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Home > Reviews > Murder Maps USA

Murder Maps USA

Author Adam Selzer


Review date 03/07/2022

No of pages

Publisher Thames and Hudson

Publisher URL

Year of publication 06/12/2021


Our Review


£ 25

Sub-titled: Crime Scenes Revisited, Bloodstains to Ballistics. As that suggests, this well laid out book is not only about criminal cases, famous, infamous and less well known, roughly from the 1860s to the 1930s, but about the developing science of forensics (such as fingerprinting) and policing to capture the murderers. The era saw the forming of the FBI taking on (as the name suggests) cases at federal level, quite a landmark in a country so wedded to state-level power rather than the central government.

Each case gets from a part of a page to more than a page. Some are famous assassinations, such as that of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 on the very end of the American Civil War. Less known is the assassination of another president, Garfield; and the attempt on the life of FDR in 1933, which (as touched on in the science fiction novel by Philip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle), could have had far-reaching consequences, had Roosevelt died having barely begun his New Deal to pull the United States out of economic depression.

If you have a fascination for the sort of murders as pictured on the cover - a dead body clutching a playing card - you will have much to interest you, whether a New Orleans axe murderer, or the notorious robbers Bonnie and Clyde; or the western outlaw Billy the Kid. Likewise, it may be too macabre for some, but included are pages about lynchings; and at least one black and white photograph of hanged people. That's far from the only reminder of how running in tandem with a still raw North America was a (by 21st century standards) brutal criminal justice system.

That crime scenes were photographed is itself a sign of the public's great interest in such crimes, fed by the burgeoning mass print media.