Thursday 5 August 2010

Slaughter on a Snowy Morn

The Father of Forensics, the biography of Sir Bernard Spilsbury that I covered in this blog recently, has a new true crime book out, again published by Icon. Slaughter on a Snowy Morn deals with a much less familiar subject, an American case that I had never heard of before this book arrived on my doorstep.

The set-up of the story is rather intriguing. This is taken from the back cover of the book:
‘Sing Sing Prison, New York, July 1916. Charles Frederick Stielow, a 37 year old farmhand with the mind of an infant, is just minutes away from the electric chair for a double murder he didn’t commit. With a vengeful legal system baying for blood, his situation looks hopeless. Eight blocks away, Stielow’s wife sobs helplessly in her hotel room, certain she will never see her husband alive again...’

Evans, who clearly has a great passion for forensic science, concludes that the Stielow case sounded ‘a warning bell about the dangers of junk science’. It also represented a milestone in American jurisprudence: ‘for the first time, scientific testimony helped to overturn a murder conviction’. The story is, for Evans, a conspicuous example of the power of human outrage in the face of injustice.

If you are a true crime fan, then I think you will find Evan’s work interesting. This book didn’t appeal to me quite as much as The Father of Forensics, perhaps mainly because of my great interest in Spilsbury and his important role in the Crippen case, which I retold in Dancing for the Hangman. But it’s good to know something about a case of which I was previously unaware.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks so much for this review. I'd heard of this case before, but I knew little about it. I think I'm going to try to track this one down and find out more...

Unknown said...

Wow, I've never heard of the case before but now I'm intrigued. Thank you for this.