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Showing 1-10 of 38 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 60 reviews
on March 29, 2015
This was the second book I'd read by this author. I wasn't crazy about the first one, but for some reason decided that maybe this might be better and bought it. It wasn't a whole lot better. There are writers, like Erik Larsen, who can write non-fiction and make the characters and events as interesting as fiction. M. William Phelps is too wordy, the sequence of events is hard to follow, and the characters aren't portrayed in a way that is either sympathetic or detestable. I pick the book up, read a few chapters, put it down for weeks, pick it up again expecting that maybe it will be better, but I still find it hard to follow and not written in a way that grips me.
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on December 4, 2011
I was lured into this book by the subtitle. Female serial killers are so rare, especially one that was killing people 100 years ago, that I decided to give this book a go. Unfortunately, this book turned out to be just OK. The story, while interesting, wasn't all that compelling. I didn't really care for the way the story was told, either. The author drug the story out longer than was necessary and there was a ton of detail about the weather and how hot it was during the summer of 1911. I'm sorry, but I don't really care how hot it was. It added nothing to the story other than to make it longer.

I think Phelps was trying to be very Truman Capote In Cold Blood with this book, and it just wasn't that kind of tale and it didn't work.

I can't honestly say I would recommend this book. If you are a die hard true crime fan and want to read this book, get a copy from the library.
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on June 9, 2010
This is probably one of the most boring books I've ever read. It's poorly written and confusing. Even though I tried since I'd paid money for this, I could not get through it and ended up giving up on it- this even at the most important part of the book, Amy's arrest.

The first several chapters spend time detailing a heat wave that has no relevance to the plot at hand, and then the heat wave disappears suddenly, never mentioned again. I'm assuming the author was attempting to draw a correlation between the heat wave and Amy Archer's actions, but it is poorly done and the amount of attention spent on the heat wave is considerably greater than the amount of time spent on the characters themselves.

The author also repeats himself quite a bit, belaboring a point time and time again. It gets to the point where you can skip whole pages because it is another version of something you'd read ten pages prior, which itself was something you'd read ten pages prior to that.

It's a shame this book was executed so poorly because it is of an interesting subject matter, and you learn a great deal from what is presented, but it's a tough read to slog through for a little bit of interesting material.
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on December 22, 2016
I enjoy historical nonfiction. My. William Phelps does an excellent job filling in the blanks for a crime that happened so long ago. I highly recommend it.
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on July 31, 2015
The quality of Phelps' research with source references leaves me with more reading to do upon finishing one of his books, than when I began. As a child my doctor lived and worked in Dr. King's former residence on Prospect Street, Windsor, two doors across the street from Amy Archer's, giving the reading of this true story actual spine-tingling relevance. This is a wholly entertaining, riveting page-turner.....
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on November 26, 2011
While I agree that the heat wave went on and on redundantly, the explanation is in the glass of lemonade tendered by Amy to her inmates. Its all an illusion or is that allusion?

Overall, I enjoyed the book and ended up reading it faster than I planned because I did want to find out what happened. Arsenic and Old Lace is a favorite of mine and as macabre as it sounds, my family often joke about burying the bodies in the basement.

But I also think other reviewers are correct. Phelps has done his research and his homework. But delivery was a jumbled mess. He has created a narrative story and tried to maintain some degree of objectivity. But I am not sure that objectivity is called for anyway. If the woman was tried today for her crimes, she might still have walked despite the forensic evidence. The evidence was circumstantial. But that is part of my interest in the book. Phelps also tries to put a subtle attack on the concept of an insanity defense. I wish he had developed that idea more. Was Amy Archer Gilligan insane or just greedy? What causes either?

However, afterwards, I did feel inspired to look up both other books by Phelps and other female serial killers. Maybe I should deliver such things for reading material at the nursing home. Just kidding.
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on March 13, 2013
I liked this book very much. I had heard of Amy Archer Gilligan but had not read a book about her before this one and it was well written and easy to follow. Phelps has written some great books. He approaches them from more of a "psychological" vantage than the normal "guts and gore" type of writing but I like that. It is intriguing and it's interesting how Archer-Gilligan was able to pull off the things she did.

I recommend this if you like true crime
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on June 7, 2011
I picked up this book for my kindle for only $2.99 and I was glad that was all I paid for it. I'm now about 1/2 way through and it's just now getting interesting. I didn't understand why the author chose to spend about 1/4 of the start of the book about the "hot" wave of July 1911. It was interesting background but it had NOTHING to do with the story.

There is also quite a bit of background about one of the inmates that spans several years, most of it repetitive, but hardly any background about the second husband. I also have yet to find out what happened to his estate which for a couple of chapters of the book her upcoming probate case was used as motive in one of her killings then nothing else.

I agree with most of the reviewers that it was disjointed at times, repetitive in some of it's points, and really needed some editing. I'm happy with it for the most part, but only because of the low price tag.
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on June 7, 2011
What a great story! A female serial killer in the early years of the 20th century. What a disappointing treatment! I am a bit of a stickler for appropriate grammar and this book did not even come close to my standards. The author loves sentence fragments, anachronistic idioms, and editorial asides ("Huh?"). Besides that, he spends a huge amount of time discussing the effects of the 1911 summer heat wave, a topic which deserves its own book but is completely irrelevant to the history of Amy Archer-Gilligan.

Where Phelps shines is the character descriptions. He is clearly in his element describing the lives of the victims and investigators. Franklin Andrews and Carl Goslee come to life in the pages; however, Phelps also indulges in much rhetorical speculation: "He must have thought ..." and "Clearly, she was furious ..." which also detracts from a serious tone of the book.

All that said, the story is fascinating and the accounts of the heat wave and the government's response, while irrelevant, are also gripping.
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on October 10, 2016
good ok
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