CGG Book Club: The Midnight Assassin
I decided to keep things simple this week and just hone in on one book – I’ve been so busy reading CGG book club entries I haven’t had tons of time to slip in some other titles, so here’s my thoughts on The Midnight Assassin.
What’s The Buzz?: Before Jack the Ripper ever tore up the streets (or more accurately, women) of London, another sinister serial killer stalked the dusty roads of a fledgling Austin, Texas. Skip Hollandsworth’s in-depth look at America’s first serial killer has earned comparisons to the likes of Erik Larson, one of the top true crime writers in the world. The Midnight Assassin was also picked by Entertainment Weekly as part of their weekly Must List!
What’s The Plot?: In the late 1800s, Austin was on the verge of becoming a prosperous town in Texas. Around New Year’s Eve 1885 however, a horrifying crime was committed against a black servant – and a rash of other servant-targeted (not just black) beatings followed in its wake. While in modern times, this sort of thing would end pretty sharp-ish, in these times most crimes were an open and shut case – the guy committing the murder would be standing over the body, gun or knife in hand. Plus there’s the factor of zero knowledge of criminology, never having dealt with a serial killer’s psyche, and even a lack of lighting to keep people safe. What’s even crazier is the length of time this mystery stretches – well past the killer’s key active period – which Hollandsworth details quite clearly. If you like a good mystery – compounded by the fact it’s a true crime story – then this take on the ‘Servant Girl Annihilator’ is a must-read.
What Should I Know?: The Midnight Assassin is extremely detailed – both a pro and a con, depending on what type of reader you are. Even from the opening pages, you’ll get a clear feeling for how much research Hollandsworth put into the story, as he painstakingly recreates not just the crimes at hand, but life in Austin in the 1885. From highlighting events in town to detailing life for different people and social classes to illustrating Austin’s rough and tumble history, if you really want to be transported to another place and time, Hollandsworth does just that. While the book is imminently readable, there were a few times where I wanted to skip past the paragraph-long details on some aspect of Austin society and just get the murder mystery (I’m gruesome like that).
As for the violence, I mean – you know what you’re in for when you pick up a true crime serial killer story. It’s not gratuitous in any way, but be forewarned that The Midnight Assassin is a bit of a gory book. All in all though, this was a bloody chapter in America’s history that I wasn’t familiar with that is certainly interesting if you’re into true crime. Jack the Ripper might be one of the most famous killers of all time, but at one point some detectives theorized that he was the same killer as the one that had struck fear in the hearts of Austin first – I guess copycat killers weren’t really a thing back then either.
How Summery Is It?: /4 suns is probably right – depending on what you like reading. But guys, let’s be honest. Fall is just around the corner, and nothing suits those atmospheric fall rainstorms and pending Halloween festivities than a good thrill and chill. Buy The Midnight Assassin now, read it in September.
Who Should Read This Book?: True crime fans, The Midnight Assassin is another great one to add to your pile, especially if you’ve never heard of this particular killer. And murder mystery fans? Historical nonfiction fans? Ditto!
As per usual, I’ve got a copy of The Midnight Assassin to give away. Here’s how to enter for your shot at reading it:
1) First & foremost: you must be a subscriber to the Canadian Gift Guide to enter this giveaway. It’s as simple as finding ‘The Gift of Gab’ box in the righthand column and dropping in your email or clicking follow. Then, tell me in the comments below by September 14, 2016 – why are you interested in reading The Midnight Assassin?
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around September 15, 2016 to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: Follow Raincoast Books on Instagram, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a post featuring the cover of this book, telling us why you want to read this book! Post a link to your Instagram post below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.
5) Bonus Entry #2: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below in a separate comment to earn yourself another bonus entry.