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   The Devil`s Rood

The Devil`s Rood
by The US Five

Category: Fiction / Horror
350 pages; ISBN: 0-887-39221-0

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Kathryn Lively


The Devil`s Rood is a fictional account of the life of Herman Mudgett, AKA H.H. Holmes, one of the cruelest, most disturbed human beings ever to have lived and largely regarded as the country`s first serial killer. Billed as a crime novel, The Devil`s Rood in a sense can also qualify as a mystery because, according to numerous records such as The New York Times, Mudgett admitted to over twenty murders but was believed to have killed more than two hundred people. Exact numbers have been debated over the years, and due to Mudgett`s penchant for taking on various aliases during his short life, so many details of his life will forever remain a mystery.

Written by The US Five, which consists of Jacksonville University writing professor, Bob Stanton, and four former students, all of whom spent years researching Dr. Mudgett, The Devil`s Rood is a unique speculative presentation of the life of this mass murderer. The story is told through a series of character monologues and journal entries, letters, and media clippings(some verbatim from various newspapers and others contrived) spanning from a few years before Mudgett`s birth and eighteen years after his execution.

Mudgett, a self-assured con man whose handsome looks and suave demeanor are bait for many a pretty girl and trusting soul in nineteenth-century America, runs his demented empire from a monstrous Chicago building called "The Castle". There he swindles people out of everything from furniture to their virginity to their life savings and land holdings. Ultimately these people lose their lives as well. In addition, Mudgett is a bigamist, marrying at least three different women under various pseudonyms, and a monster, describing his misdeeds to a mute acquaintance through one-sided correspondence, speaking casually of his conquests as if such a thing were normal. Therein lies the true horror of this story.

In a sense, one may be reminded while reading The Devil`s Rood of Stephen King`s Carrie, which employed a similar strategy of telling a story through Sue Snell`s memoirs and transcripts of the fictional Carrie White Commission. In this case, the strategy works, as it makes for a swift read. However, in certain cases when the reader is granted access to Detective Frank Geyer, for example, one mighte xperience a headache from the constant running on of lowercase words.

The Devil`s Rood is not a mystery in the traditional "whodunnit" sense, for it`s quite clear "whodunnit". If anything this story is a "howdunnit" and to some extent a "whydunnit", presenting some insight into th emind of a very disturbed individual. The Devil`s Rood is not a story for the faint and prurient of heart, but an interesting tale for people who hold a fascination with such subjects. Here is a man who make Charles Manson look like Gandhi, and the fact that this person actually lived is a horror in itself.


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