder committed by very ordinary people for the most mundane of motives. The police are portrayed as inept, but can be forgiven to some degree because of the intrusion of headline greedy journalists who planted false evidence, invented false leads and “witnesses”, making it a miracle that the truth ever came out at all. I kept wishing for someone to step up and tell everyone to knock it off. In the end I came away irritated at the whole thing – sort of how I feel about tabloid reporting today. I guess I got what I asked for.
The topic seemed very interesting, however the execution was slow. I couldn't get through the whole book no matter how hard I tried. It just never got to the point. It was all about trying badly to set the atmosphere. I am amazed at reading other people's description on what a 'fast read' and how exciting it was. I am not sure they listened to the book before they wrote the review.
Even after listening, I'm not sure that the second thread-line of story about the tabloids was really that important. In the description, we (or at least I) are lead to believe that this story shaped the tabloids we know today. The connect, while presented to a be a true and valid one, isn't as strong as I had originally thought. The story focused more on the actual murder with the tabloids (it felt) as an aside.In addition, I really thought that the book dragged about 3/4 of the way through, and I was just grinding it out to get the the END! I think the author could've abbreviated some of the details to keep things moving. That being said, it's a very good book and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it in my car. I would recommend it; just don't expect a fast-paced murder mystery.
Addicted to Audible!
I love murder mysteries, especially when they are true. This one misses the boat. It is slow moving,boring, bogged down in unnecessary detail and read in a monotone. Perhaps if the story interests you speed reading the book might be a good idea, you could pass over the dull parts!