Friday, January 30, 2015

Murder, mystery, and Nazi spies

I’n not a fan of the true crime genre. All too much of it consists of cheap, exploitative stories written by unintelligent, poorly-educated hacks.

Every now and then a compelling story draws the attention of an enterprising reporter. The result is a book than surpasses its pedestrian competion.

Clint Richmond’s Fetch the Devil is just such a book.

In 1938, Hazel and Nancy Frome disappeared as they drove from El Paso to Dallas. Days later they were found murdered over a hundred southeast of El Paso. The wife and daughter of a prominent West Coast executive had been tortured for several days before they were killed and dumped in the desert. The investigation into the crime was the largest in Texas history. Yet, the crime was never solved despite the diligent efforts of talented investigators.

Richmond tells this story with verve while avoiding cheap sensationalism and pervy voyeurism. He also does a great job limning the historical settingAmerica a decade into the Great Depression, war clouds gathering in Europe, unrest in Mexico that threatens to spill across our southern border.

As is often the case with unsolved murders, the investigation was compromised by media-whoring and political jockeying by various police agencies.

Fetch the Devil ends with the author offering his hypothesis of who murdered the Frome’s and why. I found his ideas well supported by the facts and very convincing.

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