Bury Me Deep

Nobody combines historical fact with bravura fiction the way Megan Abbott does. In The Song Is You, she took the real story of a young Hollywood starlet who really existed: Jean Spangler, a sexy-longlegs who disappeared one night and was never seen again. The papers called her Daughter of Black Dahlia, connecting Spangler to another notorious disappearance. The true parts of Bury Me Deep are based on another case that filled the tabloids in 1931, when a young Hollywood woman named Winnie Ruth Judd — labeled Trunk Murderess, Tiger Woman, and Blonde Butcher — gave herself up, saying that sexual jealousy had caused her to kill two of her female friends and dismember their bodies, after which she packed them into two trunks and shipped them to Phoenix. She was found guilty and was sentenced to death. Later, her lawyer asked for an amended verdict of not guilty on the grounds of insanity. Judd was finally sent to a mental hospital (probably because of a sheriff involved with the dead women). She escaped seven times; after the final escape, she spent six years working as a servant for a wealthy family in San Francisco. Abbott’s fictional version, Marion Seeley — like Judd, a doctor’s wife — is both scarier and more touching. In her unique, pared-to-the-bone prose, Abbott brings her to vivid life. “Joe Lanigan, her corrupter, was no longer hers, would permit her to fall to the guillotine before he sullied his overcoat,” Seeley says about the owner of a chain of pharmacies who she blamed for her actions. And about her husband, wracked with grief and guilt about her crimes, Seeley says, “He told of a day and a night spent in joints, judas holes, low-down nighteries and barrel houses, trailing the wastrels on Thaler Avenue and Gideon Square. The sad tramps and drifting souls who seemed, somehow, to wear his own face.” All three of Abbott’s books have been nominated for an Edgar Award; she won one for the much-praised Queenpin. She deserves another for Bury Me Deep. And it’s definitely a must-read for anyone who wants to see one of the best crime writers around perform her magic.