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. Junger to look into two questions:
1. Was Roy Smith Mrs. Goldberg's murderer?
2. Was Albert DeSalvo the Boston Strangler?
Mr. Junger lacks the knowledge and skill to undertake such an investigation. He thrashes around among the clues and investigations a bit and plays "what if" games. But in the course of doing so, he ignores evaluating as much evidence as he discusses.
At the end, he leaves it up to you to decide if justice has been done in the Goldberg and Boston Strangler murders. But, I'm sure you'll feel like you don't know enough to say one way or another. That's primarily because the factual layout in the book is pretty weak.
What makes the book more interesting to the reader than his "what if" thinking about the murderers' identities are Mr. Junger's descriptions of the backgrounds of Roy Smith and Albert DeSalvo. It becomes easier to understand the two men after their biographies are somewhat developed.
Ultimately, the book is a sort of mish-mash of this and that which conjecturally makes the case for Roy Smith being innocent of the murder. The book is an advocate's case rather than an objective evaluation. As I mentioned above, there's not enough of the record displayed here to allow you to make a judgment. As a result, one cannot help wondering on second thought if a desire to stir up controversy was a motive in writing this book . . . as opposed to telling an objective story. If this book was designed to be such a promotional vehicle for Mr. Junger, I feel sorry for the Goldberg family. Recounting the ugly circumstances of their tragedy surely doesn't help bring them peace.