In late nineteenth-century Boston, home to Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes, a serial killer preying on children is running loose in the city--a wilderness of ruin caused by the Great Fire of 1872--in this literary historical crime thriller reminiscent of The Devil in the White City.Read more...
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In late nineteenth-century Boston, home to Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes, a serial killer preying on children is running loose in the city--a wilderness of ruin caused by the Great Fire of 1872--in this literary historical crime thriller reminiscent of The Devil in the White City.
In the early 1870s, local children begin disappearing from the working-class neighborhoods of Boston. Several return home bloody and bruised after being tortured, while others never come back.
With the city on edge, authorities believe the abductions are the handiwork of a psychopath, until they discover that their killer--fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy--is barely older than his victims. The criminal investigation that follows sparks a debate among the world's most revered medical minds, and will have a decades-long impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness.
The Wilderness of Ruin is a riveting tale of gruesome murder and depravity. At its heart is a great American city divided by class--a chasm that widens in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1872. Roseanne Montillo brings Gilded Age Boston to glorious life--from the genteel cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill to the squalid, overcrowded tenements of Southie. Here, too, is the writer Herman Melville. Enthralled by the child killer's case, he enlists physician Oliver Wendell Holmes to help him understand how it might relate to his own mental instability.
With verve and historical detail, Roseanne Montillo explores this case that reverberated through all of Boston society in order to help us understand our modern hunger for the prurient and sensational.
The Wilderness of Ruin features more than a dozen black-and-white photographs.
This item is Non-Returnable.
- ISBN-13: 9780062273475
- ISBN-10: 0062273477
- Publisher: William Morrow & Company
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Page Count: 320
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
The history of a young psychopath
What with all the CSI television dramas, books by FBI profilers and frightening news stories about serial killers, we’ve become quite familiar with the concept of the criminal psychopath, a person without remorse. But even now, most of us are shocked when a child is a murderer. In 1874, when our current ideas about mental illness were still in their infancy, 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy seemed to many like a demon from hell.
As what we would now call a tween, Jesse kidnapped and tortured little boys not far from his home in Boston. A stint at a reform school just taught him better criminal techniques: After his release, he killed a girl and a boy in South Boston. He was quickly captured (though not quickly enough to save the second victim). The troubling question for Bostonians: What next for Jesse? Execution, imprisonment, treatment? Attitudes toward him changed as the study of mental illness evolved.
Roseanne Montillo’s absorbing The Wilderness of Ruin explores Jesse’s crimes and the decades-long debate that followed in the context of 19th-century law, medicine and literature. She particularly focuses on the life and social circle of writer Herman Melville, whose emotional troubles influenced Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, among other works. Melville’s friend Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (father of the Supreme Court justice) was among those who argued that Jesse should be studied, not hanged.
Perhaps most compelling is Montillo’s portrait of Jesse, who was intelligent and resourceful, but in modern terms clearly a dangerous psychopath. Bostonians were likely very lucky that he started his criminal career before he was sophisticated enough to cover his tracks.