A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium Volume 1
As that earlier release (now out of print) did, A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium Volume 1 contains two of the most famous cases from the era plus four additional tales. “Jack the Ripper” is the most obvious choice once you’re talking about unsolved Victorian murders (thus the cover), while “The Beast of Chicago” is about H.H. Holmes, popularly known as America’s first serial killer for his boarding house “castle” that was later described as a “murder factory”. That case was solved, except when it comes to the details — it’s still unknown exactly how many people he killed.
The other contents are the graphic novel-length “Fatal Bullet”, covering the assassination of President James A. Garfield by Charles Guiteau in July 1881, and the three stories originally published as the series’ first volume three decades ago. These open with some introductory material about the period that sets the time well, with portraits of notable figures and “murderers and murderesses”. Geary provides some introductory remarks that point out how rapid cultural changes and the rise of the “sensationalistic” popular press combined to make for a lot of societal stress, with the resulting crimes documented.
The variety of material, motives, and types of killings in the different stories make for a diverse book under the overall theme. There are slashings, shootings, poison, and gas. No matter the time period, though, certain things are universal: The danger of the anonymity of the big city. The selfishness of an overinflated ego and the faithlessness of a blowhard. The scandal of adultery and the dismay of a discarded lover, which could turn to violence or insanity. The variety of mistaken motivations that could cause someone to take another’s life.
I really like the Compendiums, because once I’m reading Geary’s masterful murder tales, with his unique style and vision of presentation, I like to stay in that mood. More stories means more time spent there. A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium II completes this series, with five graphic novels reprinted, while A Treasury of XXth Century Murder Compendium reprints three of the more modern tales. (Both are hardcover.) (The publisher provided a review copy.)