Customer Reviews for

A Death in Belmont

Average Rating 3.5
( 28 )
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  • Posted October 29, 2011

    A story you can only wish wasn't true.

    What would you do if the carpenter who had worked in your house for months, who you ate lunch with, and talked to on a regular basis, turned out to be the Boston Strangler? And, years later, you found out that your own mother came close to being another one of his victims? From the gruesome crime scene descriptions to the suspenseful trials that resulted in convictions and an excruciating sentence of a presumably innocent man, A Death in Belmont , is a horrifying conglomeration of legal records and one man's recollection of his encounters with his carpenter, who confessed to being the real Boston Strangler. Junger digs deep into official records and court documents to help depict the trials of Roy Smith and Al DeSalvo, both convicted of killing women in the Boston Area. The most interesting parts of this story are the author's interviews with DeSalvo himself, which lead the audience deeper and deeper into the sociopathic psyche of a serial murderer and rapist. In the interview we learn more gruesome details about the horrifying murders of those thirteen women than we ever wanted to know. Not only is the concept of this novel compelling, but Junger's writing style keeps you coming back for more. Nearly every part of this story has some sort of twist or turn that is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats and the surprising conclusion will never disappoint. I would recommend this novel to anyone who would enjoy a surprisingly true story about the accounts of the alleged Boston Strangler.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A fascinating, in-depth look at the Boston Strangler murders

    On March 11, 1963, a woman by the name of Bessie Goldberg was murdered in the surburban town of Belmont, outside Boston, Mass. "A Death in Belmont" examines her death, along with flashbacks and asides about the U.S. justice system, U.S. law, and related crimes. Sebastian Junger, the author, has a personal interest in the subject matter of this non-fiction book. He lived in the same neighborhood of Belmont as Bessie Goldberg when she was murdered and possibly even met the real Boston Strangler in his own house.

    Junger not only gives the reader an account of the Boston Strangler's grisly murders from police and newspaper reports, but he also draws from his personal life and times, having grown up during that time and area. He then mixes in U.S. and world history events such as the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Vietnam War, giving us a sense of the pulse of the nation while the murders were occuring. He uses all of this information to weave together a story of sorts that jumps around piecing together "the big picture" for the reader.

    I enjoyed that the book wasn't just all about the Boston Strangler murders. Junger used the cases of the Boston Strangler as an outline, but then gave us a history of the city of Boston (and Belmont), included an education about legal terms and trial proceedings to help us understand what was going on with the investigations and trials, and let us peek into his childhood memories.

    Before reading "A Death in Belmont," I had heard of the Boston Strangler, but didn't really have much knowledge of the crimes and resulting trials because all of the murders occurred before I was born. Junger's book was an eye-opener, and the ongoing mystery of the crimes parallels those of Jack the Ripper.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    Good but not Capote

    After reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I was looking for another book based around the same topic. My mom told me this book was similar and that I should read it for my summer reading. I would first like to say that this book does not compare to In Cold Blood at all. Capote¿s book is exceedingly better than Junger¿s. However, that is not to say that A Death in Belmont is a bad book, it is just not in the same category as Capote¿s. I thought Junger¿s story was a bit unorganized. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. Since I knew that this story was about a serial killer, I could not figure out what the first chapter was talking about. However, after reading the rest of the chapters it became clear how the two stories were eventually going to connect. On that point, I would have liked if there were less chapters on the job that Al was doing at the Junger¿s house. I feel the book would have been better if there were more chapters on the trial and maybe even after the deaths of the characters and what has happened recently. The suspense that Junger tried to build did not work. I could tell at chapter 3 that Al was the Boston Strangler, so I was not surprised to find this out towards the end of the book. However, there were many good aspects of the book that I enjoyed. I enjoyed how Junger gave as unbiased of an account as possible. I know that he was deeply involved emotionally in this case but I think he did a good job in trying to separate himself from it. For most of the book, the information was presented in an objective manner that just presented the facts and not Junger¿s opinion. As well, I thought that the amount of detail that Junger was able to get was remarkable. I enjoyed the detail in the interrogation and what Roy Smith did before, during, and after the crime. I also enjoyed that the story was told from a variety of point of views. The reader was able to see the crime in the perspective of many of the people involved. While the whole story was told in first person, Junger was able to capture the emotions that the rest of the characters felt throughout the novel. For example, I enjoyed seeing the crime from the victim¿s husband, the detectives, and Roy Smith. Overall, I thought that Junger did a good job in writing this book. I was captivated by the book and continually wanted to read it to find out the overall outcome of Roy Smith¿s case and the actual Boston Strangler case. While I am a true crime novel reader, I think that anyone would enjoy this book. In the end, I feel that Junger did as well of a job as he could have and I recommend this book to other readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2007

    Disappointing

    I couldn't get interested in this book. The story is unclear. The author is rambling and opinionated - hardly what I expected.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2007

    It might make you think.

    I enjoyed this book because it didn't have a tidy ending. It seemed to be as unbiased as it could be, with the author having such a personal investment in the subject mater. It presented several options (as to whether Roy Smith was the killer and as to whether Al DeSalvo was in fact the Boston Strangler) and gave good arguments both pro and con for each of those options. It didn't change my mind, but it made me think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    I love a good mystery. This isn't one. Even for a 'beach read', I want good writing. Loved 'The Perfect Storm', so I was especially disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2007

    A Stretch of Imagination

    This book makes no sense. Mr. Goldberg arrived home and called the police 45 minutes after Smith, a parolee with a record of theft, violence, and alcoholism had left. Children who were playing in front of the house for more than half that time saw no one other than Mr. Goldberg approach the house. Junger says Smith, later convicted of the murder, told only the truth to the authorities. Smith told police he had cleaned the Goldberg home leaving everything in order. Yet the living room furniture was found in the middle of the room with the vacuum cleaner. The mirror was covered with glass cleaner. There was no evidence of a break-in. Is Junger asking us to believe that Albert DeSalvo, in that short period of time, could have driven more than a mile across town, past 95 houses and Belmont Center, and somehow have entered that very same house? Did he murder Bessie Goldberg, locate and steal her money, then stay around to move the living room ornaments on to the dining room table without leaving any prints? Did he then push the living room furniture into the center of the room along with the vacuum cleaner not disturbing Smith's handprints which were found on it and on the yet to be cleaned mirror? Did DeSalvo then leave the Goldberg home, again unnoticed?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2007

    A great read

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting, never bored me, and did not read like a history book. If you are interested in the Boston Strangler or Boston history I would absolutely recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2006

    Boring

    I couldn't get through this book. How could this book be compared to 'In Cold Blood'????

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2006

    excellent writing

    Junger has written an excellent book about the murder of Bessie Goldberg. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him to realize that the Boston Strangler has actually been in his home and so close to his mother. Great book, great read! Ignore the critics, read this book, and draw your own conclusions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2006

    Good Book

    This is a wonderful perspective on one fo the great serial murders of our time. It is deifnetly a page turner. Junger does a wonderful job of describing the people who were involved in this crime at this time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2006

    'In Cold Blood' It Isn't

    After reading Sebastian Junger's latest effort, I am puzzled. Is the purpose of this book to examine the possibility that an innocent man was convicted of murder forty years ago on the basis of race? Is it to highlight flaws in the American judicial system? Or is it simply to showcase the fact that Albert DeSalvo, who later recanted his confession as the Boston Strangler, happened to spend several days working on a construction project at the Junger residence in Belmont and, for some strange reason, was photographed with Junger's mother, Junger himself (then a toddler) and another member of the construction crew? I am not certain what Junger had in mind, but the end result is 250+ pages of theory and conjecture that ultimately amount to nothing since both convicted murderers died decades ago and DNA evidence long ago degraded or was destroyed. In comparison to Junger's masterpiece, 'The Perfect Storm,' this book is downright disappointing. It appears that he attempted and failed to climb the slippery slope of I-can-outdo-myself and slid into the valley of mediocrity. Perhaps he should have rested on his laurels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2006

    Fiction

    Why does the author keep so many of the vital facts of this well documented case from the reader? If the convicted murderer had cleaned the Goldberg house and left it in good order as he told the police why then when Mr. Goldberg arrived home was the house in the midst of being cleaned with the furniture in the middle of the living room, the living room ornaments on the dining room table and the vacuum cleaner and its attachments with Smith's handprints all over it still standing in the center of the living room?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2006

    Incomplete

    ¿A Death in Belmont¿ is an example of poor journalism. Instead of writing objectively Junger neglects to include much of the evidence against Roy Smith leading the reader to believe Smith may be innocent. Smith's appeal of the conviction is never discussed in the book. Never is the reader told the results of the appeal when in 1966 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction stating in its opinion 'The jury could have found unusual opportunity, motive, possession after the crime of unexplained funds, incriminating action in leaving the house in disorder and the work unfinished, and subsequent conduct and false statements showing consciousness of guilt. This is not a case on which the guilt of the defendant is left to conjecture and surmise with no solid basis in fact.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2006

    MUST READ!

    this is defenitely one of the most interesting and riveting books i have ever read! I live in Belmont actually and it is very weird to read about places you've always been around.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2006

    Okay, but not great

    I'm currently reading this book and am having a difficult time getting into it. The publicity of the daughter coming out against the book hasn't helped. I think it's questionable this book could be compared to 'In Cold Blood' -- it's not even in the same league.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2006

    A great read

    What a fascinatingly detailed book. Junger seemed to do the necessary research to write a convincing book.... I'll say that this is a great work of fiction -and I say fiction intentionally. Much like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, this book is a great story and an entertaining read, but should not be used to discern facts between folklore.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2006

    Educating Fiction

    I studied law in Boston. I usually pick a book about true crimes to read. However, this book of fiction 'A Death in Belmont' just grabbed my attention because it's about a murder that happened in MA. So I read it. Then I found it very entertaining and educating for me. On top of that, it's a good page flipper.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2006

    'A Death in Belmont', Compelling Examination of Life, Death and the American Judicial System

    Sebastian Junger's latest book, A Death in Belmont, is a gripping account of the murder of an elderly woman in the early 1960's in Belmont, Massachusetts. The victim, Bessie Goldberg, was raped and then strangled with her own stocking. A black, day worker, by the name of Roy Smith, was subsequently charged with the capital crime. The evidence against Smith was compelling, but circumstantial. He was convicted by an all white jury of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole, but always maintained his innocence. His sentence was later commuted. However, he died in prison before his release. What is fascinating about the story is that, unbeknownst to the jury, at the time of the murder a construction worker was quietly working at the author's childhood home just a few blocks from the Goldberg home. The construction worker was Albert DeSalvo. Sometime later DeSalvo admitted to police and prosecutors that he was the so-called 'Boston Strangler'. The Strangler's modus operandi was remarkably similar to the Goldberg murder. Interestingly, DeSalvo grew up in Chelsea, Massachusetts virtually across the street from a building owned and operated by Bessie Goldberg's husband. Undoubtedly, their paths crossed in the past, long before the murder. The author spent three years reviewing trial transcripts, interviewing witnesses, and researching the law. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, who was one of many Junger spoke to regarding issues of law. He also was interested in the history of Chelsea, where I practice, the hometown of the Goldbergs and DeSalvo. As a legal practitioner, I found the book to be a masterful and extraordinarily ambitious undertaking. Most journalists would be reluctant to re-examine the facts of a recent murder case, where the trail is still fresh. In A Death in Belmont, Junger analyzes not only the facts of the Goldberg murder, but also the Boston Strangler murders. He traveled to rural Mississippi to interview Roy Smith's family. He talked to witnesses that were involved in the investigation of both the Smith case and the Strangler cases. He talked to sitting judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to get a sense of the type of justice that Roy Smith would receive today. What is truly unique about Junger's approach is that he assumes the role of a well- informed juror and wrestles, along with the readers, about what is a true and just verdict. He does not answer the ultimate question, but rather leaves readers to reach their own conclusions. If the jurors had the benefit of hindsight, and knew that someone a few blocks away was an admitted mass murderer with a strikingly similar pattern, would they still have convicted Roy Smith? Can the public accept the notion that the criminal justice system is imperfect and necessarily must acquit in the face of reasonable doubt, even if in its heart it believes the defendant did the crime? Stated another way, Roy Smith may have committed the crime, but should still have been found not guilty. As Junger explores these issues he takes us back to the early 1960's, where even in progressive Massachusetts there were profound racial problems. For example, at least one key witness recalls his attention being drawn to Roy Smith because he was the only black man in the area. Racism is so insidious that one can only speculate whether it quietly leaked into the case. Bessie Goldberg's daughter, Leah Scheuerman, is publicly challenging the premise of the book. Understandably, she is upset that it reopens the wounds that were created by the untimely death of her mother. Nevertheless, unbiased readers could not reasonably deny that the case against Smith was circumstantial and the jury did not hear all of the relevant facts. In Ms. Scheuerman's attack of the book she cites the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's ruling in the Smith case, where the Court uph

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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