Interesting book! Thank goodness we have progressed so much in deciphering crime scenes and DNA! Pomeroy was an extremely smart and disturbed individual who knew how to manipulate others. The odd thing about this book is it is intertwined with a Herman Melville biography. The author states that Pomeroy read one of his dime novels and there are periodically chapters on Melville that in no way relate to the story. Finally towards the end you see that the questions of good and evil raised by Pomeroy's crimes inspired Melville's Billy Budd. All the Melville parts felt unnecessary to the story but they did not detract from it.
Sentenced in the 1870s to execution, later commuted to life imprisonment, the 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy would nowadays be labeled a psychopath. But at the time, the boy was considered only an aberration for his torture, and later, murder of multiple younger children.
This book weaves together multiple areas of interest in late-19th-century Boston, examining the changing ideas of mental illness and violence, along with the historical context which properly frames the narrative. The author's description of Pomeroy walks along the line between sympathy and condemnation as we can see both his mistreatments and his true lack of conscience.
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