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5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
Reviewed in the United States on January 28, 2018
This is a very well researched and impartial analysis of the evidence in the Lindbergh kidnapping case.
This book is just brilliant and I even read it twice as there is so much to digest! It takes the reader fairly through the controversial and complex case without trying to "prove" Hauptmann's guilt or innocence one way or the other. What we can say for sure is that Hauptmann would on the same evidence today be very unlikely to be found guilty and executed. Robert Cahill shows up again and again the contradictions in the testimonies of many witnesses at the trial and the failure of the defence, partly for lack of money and partly because of incompetence, to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution's case. This was indeed The Crime of the Century in more senses than one. No work of fiction can begin to emulate this saga and Cahill brings it to life with unequalled skill and insight.
5.0 out of 5 starsSuperb Examination of the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case
Reviewed in the United States on March 9, 2014
The subtitle of this book says it is a step-by-step analysis and that is exactly what it is. The first half of the book takes us through the crime and investigation to the arrest of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, and the second half covers the trial. It is outstanding and a comprehensive investigation of the case using primary sources.
The only complaint I have is that the writing is a little flat. The author is a lawyer and not a writer so that is not surprising, but don't let that take away from this excellent work. I still give it an enthusiastic 5 stars.
In this book Cahill is fair. Where the evidence is weak, he admits it is weak. He doesn't believe Hauptmann should have been charged with first degree murder. Yet in the end he shows an overwhelming case for the guilt of Hauptmann. When you consider the evidence it total there is only one conclusion.
If you are interested in true-crime, famous cases, or Lindbergh in general this is a must read. Highly recommended.
Richard T. Cahill Jr.'s book about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case caught my eye early on. Apart from the great cover art, I had also heard that he spent 10 years researching and writing it. Having watched films & documentaries about the case over the years, I was aware that there was some controversy involved. Who was really responsible for this heinous crime? Did authorities get the right person? While wrongful conviction cases are hotter than ever, Cahill takes the reader through the case in a linear fashion, leaving no stones unturned. One of the aspects of this book that I love is that he pretty much takes a very clinical approach to how he introduces evidence and history to the reader. In the back of the book he has a separate area in which he discusses his opinions on the people and things relevant to the case. If you've ever had any questions about this case or are just plain interested in it, I urge you to buy this book. I can safely say that it's one of the best true crime books that I have ever read. Sure to satisfy history, true crime, & mystery readers alike.
5.0 out of 5 starsbut in this case the material was easy to process for a review
Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2014
Richard T. Cahill Jr.’s book on the Lindbergh Kidnapping was a refreshing and welcome entry to the seemingly never-ending library of books on the subject. The phrase “crime of the century” gets tossed around a lot, but few cases ever get close to the impact of the murder and kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son. As a true crime author myself, I tend to be critical of such books, but in this case the material was easy to process for a review.
There have been some very good books on the subject over the years. But like most infamous crimes, authors have frequented new theories over the decades as to the guilt of Bruno Richard Hauptmann – implicating a rogue’s gallery of potential suspects. Some authors have turned to the testimony and evidence and have committed the heinous crime of cherry-picking history…pulling one or two tantalizing comments out of context and fabricating theories around those. Others have tossed some of their now-dead family members under the proverbial bus, accusing them of the crime. We see it all of the time, even with other famous cases like that of the Zodiac.
Cahill does something that is long overdue…he goes back to the source material – the testimonies and actual evidence. There’s no agenda with this book other than to tell as complete a story as possible. He succeeds swimmingly.
Some authors go out of their way to debunk their predecessor’s crackpot theories. I think Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History is a good example of this. With a lawyer’s skill, he dissects the absurd theories of the Kennedy assassination. Mr. Cahill is far more subtle in his work. He often offers plausible explanations as to why authors came to the conclusions that they did, they artfully explains the errors of their thinking.
I have written for university press’s before and I know they can have a reputation for being dull and boring. This story is not. Even though I had read many books on this subject, I still found myself compelled to continue on. Mr. Cahill’s book is what true crime/history books should do, frame the story in their proper context, and hit the facts.
The only minor nit I have is that the book ended too quickly. It really didn’t explore the debacle of Hauptmann’s appeals and the involvement of the New Jersey governor in the case prior to his execution. This would have been an excellent epilogue for the book, but isn’t there in any real detail.
I highly recommend this book to true crime buffs and aficionados. The writing is solid and it is as much a history book as a true crime story – built on facts and evidence.
2.0 out of 5 starsTHOROUGH ANALYSIS, BUT POORLY PRESENTED
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 25, 2020
The author has done a fine job assembling the facts, and is to be commended for his analysis of the evidence. He is not bamboozled by the miasma of red herrings, nor by fanciful conspiracy theories. But he is badly let down by his publisher, KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, hardly the Yale of pulishing. Repetition and cliché abound. A few photographs are illuminating but the book omits key photos of the location of the kidnapping, and photos of some of the dramatis personae. His writing style could have been vastly improved by skilful copyediting, and infelicitous chunks of plodding repetition excised. That criticism aside, one cannot quibble with the author's verdict that Hauptmann, on the evidence, was properly convicted but that there are question marks over the fairness of the trial process, and over the technicalities of the charge; and over the role of Mrs Hauptmann. Another reviewer on this page suggests that the elephant in the room is who tipped Hauptmann off that the baby would be at the Lindbergh home that night. That can be explained on luck - that the kidnapper, like many locals, assumed (wrongly) the Lindberghs were permanently in residence. More pertinent perhaps is what Hauptmann intended to do with the baby once stolen; if the boy was to be cared for until the ransom was delivered then Mrs Hauptmann was perhaps the only logical choice as nanny. It is a great pity that the author omits at the end the machinations of the appeals; and the attempt by the Governor of NJ to extract a confession in return for clemency. Again, a good publisher would not have left the story dangling.
4.0 out of 5 starsAccurate narrative and insightful commentary
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 18, 2015
As with all of the `great crimes' in history, the kidnap and death of the Lindbergh infant has spawned a huge literary canon. Some of the published writing is very good and some is woefully poor. `Hauptmann's Ladder' glides comfortably into the `very good' category.
Cahill's basic narrative is accurate in detail and free of unnecessary `theorising' and `speculations'. It's very much a case of `just the fact's ma'am'.
Readers will find all of the key information about the abduction, investigation, arrest and trial presented here. The author offers citations and sources throughout and the reader can have great confidence in the veracity of the rendered account.
Cahill deals with the shameless and cruel hoax that was perpetrated by John Hughes Curtis but doesn't mention the equally reprehensible charade of Gaston Means. As the book finishes with Hauptmann's trial and execution, there's only a brief mention of Governor Hoffman and his politically-motivated showboating.
For this reader, the latter chapters of the book - which deal with the trial - show the author at his best. Cahill is well-trained and well versed in the law and his commentary and observations about the proceedings in the Hunterdon County Courthouse are insightful, informative and often shocking.
His analysis of the performances of Wilentz, Reilly, Judge Trenchard and others is excellent. Cahill doesn't merely `nit-pick' at irrelevances here; he seizes upon a whole host of things that were said and done which really might have opened the way for an appeal court to overturn the conviction. It's a sobering thought.
`Hauptmann's Ladder' compares favourably with Jim Fisher's, `The Lindbergh Case'. If readers have already read that earlier book and are wondering if this later one is worth the time and effort, I would say that it is.
Jim Fisher was a former FBI agent. His forte was investigation. His book focussed heavily on clues, evidence, statements and interrogations. His 1987 publication was all-the-better for his experience in the field. Cahill is at his best in the courtroom. `Hauptmann's Ladder' - especially from the trial onwards - shows the author in his `natural habitat'.
Whether you are looking for your first book on the Lindbergh case or whether you already have a groaning bookshelf on the subject, `Hauptmann's Ladder' is a rewarding purchase and a great read.
I was a bit perplexed that i had got the wrong book as so many rave reviews. The writing style is rather like a poorly written school essay. Utterly tedious, wading through many repetitions of tbe same information. Whilst it does cover comprehensivly, in chronological order, the main facts of tbe case, it does so in a very plodding, repetetive way. The author is very dismissive of other books on the subject, but still leaves unexplored the ' elephant in tbe room' in my mind,(spolier alert) of how, whoever did it, knew about tbe last minute change of where the family were.