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The Hall-Mills Murder Case: The Minister and the Choir Singer Paperback – September 1, 1980

4.0 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

On Saturday, September 16, 1922, the bodies of Edward Hall, a handsome Episcopal rector, and Eleanor Mills, his choir singer and lover, were found near a lovers' lane in New Jersey. Four years later, the minister's widow and her brothers were tried for the murders and acquitted. Renowned criminal lawyer William M. Kunstler tells the tale.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (September 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813509122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813509129
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,346,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger Lathbury on August 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Of the two books and numerous articles I have read on the Hall-Mills case, Kunstler's is the most excitingly written, even though it leaves one not wholly satisfied. Boswell and Thompson's trashily titled volume The Girl in Lover's Lane, (Gold Medal paperback original; Fawcett Books: Greenwich, CT: September 1953 [no title on spine]) seems fairer and is more tempered but is also less thoughtful and analytical. Kunstler's solution is dramatically wrong because he writes The Minister and the Choir Singer like a whodunit: the guilty must be among the dramatis personae. To bring in an outside third party, as Kunstler does (and as many Perry Mason mysteries do, by arranging for the Drake Detective Agency to find facts no reader could extrapolate), violates one's sense of literary fairness. Of course, life is not obliged to follow the laws of literary form.
Curiously, in his earlier Oceana Publications book (New York: 1960) First Degree, Kunstler hints strongly at the guilt of Jim Mills. And Boswell and Thompson, on page 24 of The Girl in Lover's Lane, casually dismiss the answer for which Kunstler earnestly argues. They also hint that the vestryman Ralph Gorsline knew more than he told; unfortunately, Gorsline had died by the time they assembled their story. Barring an unlikely disclosure--e. g., a word from one of the Mills descendants, a diary by the murderer, or a contemporary report that contains fresh data, the Hall-Mills case will probably always be unsettling and unresolved, so it seems unlikely that any solution could be more convincing than Kunstler's, however disappointing it may be.
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Format: Paperback
Growing up in New Brunswick, I had heard about the Hall-Mills mrdrs but, due the years that have passed since they occured, I have only heard vague recollections from older members of my family. After reading The Hall-Mills Mrdrs, the Minister and the Choir Singer, the story is certainly more clear. Despite the frequent and annoying need Kunstler has to make historical points of reference in order to somehow keep the reader aware of the fact that the events took place in the twenties, the story does flow. Kunstler uses snippets from court transcripts in an interesting way to provide an account of the proceedings. He is thorough in his description of the local streets/parks/buildings to the point of delight to a native, but I could see such pointed description boring the out-of-towner. The maps and photos in the book are helpful in gaining an overall understanding of the mrdrs.
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Format: Paperback
The Minister and the Choir Singer

This well-written book lacks an index, but lists the people involved. Part I tells about the events of 1922. After the murders no indictments occurred! Part II tells of the events in 1926. A divorce action against the former Hall's maid alleged a pay-off to keep quiet. The NY Daily Mirror publicized this, and NJ Governor Moore ordered a new investigation. Four indictments followed. Part III tells of the five weeks of trial; all were found not guilty. The murders were never solved. In Part IV Kunstler fantasizes about it being a Klan killing. No proof is given, he only argues by analogy. No group of men were seen there. I wonder if this is part of a whitewash? There is no mention of public opinion from these times.

The Reverend Hall married Frances Stevens, 37 years old, a few years before she inherited millions (with her brothers). Around this time Mrs. Eleanor Mills became active in church affairs. Married at 17, perhaps to escape an unhappy home life, she soon had two children. She sought the mirage of happiness in closeness to her minister. But this minister married for money; love was a secondary concern. Their meetings were not secret from their close associates.

On Thursday September 14, 1922 Mrs. Mills read an article justifying divorce for a minister. She cut it out and called Reverend Hall for a meeting; he soon left to meet her. Mrs. Mills boarded a trolley then walked to De Russey's Lane. Reverend Hall left his house by 7:30PM and was seen walking to this location. They were never seen alive again. Saturday morning 9-16-1922 a young couple went for a walk down De Russey's Lane and turned into a grassy path. They found two bodies near a crabapple tree, then ran to Easton Ave to call the police.
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Format: Paperback
William Kunstler wrote the book in the early 1960s--it was first copyrighted in 1964--and, while it is a thorough legalistic accounting of Hall-Mills, it lacks what one came to expect from Kunstler the attorney--style, and a sweeping narrative, i.e., the same things which made this brilliant, Darrowesque lawyer fascinating as a public figure.

Still, its step-by-step account of one of our most-interesting unsolved crimes is must-read stuff for those who value their true-crimers; it's hard to believe these murders occurred almost 87 years ago, and it IS hard to believe specifically because of Kunstler's approach to the materials: that same staid, step-by-step, by-the-book, chronological construction which makes the book less than a page-turner, in fact cements it firmly in place as, at the least, a historical cornerstone, an important source (though see below in re: index, bibliography, etc.).

Having been written just prior to the new wave of true crime writing ushered in by Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," this subject-material could certainly do with an updated version. It's disappointing that Kunstler himself didn't do a stylistic revision before publishing the book in 1980. Kunstler spends only 17 of the book's 334 pages in offering, in a tacked-on chapter at the end of the tome, his opinion about who the murderers were, and I'm afraid his "the Klan did it" solution is totally unsatisfying and even bizarre, especially because nowhere in the book's first 300+ pages is this idea dealt with, save for one or two mentions-in-passing, at all, and certainly not at length. Obviously, editors at Rutgers Press requested Kunstler to present a plausible solution to the case before agreeing to publish the book, and this was what Kunstler came up with.

Sorry, but no.
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