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A Death in Belmont (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 7. April 2006

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Imagine how strange and frightening it would be to see a picture of yourself, not quite a year old, with your mother and two men, one of whom is a confessed serial killer. This is what happened to Sebastian Junger, and only a small part of what he recounts in A Death in Belmont.

The quiet suburb of Belmont, Massacuusetts, is in the grip of fear. The Boston Strangler murders have taken place nearby, and now there is another shocking sex crime, right in Belmont. The victim is Bessie Goldberg, a middle-aged woman who had hired a cleaning man to help out around the house on that fall day in 1963. He is a black man named Roy Smith. He did the appointed chores, collected his money and left a receipt on the kitchen table. Neighbors will say that he looked furtive when he walked down the street, that he was in a hurry, that he stopped to buy cigarettes, that he looked over his shoulder. They didn't see a black man in Belmont very often, so, of course, they noticed him. So the story went, and on these slender threads, and his own checkered history, Roy Smith is convicted of the Belmont murder and sent to prison.

On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo, an Italian-American handyman, is also in Belmont, working as a carpenter in the Junger home, where the picture is taken. Two years after his work for the Jungers, he confesses in vivid detail to the crimes of which the Boston Strangler is accused, and sent to prison, where he is stabbed to death by an inmate. But he never confesses to the Bessie Goldberg murder. Could he have left the Junger home, committed the murder a few blocks away and calmly returned to finish his day's work? Could Roy Smith really have been the guilty party, even though his sentence was commuted after De Salvo confessed?

In the grand tradition of his bestselling The Perfect Storm, Junger tells a terrific story, lining up all the elements, asking all the pertinent questions, digging into the backgrounds of both men, retelling his mother's very strange encounter with Albert when she is home alone with Sebastian. He then asks the larger questions: Was Roy Smith convicted summarily because he was black? Was Albert De Salvo really the Boston Strangler?

Junger cannot answer all the questions, as no one can. Without DNA, there is no way to be certain of which of the two men might have committed the rape and murder of Bessie Goldberg, or if neither of them is guilty. While it is frustrating not to know for sure, the story is fascinating, reads like a tautly plotted mystery thriller, and Junger's close connection is downright creepy. --Valerie Ryan


"The perfect story... It's difficult to communicate, to those who have only read about it, the atmosphere of fear that gripped Boston during the rampage of the Boston Strangler. From 1962 to 1964, 13 women were strangled in their homes, possibly by the same killer. There was never a sign of forced entry. A horrifying crime from that time forms the background of Sebastian Junger's new book, A Death in Belmont." -- David Mehegan "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 "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 "Junger returns to the time and place of his earliest memories, and pieces together a remarkable and disturbing tale about crime and justice in America. You get the sense that this story has been incubating for a long time, and Junger's painstakingly researched and carefully reported book, with its clear, straightforward prose, has the dramatic power of a great novel... Junger has produced a terrific and provocative book that addresses such subjects as race, crime, our notions of justice and the mysteries of criminal pathology without ever losing its narrative drive. It would be difficult, in fact, to find a recent American novel that says as much about so many of the important issues of our time, and says it so compellingly." -- Brad Zellar "With the same attention to detail he displayed in his previous bestseller The Perfect Storm, Junger looks at criminal prosecution in the decades before CSI would prompt juries to demand scientific evidence before sending a suspected killer to jail. And he raises questions about race in Boston in the 1960s... Junger's book is a riveting read." -- Michele McPhee "Riveting... a worthy sequel to The Perfect Storm." -- Alan M. Dershowitz

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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
If you are looking for a sequel to A Perfect Storm, this isn't it. Instead, the book doesn't quite fit into any genre that I can remember.

Having lived in Belmont for several years after Mrs. Goldberg's murder, I remember well the subsequent tension and watchfulness towards strangers. People were still shocked by such a senseless murder of a nice woman.

A little of that legitimate paranoia carries over into Sebastian Junger's perspectives and ruminations about criminal synchronicity in A Death in Belmont.

The frontispiece of the book reveals a photograph of the author (at age one in his mother's lap) while a smiling Albert DeSalvo (the later self-confessed Boston Strangler who eventually recanted his confession) stands behind as though DeSalvo is the center of attention.

On the very day that Mrs. Goldberg was killed, Albert DeSalvo was doing casual labor at the Junger home. A few days before, DeSalvo had acted in a threatening way towards Mrs. Junger in the Junger's basement. Earlier the day she was killed, Mrs. Goldberg had unwittingly hired a felon to be her housecleaner who was later convicted of murdering her.

So, despite middle class Belmont feeling like a safe place, it's obvious that criminals were able to easily and openly enter peoples' homes there. Today, we know that we should be cautious about strangers . . . and even the Internet can bring criminals into our homes. But in the 1960s, the suburbs seemed like a fortress where nothing bad could happen.

So the obvious story for Mr. Junger was to describe in detail how two criminals came to be in dangerous proximity to vulnerable women. And he told that story.

But somewhere along the way, Mr. Junger decided that he should play legal investigator. That led Mr.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) HASH(0x925be108) von 5 Sternen 159 Rezensionen
30 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x925e7c84) von 5 Sternen Perfunctory and haphazard 31. Mai 2006
Von kevnm - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Junger has, in the past, intertwined a number of narratives to add complexity and texture to his writing. This structure added to the drama of A Perfect Storm, as the reader moved from the Coast Guard rescue operations to the Weather Service, to the fishing fleet, etc.

Here, though, the multiple narrative threads diluted the work, and felt like padding. The book is the story of a black man caught up in the Boston Strangler investigation. Junger deftly presents evidence which suggests he was innocent. A small amount of additional interest arises from the recounting of the crimes associated with Albert DeSalvo, and even less from the fact that DeSalvo worked briefly at the author's parents' home.

The rest, racism in the South, the economics of Parchman farm prison, Kennedy's assassination, discussions of serial killers and the justice system (which appear to be written for sixth-graders) are strictly padding. They're completely pointless, and still any momentum the narrative might have achieved.

Junger writes well, and this inflated magazine article is not a complete disaster. Admirers of Junger's writing can only hope he finds a story better suited to his considerable talents.
29 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x925e7cd8) von 5 Sternen Outrageously Padded 13. August 2006
Von Kristin - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
By all rights, this should have been a five page magazine article instead of a 300+ page book. Although the premise is mildly interesting, most of the book consists of obvious filler. The need for more and more filler means that Junger (and his editors) imposed no self-discipline in his sometimes excrutiating meanderings. For example, it is clear that whoever killed Bessie Goldberg committed murder. To add a couple pages to the book, however, Junger inserts a completely irrelevant description of the legal standards for voluntary and involuntary manslaughter that (by the way) are not even accurate. When you're trying to fill up pages, every random tangent becomes fair game. The telling detail is overshadowed by the extraneous detail, which leaves the reader with the impression that Junger is a sloppy thinker. It's too bad, because he's a generally fabulous writer -- he's not only an excellent stylist, but he usually can put together a tight, cohesive narrative. I'm sure he got a hefty advance on this one, but I can't imagine it is worth the hit to his reputation to turn what could have been a lively magazine article into a book length swamp.
8 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x925ea12c) von 5 Sternen Good, but flawed 5. Mai 2006
Von Jon Hunt - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Of the dozens of books I have read and reviewed over the past few years, Sebastian Junger's "A Death in Belmont" is one of the hardest to judge. While it is well-written it is also suspect to an unobjective point of view by the author.

Ostensibly, this is a book about the "Boston strangler", his murder spree in the early 1960s and Junger's brush with Albert DeSalvo, the man who was later identified as the strangler and convicted for the crimes associated with his moniker. Yet DeSalvo becomes almost a supporting character as Junger delves more deeply into the person of Roy Smith, a black man from Mississippi who murdered Junger's Belmont neighbor, Bessie Goldberg in 1963.

Junger is at his best in giving full descriptions of the backgrounds of both DeSalvo and Smith and he's especially informative of how the legal system works (or did work) in Massachusetts. With a flair for unraveling a good story, Junger builds a parallel narrative of both men. He primes the reader with provocative questions, as well. However, as he continues, it is Smith who emerges as the real man of interest. In doing so, Junger steps over the bounds of objectivity and lends himself to side with Smith about the Goldberg murder. It's too bad because had he kept a fairer distance this would have been a first-rate offering.

I can't give a recommendation for this book but I also wouldn't suggest that it not be read. It's not a bad book at all, but it could have been so much better.
10 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x925ea114) von 5 Sternen A Personal Obsession 6. August 2007
Von B. A Libby - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
Sebastian Junger possesses a chilling photo. It is of himself, barely a toddler, sitting on his young and happy mother's lap. Behind them stand two men, one, an unexceptional looking workman has a hammer jutting out of his pocket. The other, the central figure of the photo, stands with one enormous hand across his mid-riff. The second figure is Albert DeSalvo, convicted Boston Strangler. It is impossible to look at this photo and not feel the horror of not only what happened when 13 Boston area women were murdered, but what could have happened that would have changed the author's life forever. Albert DeSalvo worked as a carpenter in the Junger home. Spent hours in their home alone with Sebastian and his mother. Seeing this photo, it is easy to see how the Boston Strangler case became an obsession with the author. Before the Strangler is apprehended an older woman is murdered in their neighborhood and a black drifter (Roy Smith) is tried and convicted of the crime. So as an adult Junger explores this murder in his neighborhood, researches the man that was convicted and sent to jail for it, as well as the other crimes committed by DeSalvo. His conclusions? Inconclusive. It is possible that Roy Smith was sent to jail for a crime committed by DeSalvo. But Smith's life is so pointless it is hard to feel much empathy for him. He drops out of school in the 8th grade, and begins living a petty life of drinking, occaisonal jobs, and crime. He lived his life in a way that almost begged to be of interest to police. Junger examines DeSalvo's life too, but not in enough new detail to make it interesting either. So by the time Junger publishes this book, DeSalvo is dead, Roy Smith is dead, most people associated with the Strangler case are dead. Some historic crimes and mis-application of laws are interesting. This is only mildly so and didn't warrant a new book on the matter. There seem to be many reviewers on this site who are very familiar with the Strangler's case. I am not one of those people. I am only someone interested in a compelling read, a cogent argument, a fresh insight, a thought provoking issue. I'm afraid none of these are to be found in this book. Open the fly-leaf, look at the photo, feel the horror it evokes, and move on.
26 von 33 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x925ea5dc) von 5 Sternen RESPONSE TO LILA 9. Mai 2006
Von Friend of Leah Goldberg - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
A Response to Lila

Smith's appeal is never discussed in the book. You are told in an oblique manner that the case in under appeal. Never is the reader told the results of the appeal when in 1966 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the conviction

stating in its opinion " 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"

"This is not a case on which the guilt of the defendant is left to conjecture and surmise with no solid basis in fact."

Junger clearly states on page 254 that Smith was thought to be the Boston Strangler. Mike Giacoppo may have thought he was after the strangler, but Massachusetts State Police officials and FBI agents at the house on Scott Road the evening of March 11, 1963 told Leah Goldberg that Roy Smith was a parolee who was in prison during many of the murders and that this was a copy cat killing committed to cover up a robbery. The District Attorney's office at no time believed Smith was the Boston Strangler. If a newspaper reporter got carried away with a story, that has nothing to do with the police.

Leah Goldberg never told Sebastian Junger her impression of Smith's reaction to the verdict. She didn't see Smith's reaction because she wasn't there the day the verdict was

read.Actually Ms. Goldberg once told Junger that when she testified at trial she looked at Smith who seemed unemotional As for not quoting Ms Goldberg, Mr. Junger promised Ms.Goldberg in writing thathe would use only open sources for his book.

Mr. Delaney never states the name and address of the supposed Goldberg neighbor with whom he spoke in reference to a tip to the police about a man looking for work on the day of the murder. The Belmont Police have no record of any such tip. The entire matter is undocumented.

"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. Their opportunity for observation extended over a good part though not all of the time between the defendant's departure and Goldberg's return." Commonwealth vs. Smith 350 Mass. 600

On page 256 Junger states "The logical problem with the state's case against Smith is that its core elements are known only because he told the truth. Admittedly the truth makes him look awfully guilty, but a theory about his guilt is incomplete without somehow taking into account the fact that he never lied about what he did that day."

1. Smith told police he was at the Goldberg home for 4 hours, when he was actually there for at most 2 hours and 20 minutes.

2. Smith told police he had been paid for 4 hours of work at $1.50 per hour plus .30 for transportation for a total of $6.30

3. Smith told police he had finished cleaning the house and left the rooms "in order". When Mr. Goldberg and, soon after, the police arrived they found the house had not been cleaned; all the living room furniture was pushed to the center of the room, the ornaments from the living room were on the dining room table and the vacuum cleaner with attachments was left in the middle of the living room.

4. Palm or fingerprints, later identified as Smith's were 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 police 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.

The jury and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court thought these statements by Smith were lies. What do you think?

If Smith told the truth and he had finished the cleaning leaving the house in good order,

than someone else would have had to get into the house leaving no sign of his presence,

kill Mrs. Goldberg, steal her money, and unclean the house; push the furniture into the middle of the room, and move the living room ornaments onto the dining room table. He also would have had to remove the vacuum cleaner from the closet, leaving it with attachments in the middle of the living room with Smith's palm and fingerprints undisturbed. Somehow he would have had to leave Smith's handprints on the dirty mirror. Smith left the house at 3:05 PM. Mr. Goldberg arrived home at 3:50 PM.

The author wants to tie his family's connection with Albert DeSalvo into a best selling mystery thriller. The only mystery is why Junger took a solid case and staked his credibility on a book which either omits or scatters the evidence in order to confuse the reader.
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