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Editorial Reviews

Paul Collins tells the story of the brutal, bloody murder of William Guldensuppe committed by his girlfriend and her lover. Narrator William Dufris gives a delightfully varied and nuanced performance. The book features the voices of a diverse cast of late-19th century New York characters, from Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to a duck farmer in Woodside to employees of the Murray Hill bathhouse. Together, the characters tell the story of a gruesome crime that fueled a sensationalistic media juggernaut from the moment a group of young boys found a man's mutilated torso floating in the East River in New York City on a summer day in 1897. In Dufris' inventive performance, he expertly adopts the voice of the chillingly blasé murderers; then turns on a dime to describe, in a voice filled with wonder, the new forensic science that went into identifying the body. Dufris engages the listener by sounding as fascinated by the story as the author himself is.

It is vital that Dufris get the performances just right, since Collins has distinguished his book from other histories of the crime by telling the story of the investigation and trial largely through the voices of the people who were actually there. Collins carefully reconstructs their quotes into an intensely detailed narrative, and Dufris individualizes the voice of each witness, including the murder defendants themselves. Especially effective is his portrayal of one of the main defense attorneys in the story, William Howe, whom Dufris imbues with a bold, brash voice that enlivens the "Big Bill" persona that Collins describes. But Dufris is just as adept at capturing the macabre character of the women who, obsessed with the case, filled the sweltering courtroom gallery day after day to show their support for the dashing murder defendant, Martin Thorn. —Maggie Frank

Publisher's Summary

In Long Island, a farmer found a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discovered a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumbled upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime were turning up all over New York, but the police were baffled: There were no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era's most perplexing murder. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Re-creations of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell's Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio - an anxious cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor - all raced to solve the crime. What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim that the police couldn't identify with certainty - and that the defense claimed wasn't even dead.

The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale - a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day.

©2011 Paul Collins (P)2011 AudioGo

Critic Reviews

“Wonderfully rich in period detail, salacious facts about the case and infectious wonder at the chutzpah and inventiveness displayed by Pulitzer’s and Hearst’s minions. Both a gripping true-crime narrative and an astonishing portrait of fin de siecle yellow journalism.” ( Kirkus Reviews)
"A dismembered corpse and rival newspapers squabbling for headlines fuel Collins’s intriguing look at the birth of 'yellow journalism' in late 19th-century New York. [A]n in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public’s (continuing) insatiable appetite for it." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Solid insight of a past event

Would you listen to The Murder of the Century again? Why?

Possibly. If I read more on the trial covered in the story from other sources.

Which scene was your favorite?

Just generally the scenes of the accused in prison and the way they reconciled their infamy!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

My 15 minutes of fame due to the media!

Any additional comments?

Worth a listen. Leaves you with the sense that the media has always been ridiculous and makes heros of the wrong sort. The real news goes unnoticed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Carol
  • Belle river, ON, Canada
  • 02-20-14

written well, nice change for me

one of my first true crime books, was very pleased with this. Well written, not over done in any one area.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Gudrun
  • Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, Canada
  • 01-02-14

Historically interesting

The crime itself was interesting as was the inter-play between the press at the time. Otherwise this was overly long and would have benefitted from more research to bolster the facts presented.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • brenty
  • United States
  • 10-16-13

Fascinating and thrilling

This book purports to tell not only the story of THE murder of the (19th) century, but also the beginning of the tabloid wars...and it delivers!

If you have an interest in true crime (or simply enjoy period drama), this turn-of-the-century tale will almost certainly satisfy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Elizabeth
  • Bellevue, WA, United States
  • 10-03-13

So that's how it all began...

At times I was confused by the mounting characters and plot points, but the bigger picture of understanding the single crime that, at least in the author's eyes, launched modern day yellow journalism really was quite fascinating. What did journalists do before the internet? Carrier pigeons, telegraphs, and more were used to quickly pass info. And the media butting their noses in where they don't belong? Nothing new!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • benoibe
  • New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 07-01-13

Thoroughly entertaining history!!

Excellent! An insane murder mystery and a journalistic dogfight between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. The beginnings of the aggressive news media we all know today...
More fun than I expected!!

Incredibly well written, and well performed.

Easily worth the credit. Solid 5stars.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jane
  • GIDDINGS, TX, United States
  • 04-08-13

IT WAS JUST OKAY

This book could not stay on track enough to suite me. Much to much detail for me. I'm pretty much a "bottom-Line" person. The narration was good, however.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting from start to finish

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Paul
  • PITTSBURGH, PA, United States
  • 01-10-13

Supercilious reading of a super-sized story

What was most disappointing about Paul Collins’s story?

This was a fascinating story, but sadly presented in an 8-hour audiobook when a piece in the Atlantic or even a longish Wikipedia article would have more than sufficed. Collins draws it out exhaustively, putting in unneeded details for atmosphere and devoting entire chapters to twists and turns in the investigation that he inflates to grand importance when they turn out to have no impact.

I felt like he super-sized my book when I ordered a small.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Dufris' narration reminds me of a friend of mine who thinks he does a really great Jerry Seinfeld impression. In fact, it's terrible, but he thinks it's so good that he presents it with great earnestness, like a high schooler playing Hamlet. Dufris has exactly one accent, which is pretty much what an American would think a German spoke like if his only exposure to Germans was watching Hogan's Heroes as a kid, and all "foreign" characters in the book are treated to this terrible accent. The defense attorney character was presented in such a ridiculous cartoonish booming voice that all I could do was laugh, because it reminded me, more than anything else, of Sir Topham Hatt from the Thomas The Tank Engine shows that my 4 year old likes to watch.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Graphic details

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful