Monday, June 19, 2006

A Death in Belmont

I bought this book from a kid sitting on a lawn around the corner from my house. He had a pile of books he was selling for $1 each, and I recognized A Death in Belmont from a story I had heard on NPR. The story was compelling and I bought the book mostly because I had heard of it and it was only $1.

The book was as compelling as the radio story. Rather than focus solely on the Boston Strangler (Albert DeSalvo), it is about one death, that of Bessie Goldberg, which may or may not be the Strangler's work. Another man, Roy Smith, was convited of this murder, but it's still unclear whether he committed the crime. The author tells the story in three parts: the murder, the Smith trial, and the DeSalvo confession. Although DeSalvo confessed to twelve brutal rape/murders, he said he did not kill Bessie Goldberg.

Initially, I was interested because of the author's proximity to the story: he was a baby in Belmont when Bessie Goldberg was killed, and that day Albert DeSalvo had been working for his parents, helping to put an addition on their house. Nobody was home that day, so nobody knew whether he was there all day or had left, killed Bessie Goldberg, and returned.

As the story grew, I, like the author, kept looking for clues as to whether Smith killed her, or whether it was DeSalvo. The evidence is never clear, but it's interesting in a gruesome and shocking way. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter anymore. It was a long time ago, and the events become more like fiction. But it's interesting to think about.

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