That darling old lady next door tenderly spraying her roses…has she just sponged blood from the badly beaten bullet-blasted body of her boarder?
Title: 45 Murderers
Author: Craig Rice
Publisher: Graphic Publishing Company, Inc, 1954
Prolific writer Craig Rice takes a break from writing mystery fiction to report on true crimes in America (up to 1952).
- The chapters are brief summaries of true crimes committed in a variety of situations and, in almost all cases, their solutions. They are quick to read and entertaining, and the book is small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. Perfect for someone with a few minutes to kill.
It is very difficult to find much background information on this book. Individually, many of the stories were published in Saturday Home Magazine prior to being bound in one convienient collection, which was first done in 1952 by Simon and Schuster, Inc. There are 45 chapters, and each focuses on a different crime. It was written by Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig, better known in the mystery world by her pseudonym, Craig Rice. And…that’s about all the facts I could find on this one. This is a problem because Rice doesn’t provide any sort of bibliography or footnotes citing her sources, meaning any chance of digging any deeper into a particular crime is slim. I get the feeling many of these were not overly documented cases. There is no introduction to explain the research process or Rice’s reasons for wanting to spotlight these particular crimes. It makes it difficult to trust that these are actually “true”, as the cover states.
Shortage of sources aside, this book is fun to poke around in. Rice’s background as a mystery writer is present on each page. She uses poetic license to beef up the stories with engaging dialogue, which is most likely pure fiction. She slips in her own commentary, giving the case retellings a more conversational feel. As a reader who loves reading about true crime but hates the overly gory details usually accompanying it, I found this book no more dangerous than any other cozy. There is a variety of criminal scenarios to pick from and the chapters don’t have to be read in order. Start with “The Murderer Who Couldn’t Have Done It” or jump down to “The Case of the Woman’s Intuition”. One of the most interesting chapters, “The Black Dahlia Case”, is the last; in it, Craig lays out her own observations of the infamous case, the facts of which would have still been very fresh in many people’s minds at the time the book was published.
In 45 Murderers, Rice trades the comic undertones usually present in her novels for a more serious one better fitting the subject matter. It still reads like fiction, but if Craig Rice says it’s all true, who am I to argue?