Zuretta (Etta) and her sister Ruby live what appears to be a quiet life in Utah, but underneath it all, they are dealing with an angry and abusive father. When Ruby discovers the extent to which Etta has been beaten and abused, she urges her to run away to Chicago and find a better life. Etta decides not to go, but Ruby leaves with dreams of finding a job in the exciting city that is host to the World’s Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) in 1893. When Ruby’s letters stop coming and Etta begins to have frightening dreams, Etta decides to go to Chicago to try and find her sister.
This is a fascinating novel that combines the true crime and thriller genres, as well as adding in a touch of magical realism. Fictional and real-life characters combine to tell the story of an actual serial killer in Chicago who ran a “murder house” hotel. Each chapter of the book is headed with a part of the actual confession letter the killer wrote after he was caught, a fascinating and genius addition to the story. We learn a little about the World’s Fair and a lot about the killer and the Pinkerton Detective Agency. It is easy to connect with the serious and determined Etta, who has an admirable ability to focus and analyze events in unfortunate or perilous situations. The two sides of the killer—his public face and his private murderous personality, are shown to great effect. The underbelly of Chicago, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting young women who have been lured to the city by the famous and popular fair, is almost a character in and of itself. Riveting and sometimes horrifying, this is a combination of true crime and historical fiction that readers will find irresistible.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bryce Moore is a young adult fantasy author whose first book, Vodnik, will be published by Tu Books in March 2012. He currently is a librarian in Western Maine, where he uses his spare time to fix up his old 1841 farmhouse and shovel snow. He received a Masters in English from BYU, where he studied American literature, creative writing, and film adaptation. He also has a Masters of Library Science from Florida State. Check out his blog on writing, libraries and dentists at brycemoore.com
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