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A Death in Belmont (P.S.) Paperback – April 3, 2007
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The quiet suburb of Belmont, Massacuusetts, is in the grip of fear. The Boston Strangler murders have taken place nearby, and now there is another shocking sex crime, right in Belmont. The victim is Bessie Goldberg, a middle-aged woman who had hired a cleaning man to help out around the house on that fall day in 1963. He is a black man named Roy Smith. He did the appointed chores, collected his money and left a receipt on the kitchen table. Neighbors will say that he looked furtive when he walked down the street, that he was in a hurry, that he stopped to buy cigarettes, that he looked over his shoulder. They didn't see a black man in Belmont very often, so, of course, they noticed him. So the story went, and on these slender threads, and his own checkered history, Roy Smith is convicted of the Belmont murder and sent to prison.
On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo, an Italian-American handyman, is also in Belmont, working as a carpenter in the Junger home, where the picture is taken. Two years after his work for the Jungers, he confesses in vivid detail to the crimes of which the Boston Strangler is accused, and sent to prison, where he is stabbed to death by an inmate. But he never confesses to the Bessie Goldberg murder. Could he have left the Junger home, committed the murder a few blocks away and calmly returned to finish his day's work? Could Roy Smith really have been the guilty party, even though his sentence was commuted after De Salvo confessed?
In the grand tradition of his bestselling The Perfect Storm, Junger tells a terrific story, lining up all the elements, asking all the pertinent questions, digging into the backgrounds of both men, retelling his mother's very strange encounter with Albert when she is home alone with Sebastian. He then asks the larger questions: Was Roy Smith convicted summarily because he was black? Was Albert De Salvo really the Boston Strangler?
Junger cannot answer all the questions, as no one can. Without DNA, there is no way to be certain of which of the two men might have committed the rape and murder of Bessie Goldberg, or if neither of them is guilty. While it is frustrating not to know for sure, the story is fascinating, reads like a tautly plotted mystery thriller, and Junger's close connection is downright creepy. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Junger's time in the Korengal is also the subject of the documentary feature film Restrepo, which Junger directed with award-winning photographer Tim Hetherington. Restrepo, which won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance, will be released theatrically as a National Geographic Entertainment presentation of an Outpost Films Production in July, and will have its worldwide television premiere on the National Geographic Channel this fall.
Top Customer Reviews
Here, though, the multiple narrative threads diluted the work, and felt like padding. The book is the story of a black man caught up in the Boston Strangler investigation. Junger deftly presents evidence which suggests he was innocent. A small amount of additional interest arises from the recounting of the crimes associated with Albert DeSalvo, and even less from the fact that DeSalvo worked briefly at the author's parents' home.
The rest, racism in the South, the economics of Parchman farm prison, Kennedy's assassination, discussions of serial killers and the justice system (which appear to be written for sixth-graders) are strictly padding. They're completely pointless, and still any momentum the narrative might have achieved.
Junger writes well, and this inflated magazine article is not a complete disaster. Admirers of Junger's writing can only hope he finds a story better suited to his considerable talents.
Ostensibly, this is a book about the "Boston strangler", his murder spree in the early 1960s and Junger's brush with Albert DeSalvo, the man who was later identified as the strangler and convicted for the crimes associated with his moniker. Yet DeSalvo becomes almost a supporting character as Junger delves more deeply into the person of Roy Smith, a black man from Mississippi who murdered Junger's Belmont neighbor, Bessie Goldberg in 1963.
Junger is at his best in giving full descriptions of the backgrounds of both DeSalvo and Smith and he's especially informative of how the legal system works (or did work) in Massachusetts. With a flair for unraveling a good story, Junger builds a parallel narrative of both men. He primes the reader with provocative questions, as well. However, as he continues, it is Smith who emerges as the real man of interest. In doing so, Junger steps over the bounds of objectivity and lends himself to side with Smith about the Goldberg murder. It's too bad because had he kept a fairer distance this would have been a first-rate offering.
I can't give a recommendation for this book but I also wouldn't suggest that it not be read. It's not a bad book at all, but it could have been so much better.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting theory. Very. Never hear much about it when one is talking about DeSalvo. A true mystery. Junger is a fine writer.Published 23 days ago by Patricia S. Dumas
Felt like the last quarter of the book was a filler and unneeded to a point. Junger had me in hanging on every word for the first quarter, however. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jarrod Krug
. . . .did he do it or not?? Or, did HE do it or not?? Or, did they both NOT do it?? It was just an okay book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Len
Tough reading as it was so repetitive but it's a good tale anyway.Published 5 months ago by Biddy Mulligan
There's an extra star here because I really like Sebastian Junger. He is an excellent writer, reporter, story teller. Read morePublished 5 months ago by John O'Connor
I grew up in the Boston area, not all that far from Belmont, and am just enough older than Junger that I remember the Strangler quite well. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Frederick S. Goethel