Starvation Heights

A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
Narrated by: Jennifer Van Dyck
Length: 13 hrs and 50 mins
4 out of 5 stars (477 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In 1911 two wealthy British heiresses, Claire and Dora Williamson, came to a sanitorium in the forests of the Pacific Northwest to undergo the revolutionary fasting treatment of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard. It was supposed to be a holiday for the two sisters. But within a month of arriving at what the locals called Starvation Heights, the women were emaciated shadows of their former selves, waiting for death. They were not the first victims of Linda Hazzard, a quack doctor of extraordinary evil and greed who would stop at nothing short of murder to achieve her ambitions.

As their jewelry disappeared and forged bank drafts began transferring their wealth to Hazzards accounts, Dora Williamson sent a last desperate plea to a friend in Australia, begging her to save them from the brutal treatments and lonely isolation of Starvation Heights.

In this true story, a haunting saga of medical murder set in an era of steamships and gaslights, Gregg Olsen reveals one of the most unusual and disturbing criminal cases in American history.

©2005 Gregg Olsen (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A fascinating turn-of-the-century story of medical malpractice and murder. If you liked The Alienist, you'll find Starvation Heights all the more gripping because this story is true.” (Michael Connelly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very Intersting

A fascinating account of a couple of eccentric ladies with too much money and time, and an evil woman willing to take everything they have. It is a sad story in many respects but also has satisfying moments. It is almost a five star in my estimation, but not quite.

7 people found this helpful

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Frustrating

Started out very interesting and couldn’t put it down- which is unusual for a non-fiction story . But, after a few hours it became very repetitive and drawn out to the point I had to skip over some . These poor women starved by a “doctor” and finally when one of them is rescued there’s not one word about her finally having something to eat- which is what I as the reader was waiting and hoping for , so this was a bit of a let down - you assumed she was finally allowed to eat but couldn’t participate in the feeling. The narration was excellent but with 7 hours to go, I had to stop.

7 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A Very Detailed Oriented Book

Where does Starvation Heights rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Starvation Heights is a very detailed oriented book that I found very interesting but not overly fascinating. The book covers the death of Claire Williamson in great detail. The trial of Dr. Linda Hazzard and her way of think is done in exact detail. However, I found that some parts were very dry and not really worthy of inclusion in this book such as the great details about the lifes of the Williamson sisters before the starvation treatment. While other subjects such as why Dr. Hazzard was granted a medical license is not covered at all...

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting

A bit long winded, and the narrator took a while to get used to. (I found myself spacing in my work and not hearing a word) However, it was overall a great story! Recommend to my peeps who enjoy the mysteries & true crimes!

2 people found this helpful

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great story

This surprised me it turned out to be a good book. Greg Olsen best maybe.

2 people found this helpful

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Starvation Heights

The book was captivating,, will probably listen again. The narrator was perfect for the story.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Compelling narration + story, too much information

I think that the most striking aspect of this audiobook is the narrator, Jennifer Van Dyck. She did an excellent job of illustrating the personalities of those involved in this story, which is compelling. However, I think it would have been much more compelling than it turned out to be if it hadn't been so overwrought with details. I kept waiting and waiting for the point where this doctor's work starts to unravel but it never came. I stopped listening half way through.

7 people found this helpful

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Fascinating story about a so-called "Doctor"

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, This story was quite interesting. The fact that, in that era, a person did not need to attend medical school or even college ,in order to give medical advice and/or medical treatment was quite surprising to me. I found it completely flabbergasting that "Dr" Hazard had starved quite a few people to death before her "practice" was finally exposed and she was brought to trial.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favorite person in this story is The Nanny/nurse who, ultimately, saved one of the sisters and stood up to this quack.
I could not help to think that , even though the nanny was nervous about confronting Mrs/dr Hazard about her treatment of Dory (because of her own lack of medical raining), the nanny was probably just as qualified to be considered a doctor as Mrs. Hazard.

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

"Starvation Heights: The Deadly Tale of a Snake Oil doctor "

1 person found this helpful

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Fabulous Reading! Chilling Story!

Would you listen to Starvation Heights again? Why?

Great for readers of true crime, although I think quite a few of the details were not what I'd call "non-fiction". It was chilling and I found the entire thing extremely entertaining and interesting.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Strange story early 20th century Pacific Northwest

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Got a bit tedious, but worth listening to, if only to be reminded how gullible and easily duped some people--even intelligent ones--can be.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anne
  • 11-20-10

A chilling true story told very well

This audio book gripped me from the start, based on a true story and incredibly well researched, this is an oftentimes chilling tale but in no way sensationalised. The narration is unobtrusive, not in the least bit annoying or over-dramatic (as some can be). I highly recommend this audio book.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Suzy
  • 06-06-15

Really good, fascinating historical true crime

Would you consider the audio edition of Starvation Heights to be better than the print version?

Don't know, only have experience of the audio version

What was one of the most memorable moments of Starvation Heights?

The scene where Dora crawls from her bedroom to Claire's and is so emaciated her knees bleed.

Which character – as performed by Jennifer Van Dyck – was your favourite?

She performed all the characters well, but my favourite was Linda Burfield Hazzard, because I really got the sense of her dominating controlling character.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I felt very sad for the sisters that they could be so easily misled. They seemed to be very vulnerable, although both in their 30's when they had the misfortune to come across Linda Burfield, they were dangerously naive

Any additional comments?

This is a fascinating story and demonstrates what a person can get away with when they have a cunning nature, false title and a complete lack of compassion. I think over time Linda Burfield actually believed her own spin. I find it absolutely incredible that this women managed to hoodwink so many and operate as a 'doctor' over such a long period.

2 people found this helpful

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  • KosmicTea
  • 10-11-19

creepy

really good book to start off the spooky season with. it's creepy and well read. there's a bit which is really more to do with the court proceedings and less interesting but overall it's really great.

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  • Melmo25
  • 04-01-19

Heart wrenchingly awful

Absolutely fascinating story, the mind boggles. Great narration too. Thoroughly enjoyed it, I didn't know anything about this story

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  • Michael Mathews
  • 12-29-17

Not one of the author’s best

I’ve read several of Gregg Olsen’s books on Audible and generally found them very easy to follow and interesting. This book however seemed to be the exception.

While the plot is straightforward, it involves many people, more than a dozen come and go. To make matters worse they sometimes use aliases and undergo name changes for various reasons, thereby making the story challenging enough. But the author doesn’t do us any favours either, sometimes using multiple variations of names without warning throughout a passage.

The narrator compounds the problem by consistently speaking in a flat and unaffected drone-like manner across the many chapters. More than once I wondered if some computer voice synthesis might have been sneaked in, to give the reader a rest. But no, it’s human, just relentlessly unenthusiastic at it’s work.

Possibly the facts that the events were over a century old and documented through a filter of medical politics, meant the story would never be a gripping one. But the the overall effect is too much like hearing a collection of legal documents read back by a dedicated but slightly bored court researcher.