cover image A TREASURY OF VICTORIAN MURDER: The Beast of Chicago


Rick Geary, . . NBM/Comics Lit, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56163-362-3

In this graphic novel series, Geary covers some of history's most famous murders in meticulously researched, beautifully drawn volumes. This one takes on H.H. Holmes, one of America's first serial killers, whose "murder castle" shocked and stunned the era. It's 1886, and Holmes arrives in Chicago, a seemingly clean and enterprising young man but actually a murderous con artist with a spectacular ability to talk people into trusting him. Over the next five years, he spins an insanely complicated web of cons and evasions, as acquaintance after acquaintance disappears. He acquires three wives and numerous children—all unaware of each other—and his "boarding house" (aka the "murder castle") becomes a place where tourists check in but don't check out. This boarding house houses everything from a gas chamber to an abattoir for victims. Holmes's murder spree ends with an increasingly desperate flight from the law covering several states and involving the murders of three children. Geary renders all of this in a bouncy pen and ink style, the cheerfulness of which belies the horrid events, complete with maps, diagrams and charts to help readers follow the complex story. Despite its charming outward appearance, Geary's art has a chilling subtext that makes the story even more creepy. He's able to make everyday conversation as unsettling as the gruesome violence that figures prominently in every story. Geary is an underrated master of comics, and this book will equally interest history buffs, true crime enthusiasts and fans of good comics. (Aug.)