Richard T. Cahill Jr.’s book on the Lindbergh Kidnapping was a refreshing and welcome entry to the seemingly never-ending library of books on the subject. The phrase “crime of the century” gets tossed around a lot, but few cases ever get close to the impact of the murder and kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son. As a true crime author myself, I tend to be critical of such books, but in this case the material was easy to process for a review.
There have been some very good books on the subject over the years. But like most infamous crimes, authors have frequented new theories over the decades as to the guilt of Bruno Richard Hauptmann – implicating a rogue’s gallery of potential suspects. Some authors have turned to the testimony and evidence and have committed the heinous crime of cherry-picking history…pulling one or two tantalizing comments out of context and fabricating theories around those. Others have tossed some of their now-dead family members under the proverbial bus, accusing them of the crime. We see it all of the time, even with other famous cases like that of the Zodiac.
Cahill does something that is long overdue…he goes back to the source material – the testimonies and actual evidence. There’s no agenda with this book other than to tell as complete a story as possible. He succeeds swimmingly.
Some authors go out of their way to debunk their predecessor’s crackpot theories. I think Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History is a good example of this. With a lawyer’s skill, he dissects the absurd theories of the Kennedy assassination. Mr. Cahill is far more subtle in his work. He often offers plausible explanations as to why authors came to the conclusions that they did, they artfully explains the errors of their thinking.
I have written for university press’s before and I know they can have a reputation for being dull and boring. This story is not. Even though I had read many books on this subject, I still found myself compelled to continue on. Mr. Cahill’s book is what true crime/history books should do, frame the story in their proper context, and hit the facts.
The only minor nit I have is that the book ended too quickly. It really didn’t explore the debacle of Hauptmann’s appeals and the involvement of the New Jersey governor in the case prior to his execution. This would have been an excellent epilogue for the book, but isn’t there in any real detail.
I highly recommend this book to true crime buffs and aficionados. The writing is solid and it is as much a history book as a true crime story – built on facts and evidence. Put it on your summer reading list!