The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry
Published by Viking Adult, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the publicist
The subtitle of The Girls of Murder City is Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired CHICAGO. I have to be up front about the fact that the entire reason I read this book is that subtitle – I love musicals and Chicago is one of my absolute favorites. When I realized that this book tells the story of the real-life killers who inspired the absolutely amazing musical Chicago, I knew I had to read it.
Lucky for me, The Girls of Murder City has a LOT going for it. It is such a compelling account of the murderesses of the 1920’s that there were times I forgot I was reading nonfiction and was completely sucked into the “story” of these women. I found it so fascinating to read about the true stories of the crimes they committed, how they were treated by the media and the public, and how many of them got away with their crimes.
The book is not just about the killers themselves, it’s also an account of the media and specific journalists who covered their trials. It was so interesting to me reading about how the women played up the all-male juries, how the reporters covered their cases, and how the public perceived them. For example, one of the killers was a poor, unattractive Italian woman and she was not treated well by the public. Another woman, however, who was gorgeous, rich, and played with the jury and the camera, was released and not convicted of her crime (the crime that she, I must add, confessed to). It also was a powerful depiction of the city of Chicago in the ’20’s. Due to various social factors, more women were feeling independent and willing to go it alone, willing to cheat on their husbands, willing to drink with other men – and lots of these social factors contributed to the fact that several women of that era killed their husbands (or other men).
In addition, I got what I was hoping for with this book – a real glimpse into the true stories of the women who inspired the musical Chicago. I loved reading about the woman who Roxie Hart was based off of, as well as some of the other women at the prison who inspired characters in the musical.
All in all, The Girls of Murder City is a fascinating account of the “beautiful killers who inspired CHICAGO”. Readers who enjoy history, especially history that is closely tied to societal factors, will enjoy this book. I certainly did!