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A Death in Belmont

by

A Death in Belmont Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"The result is a book full of unanswered questions — a book that is at once less satisfying and yet even more intriguing and unsettling than The Perfect Storm....Junger adeptly pulls together the various elements of this complex narrative, setting accounts of the Goldberg murder trial and Roy Smith's history against the backdrop of the Strangler hysteria that gripped the public for the better part of two years." Gary Krist, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A fatal collision of three lives in the most intriguing and original crime story since In Cold Blood.

In the spring of 1963, the quiet suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts, is rocked by a shocking sex murder that exactly fits the pattern of the Boston Strangler. Sensing a break in the case that has paralyzed the city of Boston, the police track down a black man, Roy Smith, who cleaned the victim¹s house that day and left a receipt with his name on the kitchen counter. Smith is hastily convicted of the Belmont murder, but the terror of the Strangler continues.

On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo — the man who would eventually confess in lurid detail to the Strangler?s crimes — is also in Belmont, working as a carpenter at the Jungers? home. In this spare, powerful narrative, Sebastian Junger chronicles three lives that collide — and ultimately are destroyed — in the vortex of one of the first and most controversial serial murder cases in America.

Review:

"Bessie Goldberg was strangled to death in her home in Belmont, a Boston suburb, in March of 1963 — right in the middle of the Boston Strangler's killing spree. Her death has not usually been associated with the other Strangler killings because Roy Smith, a black man who was working in Goldberg's house that day, was convicted of her murder on strong circumstantial evidence. But another man was working in Belmont that day: Albert DeSalvo, who later confessed to being the Boston Strangler, was doing construction work in the home of Junger's parents (the author himself was a baby). Could DeSalvo have slipped away and killed Bessie Goldberg? Junger's taut narrative makes dizzying hairpin turns as he considers all the evidence for, and against, Smith or DeSalvo being Goldberg's killer; he also reviews the more familiar case for and against DeSalvo being the Strangler — for there are serious questions about his confession. As Junger showed in his bestselling The Perfect Storm, he's a hell of a storyteller, and here he intertwines underlying moral quandaries — was racism a factor in Smith's conviction? How to judge when the truth in this case is probably unknowable? — with the tales of two men: Smith, a ne'er-do-well from a racist South who rehabilitated himself before dying in prison; DeSalvo, a sexual predator raised by a violent father who was stabbed to death in prison. This perplexing story gains an extra degree of creepiness from Junger's personal connection to it." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"An intriguing crime story that also contains painful truths about race and justice in America." Booklist

Review:

"[Junger's] ripping, highly readable drama of crime and punishment highlights the random chance that often separates victim from survivor....A meticulously researched evocation of a time of terror, wrapped around a chilling, personal footnote." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"As usual, Junger has written a well-documented page-turner that leaves us wanting more....Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"[R]iveting....A Death in Belmont, though nonfiction, reads like a novel. Its narrative line is crisp....[A] worthy sequel to The Perfect Storm." Alan M. Dershowitz, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"[A]s A Death in Belmont shows, [Junger is] a hell of a storyteller....In the end, you can't help feeling that A Death in Belmont might have made a better magazine article than a 266-page book. (Grade: B+)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"Sebastian Junger knows a good story when he comes across one. Fortunately for his readers, he also know how to flesh out such stories and then tell them in a beguiling and silky prose style." Denver Post

Review:

"The publisher boldly compares A Death in Belmont to In Cold Blood, but it is too flatly written to approach Truman Capote's masterpiece. Junger can quickly slide into the prosaic, though here his sentences serve his topic well enough." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"A Death in Belmont investigates the puzzling, lurid drama of the Boston Strangler....In a book as good as this one, conjecture rings with the force of conviction." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram

Review:

"Junger's failure to couch his material in a consistently compelling narrative is the problem. And for all their fleshing out, his tragic characters remain curiously flat as well." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"The perfect story..." David Mehegan, Boston Globe

Review:

"4 stars....Sebastian Junger's first brush with horror came early....Wondering if DeSalvo may have killed his neighbor, Junger exhumes the evidence in both cases. He recounts the crimes and trials and interviews witnesses, including his parents. As he goes deeper, the story becomes that much more awful, a commentary on racial assumptions and the illusion of suburban safety." William Georgiades, New York Post

Review:

"In DeSalvo's dark world, Junger's clear, beautifully reasonable writing is the literary equivalent of night-vision goggles....He's navigating a maze of shadows, and you can see all the more clearly what an enormously skillful prose artist he is." Lev Grossman, Time

Book News Annotation:

Junger, the author of the bestseller The Perfect Storm, uses his family's brush with murder and with the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, who was a handyman at the Junger's home, to explore race and justice in America. Junger's story follows three lives that collide in the midst of one of the most controversial serial murder cases in America. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

In the spring of 1963, the quiet suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts, is rocked by a shocking sex murder that exactly fits the pattern of the Boston Strangler. Sensing a break in the case that has paralyzed the city of Boston, the police track down a black man, Roy Smith, who cleaned the victim's house that day and left a receipt with his name on the kitchen counter. Smith is hastily convicted of the Belmont murder, but the terror of the Strangler continues.

On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo--the man who would eventually confess in lurid detail to the Strangler's crimes--is also in Belmont, working as a carpenter at the Jungers' home. In this spare, powerful narrative, Sebastian Junger chronicles three lives that collide--and ultimately are destroyed--in the vortex of one of the first and most controversial serial murder cases in America.

About the Author

Sebastian Junger is the author of Fire and the international bestseller The Perfect Storm. He has been awarded a National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for journalism. He lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Rick, May 15, 2006 (view all comments by Rick)
Just because you disagree with Junger's conclusions doesn't mean he's written a bad book. "A Death in Belmont" is intriguing and unforgettable -- and whether you agree or disagree, it's worth discussing. A must-read!
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(33 of 65 readers found this comment helpful)
lscheue464, May 6, 2006 (view all comments by lscheue464)
This is a review from the daughter of the victim

A tragedy occurred for my family in Belmont, Mass. on March 11, 1963 when my mother was murdered by a man sent by an employment agency to clean our home. Sebastian Junger who was a baby at the time lived with his parents on the other side of town, 1.25 miles away. Separating our two homes were 95 houses,15 intersecting streets and the town center which has at least 40 stores.

Junger claims, but gives no proof, that Albert DeSalvo who once confessed but later recanted to being the "Boston Strangler" was working for his mother the day my mother died. By the way DeSalvo claimed he killed many woman, but denied my mother's murder.

Junger wants to create a mystery or he will have no story. Actually, although Junger tries every way possible to cover up the truth, Roy Smith was fairly prosecuted and convicted. Roy Smith had a history of theft. alcoholism and violence which is documented in Junger's book. However the very strong evidence against Smith is either omitted of obfuscated in the story.

Smith's conviction was appealed in 1966 a fact which Junger never mentions. The appeal was denied and the conviction upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1966.
Here is what they found
2. There was no error in the denial of the motion for a directed verdict. The evidence was circumstantial. The jury could have found as follows: On the morning of March 11, 1963, the defendant walked from his apartment at 175 Northampton Street, Boston, to the district office of the Division of Employment Security on Huntington Avenue. Between 11:45 A.M. and 12 noon he left that office with an identification card introducing him to Mrs. Goldberg at 14 Scott Road, Belmont, and a slip directing him to that address. The interviewer at the employment office, thinking that she detected liquor on the defendant's breath, had asked if he had been drinking. He had "leaned a little backwards . . . [and] said no" and the interviewer, then thinking he had not been drinking, had sent him out. The defendant arrived at the Goldberg house about 12:45 or 1 P.M. He later told the police that he arrived before noon and left at exactly 3:45 P.M. The jury could have found, however, from the testimony of several other witnesses, that he left the house at about 3:05 P.M. Israel Goldberg, the murdered woman's husband, telephoning from his place of business in Chelsea, spoke with his wife at about 2:20 P.M. Goldberg arrived home at about 3:50 P.M., found his wife's body in the living room and telephoned the police. They arrived in a few minutes and found Goldberg excited, nervous and hysterical. Mrs. Goldberg had been strangled with one of her stockings; the disarray of her garments and the bodily exposure (with the later report of a microscopic examination and related testimony of Goldberg) tended to show rape. The living room was in disorder, most of the furniture was in the middle of the room, the divan was pushed to one corner, living room ornaments were on the dining room table, and the vacuum cleaner, with attachments, was in the center of the living room.

Page *605
Palm or fingerprints, later identified as the defendant's, were, in due course, found on the mantel in the living room, on the mirror hanging above it, and on the vacuum cleaner. After his arrest, the defendant told the police that he cleaned several rooms, got all through with his work and left the rooms in order; also that he did not clean the mirror, that he "didn't have anything to do" with it and he did not recall seeing a mantel.

Children coming home from school about 3 P.M. and soon thereafter playing ball in the street saw the defendant on the street near the Goldberg house and saw Goldberg come home; they did not observe anyone else in the street near the house in the interval. Their opportunity for observation extended over a good part though not all of the time between the defendant's departure and Goldberg's return. A practical nurse employed in the house next to the Goldberg residence was watching the children in the street from about 3:25 P.M. until about 3:45 P.M. She saw no one around the Goldberg house other than the children. She saw Goldberg come home

The defendant told the police that he had $2 with him when he went to Belmont on March 11 and that he was paid $6.30 for his work at the Goldberg house. He had $3.20 with him when arrested. Goldberg had left bills (one in the amount of $10, five in the amount of $1) on the night table in the bedroom before leaving home in the morning, after having a conversation with his wife. This was for her use in paying the expected cleaning man. He had given his wife $7 on March 10 for some purchases; she had not spent it all. In the afternoon of March 11 her pocketbook was found open on top of a bureau with the wallet missing. The money was gone from the night table. The defendant on the evening of March 11 was seen with a ten, a five and some one dollar bills when he purchased whiskey. He made other purchases and expenditures between 3:05 P.M. on March 11 and the time of his arrest on March 12. The total of these was in the range of $15.

This evidence was sufficient to take the case to the jury. (FN 5) Commonwealth v. Richmond, 207 Mass. 240 , 243-245, 246-247. Commonwealth v. Smith, 342 Mass. 180 , 182-184. Commonwealth v. Swartz, 343 Mass. 709 . Commonwealth v. Connors, 345 Mass. 102 . See Commonwealth v. Bonomi, 335 Mass. 327, 356, and cases cited. "Reasonable and possible" inferences were enough. Commonwealth v. Merrick, 255 Mass. 510 , 514. The jury could have found unusual opportunity, motive, possession after the crime of unexplained funds, incriminating action in leaving the house in disorder and the work unfinished, and subsequent conduct and false statements showing consciousness of guilt. Evidence of consciousness of guilt, while not conclusive, may with other evidence be sufficient to prove guilt.

Commonwealth v. Curry, 341 Mass. 50, 55, and cases cited. Commonwealth v. Swartz, 343 Mass. 709 , 713.

This is not a case on which the guilt of the defendant is left to conjecture and surmise with no solid basis in fact, such as Commonwealth v. Fancy, 349 Mass. 196 , 200

If you read the book without this information you will be purposely led in an entirely different direction.

Junger states that at first the police thought Smith was the Boston Strangler. Not true. I was told by police officials in the early evening of March 11, 1963 that Smith was a parolee who had been in prison during many of the strangling murders. I was told that night by the same officials that there was no one person committing these crimes. Roy Smith was not suspected of any of the other murders.

Junger puts me in the courthouse when the verdict is announced and describes my thoughts concerning Smith's reaction. Here are two gross errors, I wasn't there, I was in Connecticut. How could he say what I thought without inventing the words himself? This book many times crosses the line into fiction.

Junger tells of a man in work clothes looking for odd jobs on my street on the day of my mother's death. This is undocumented. The man who supposedly saw the fellow in work clothes is never named and no one on our street was an elderly fellow with an ill wife. The children who were playing on the street noticed no one, but Smith.

Junger states that Smith never lied, but if you read the above Court opinion carefully you will find that Smith lies many times. He also told the police he was paid $6.30. That's $1.50 for four hours and .30 for transportation. We know from witnesses that Smith was at our home for no more than 2hours and 20 minutes instead of the four hours he claimed. He never finished the work and left the house in good order as he claimed.

Smith was never exonerated, but his sentence was commuted for good behavior and because he was suffering from terminal lung cancer, according to his lawyer.

If you read this book watch out for phrases like "He must have thought" or "he probably" or "Certainly" The reader is always being led.

Smith was acquitted of rape because he had an excellent defense attorney.

Junger who calls himself a journalist has presented us with a novel. If you read this book keep the Supreme Court Opinion nearby so you can stay afloat on Junger's sea of fiction
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(47 of 87 readers found this comment helpful)
Wicker Blades, April 27, 2006 (view all comments by Wicker Blades)
A brilliant book! Couldn't put it down. Is it true... false... a fabrication, or a revelation? Who knows? not me. But it makes damn interesting reading either way.
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(38 of 76 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780393059809
Author:
Junger, Sebastian
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Subject:
Murder
Subject:
Massachusetts
Subject:
Murder - Serial Killers
Subject:
Murder - Massachusetts - Belmont
Subject:
Smith, Roy
Subject:
Crime - True Crime
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st
Publication Date:
April 18, 2006
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.54x6.02x1.08 in. .97 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Crime » General
History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Young Adult » General

A Death in Belmont Used Hardcover
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Product details 288 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393059809 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Bessie Goldberg was strangled to death in her home in Belmont, a Boston suburb, in March of 1963 — right in the middle of the Boston Strangler's killing spree. Her death has not usually been associated with the other Strangler killings because Roy Smith, a black man who was working in Goldberg's house that day, was convicted of her murder on strong circumstantial evidence. But another man was working in Belmont that day: Albert DeSalvo, who later confessed to being the Boston Strangler, was doing construction work in the home of Junger's parents (the author himself was a baby). Could DeSalvo have slipped away and killed Bessie Goldberg? Junger's taut narrative makes dizzying hairpin turns as he considers all the evidence for, and against, Smith or DeSalvo being Goldberg's killer; he also reviews the more familiar case for and against DeSalvo being the Strangler — for there are serious questions about his confession. As Junger showed in his bestselling The Perfect Storm, he's a hell of a storyteller, and here he intertwines underlying moral quandaries — was racism a factor in Smith's conviction? How to judge when the truth in this case is probably unknowable? — with the tales of two men: Smith, a ne'er-do-well from a racist South who rehabilitated himself before dying in prison; DeSalvo, a sexual predator raised by a violent father who was stabbed to death in prison. This perplexing story gains an extra degree of creepiness from Junger's personal connection to it." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "The result is a book full of unanswered questions — a book that is at once less satisfying and yet even more intriguing and unsettling than The Perfect Storm....Junger adeptly pulls together the various elements of this complex narrative, setting accounts of the Goldberg murder trial and Roy Smith's history against the backdrop of the Strangler hysteria that gripped the public for the better part of two years." (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
"Review" by , "An intriguing crime story that also contains painful truths about race and justice in America."
"Review" by , "[Junger's] ripping, highly readable drama of crime and punishment highlights the random chance that often separates victim from survivor....A meticulously researched evocation of a time of terror, wrapped around a chilling, personal footnote."
"Review" by , "As usual, Junger has written a well-documented page-turner that leaves us wanting more....Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "[R]iveting....A Death in Belmont, though nonfiction, reads like a novel. Its narrative line is crisp....[A] worthy sequel to The Perfect Storm."
"Review" by , "[A]s A Death in Belmont shows, [Junger is] a hell of a storyteller....In the end, you can't help feeling that A Death in Belmont might have made a better magazine article than a 266-page book. (Grade: B+)"
"Review" by , "Sebastian Junger knows a good story when he comes across one. Fortunately for his readers, he also know how to flesh out such stories and then tell them in a beguiling and silky prose style."
"Review" by , "The publisher boldly compares A Death in Belmont to In Cold Blood, but it is too flatly written to approach Truman Capote's masterpiece. Junger can quickly slide into the prosaic, though here his sentences serve his topic well enough."
"Review" by , "A Death in Belmont investigates the puzzling, lurid drama of the Boston Strangler....In a book as good as this one, conjecture rings with the force of conviction."
"Review" by , "Junger's failure to couch his material in a consistently compelling narrative is the problem. And for all their fleshing out, his tragic characters remain curiously flat as well."
"Review" by , "The perfect story..."
"Review" by , "4 stars....Sebastian Junger's first brush with horror came early....Wondering if DeSalvo may have killed his neighbor, Junger exhumes the evidence in both cases. He recounts the crimes and trials and interviews witnesses, including his parents. As he goes deeper, the story becomes that much more awful, a commentary on racial assumptions and the illusion of suburban safety."
"Review" by , "In DeSalvo's dark world, Junger's clear, beautifully reasonable writing is the literary equivalent of night-vision goggles....He's navigating a maze of shadows, and you can see all the more clearly what an enormously skillful prose artist he is."
"Synopsis" by , In the spring of 1963, the quiet suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts, is rocked by a shocking sex murder that exactly fits the pattern of the Boston Strangler. Sensing a break in the case that has paralyzed the city of Boston, the police track down a black man, Roy Smith, who cleaned the victim's house that day and left a receipt with his name on the kitchen counter. Smith is hastily convicted of the Belmont murder, but the terror of the Strangler continues.

On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo--the man who would eventually confess in lurid detail to the Strangler's crimes--is also in Belmont, working as a carpenter at the Jungers' home. In this spare, powerful narrative, Sebastian Junger chronicles three lives that collide--and ultimately are destroyed--in the vortex of one of the first and most controversial serial murder cases in America.
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