In this graphic novel series, Geary covers some of history's most famous murders in meticulously researched, beautifully drawn volumes. This one takes on H.H. Holmes, one of America's first serial killers, whose "murder castle" shocked and stunned the era. It's 1886, and Holmes arrives in Chicago, a seemingly clean and enterprising young man but actually a murderous con artist with a spectacular ability to talk people into trusting him. Over the next five years, he spins an insanely complicated web of cons and evasions, as acquaintance after acquaintance disappears. He acquires three wives and numerous children-all unaware of each other-and his "boarding house" (aka the "murder castle") becomes a place where tourists check in but don't check out. This boarding house houses everything from a gas chamber to an abattoir for victims. Holmes's murder spree ends with an increasingly desperate flight from the law covering several states and involving the murders of three children. Geary renders all of this in a bouncy pen and ink style, the cheerfulness of which belies the horrid events, complete with maps, diagrams and charts to help readers follow the complex story. Despite its charming outward appearance, Geary's art has a chilling subtext that makes the story even more creepy. He's able to make everyday conversation as unsettling as the gruesome violence that figures prominently in every story. Geary is an underrated master of comics, and this book will equally interest history buffs, true crime enthusiasts and fans of good comics. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
H. H. Holmes, a Chicago resident in the late 1800s, is now commonly considered the United States' first serial killer. An industrious young man from New Hampshire, he arrived in the Midwest in time to take advantage of the World's Fair, both in his fraudulent business practices and his grisly hobbies. Physician, gentleman, and charmer, Holmes made his money by swindling people in insurance scams and in business, occasionally involving or culminating in the killing of acquaintances or business partners. His most notable and macabre legacy, however, is "The Castle," the labyrinthine three-story business and boardinghouse where he committed the bulk of his crimes. In this warren of gas chambers and hidden panels, Holmes murdered around two hundred victims. His tale is dark and complicated, but historians might never be able to illuminate the final question, "Why?" This new installment of writer/artist Geary's Treasury of Victorian Murder series shows all the hallmarks of his previous volumes: in-depth research, attention to detail, dry humor, and detailed, distinctive art. His black-and-white drawings, epitomizing "quaint," are perfectly suited to a story of the Victorian era. Although the subject matter is ultimately horrific, the art focuses for the most part on people and locations; the impact comes from the events themselves, heightened by a restrained rather than gory depiction. Lovers of crime, history, or excellent illustration should enjoy this book and its five predecessors in the series. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA G (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults;Graphic Novel Format). 2003, ComicsLit/NBM, 80p., and Trade pb. Ages 15 to Adult.
In this sixth and latest volume in his "Treasury of Victorian Murder" series, Geary turns his attention to H.H. Holmes, who gained infamy as America's first documented serial killer. The scene of most of Holmes's murders was a hotel and commercial building known as the Castle, which he built in the Chicago suburb of Englewood, IL, and outfitted with secret chutes and compartments, gas chambers, a safe in which victims were suffocated, a gruesome laboratory for dissection, and a crematorium. Around the time of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, as many as 50 people came to the Castle and were never seen again. Geary's exquisite black-and-white linework is reminiscent of period woodcuts, and his designs and page layouts are excellent. His figures show an echo of 1960s underground cartoonists such as Robert Crumb. Geary eschews speculative reenactments of the murders for a straightforward retelling of the known facts. Like the other books in the series, this one is well researched and includes a bibliography for further reading. True-crime buffs will find this of interest, and the lack of sensationalism will help make the book palatable to other interested nonfiction GN readers. Recommended for most collections, for older teens and adults. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Geary chronicles the man thought by some to be the world's first-known serial killer. Estimates on the number of men, women, and children murdered by the ghastly H. H. Holmes are as high as 200. In fin de si cle Chicago, he ran the cruelly efficient "Castle," a twisting maze of secret doors, airtight rooms, gas chambers, and ovens where he secretly dispatched his victims. He was also a con man and fraud, keeping several wives and families, and using any means of deception to further his many nefarious schemes. In a matter-of-fact style, Geary places the unequivocally evil Holmes against the promise then held by the city of Chicago, where the glow of electric lights from the World Exposition turned night into day. In the recounting of Holmes's ever-changing aliases, schemes, coconspirators, families, and victims, the inherent complexity of the tale reduces many of the episodes and characterizations to a blur. The black-and-white artwork is confident and compelling, and comparisons to Edward Gorey (in theme and style) are inevitable. Although it lacks Gorey's dark drollery, Geary's work is certainly stylish in its own right. This macabre tale is certainly not for the squeamish, but older readers who are fans of Gorey, murder mysteries, or true crime may enjoy it.-Douglas P. Davey, Guelph Public Library, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.