The Lindbergh Child
The Lindbergh Child kicks off a new series for author/artist Rick Geary. Previously, he’d released nine volumes of A Treasury of Victorian Murder; now, this book moves into a more recent era, starting “A Treasury of XXth Century Murder”. (The odd spelling of Twentieth is apparently intentional.) Based on this first case, “America’s Hero and the Crime of the Century”, these stories will feel more familiar to the modern reader. Once Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean, he became a media star, and the publicity surrounding him and his family both caused and complicated the crime.
The first page sets the stage with an old-fashioned newspaper-style splash page, labeling the baby’s kidnapping and murder “the sensational case that transfixed the nation”. From the beginning, Geary isn’t so much interested in solving the mystery as exploring its causes and results. The next pages establish his scholarly approach: there’s a bibliography of source books, a cutaway of the mansion setting showing room layout, and several maps of the area. These devices establish from the beginning a detached tone, with something of the flavor of an Agatha Christie murder (popular during the era, with the child disappearing in 1932). It gives the story a reportorial quality that’s refreshing in today’s world of tabloid television and CSI murderporn.
Geary’s straightforward art is well-suited to his blunt presentation of facts and historical data, while his unique style, an immediately recognizable thick pen-and-ink line, provides warmth and solidity. The Lindberghs, young marrieds, were thrust into the spotlight as early celebrities. They’ve built a huge new home as a place to escape scrutiny, yet the disappearance of their only baby allows the public and the media to tramp all over it. After a year and a half, a suspect is finally identified, and when he’s put on trial (although already presumed guilty), the proceedings were recorded on newsreels and mobbed with journalists.
It’s surprising how the case was investigated. Bootleggers and criminals, the rogue heroes of the Depression era, officially assist with rescue attempts. A circumstantial case is assembled in lieu of anything better. An investigator himself kidnaps a suspect in an attempt to beat him into a confession. Overall, it’s a picture of thrashing about, trying to do something when doing nothing is unthinkable. And yet, we still don’t know whether the answer given is correct, even partially.
In these stories of gruesome deaths, Geary chooses to tell those that don’t have accepted solutions or neat conclusions. The reader is denied the comfort of seeing justice done, thus left to face their prurient curiosity about how murder affects others, even those removed in time and space. It’s a disturbing yet worthwhile read, raising important questions about human nature.
Preview pages are available from the publisher. Geary has been interviewed online. You may also want to check out either Geary’s adaptation of Great Expectations or Finder: The Rescuers, a science-fictionalized takeoff from the starting point of a baby’s kidnapping.