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by Sebastian Junger
Harper Perennial, May 2007
256 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007200064

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In March 1963, Sebastian Junger was about a year old. His parents were having an extension put onto their house in the middle class white suburb of Belmont, near Boston. Junger's mother received a phone call from a friend telling her that Bessie Goldberg had been strangled and raped. There had never been a murder in Belmont before. Mrs Junger went outside to tell Al, one of the builders, who was on a ladder doing some finishing work, about the shocking crime. Was this the ninth of the Boston Strangler murders?

A black man, Roy Smith, had been working for Mrs Goldberg that day. Some of the residents of Belmont concluded that he must have been the murderer, and the Boston police arrested him a few days later. There were over a dozen rape-stranglings of women in the Boston area from June 1962 until January 1964.

This was also a turbulent period in the country as well. Smith's trial ended on the day of JFK's assassination, and despite his protestations of innocence, he was convicted, and sent to prison for what turned out to be the rest of his life.

Meanwhile the murders continued. Obviously, Smith wasn't the Boston Stranger. Suddenly a handyman named Albert DeSalvo confessed to the stranglings but not Mrs Goldberg's murder, although he was in Belmont that day, working at the Junger house, and could have killed her.

Junger uses the Goldberg murder as a starting place to examine the lives of Roy Smith and Albert DeSalvo, both of whom proclaimed their innocence until their deaths. Although the subject matter of A DEATH IN BELMONT is not as cinematic as that of his first book, THE PERFECT STORM, he manages to make the story engrossing.

By the way, the Boston Stranger murders are now considered unsolved. And Mrs Goldberg's death is still the only murder ever in upscale Belmont, Mass., and is also still unsolved.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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