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Murder & Mayhem in the Highlands: Historic…

Murder & Mayhem in the Highlands: Historic Crimes on the Jersey Shore

by John P. King

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As I've mentioned before, one of my predilections is the buying of small-press nonfiction about locations I've visited. Mostly I go for books of "true" ghost stories, notorious local crimes, or notable natural disasters; nearly any town big enough to sustain a gift shop has at least one such book, for morbid tourists (hi!) and gossipy locals alike. It's usually paperback, put out by the historical society or chamber of commerce or a maybe, if we're really living large, a regional specialty press. The author is often a retired school teacher or someone with a house full of boxes of clippings or both...

Here is a scrapbook indeed; the whole organizing principle seems to be whatever floated to the top of the author's head while he was writing. The stories include some typical Prohibition-related murders, a relatively modern serial killing, standard domestic violence cases, a botched abortion and a panic-driven infanticide, and, inexplicably, an apparently fictional story about a ghost and some pirates; none of these are unique, and at the same time, none of them are effectively tied to a larger context, despite occasional stabs in this direction. Additional murders are mentioned in an off-hand way, as though the audience were assumed to be familiar with them. King attempts to create colorful, semi-fictionalized scenes, but these come across flat; meanwhile, the reprinted newspaper items, inquest verdicts, etc., could have been selected and edited with more of an eye for pacing. Only completists with an intense specific interest in the Jersey Shore are likely to find this book worthwhile.

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  teratologist | Feb 24, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Despite being a fairly avid reader of true crime, it turned out that I was only familiar with one of the incidences outlined in this small, but quite interesting book.

The various stories about real (in all but one case) murders which took place in the last few hundred years in the Jersey Highlands area were each interesting in their own right and contained some fascinating detail.

This was particularly intriguing when one considers that some of these murders occurred before the dissemination of information was as easy as it is today, and accounts of them would be buried in old, small-town newspapers. Also quite fascinating was the implications of the familial relationships and names which reappeared in several different instances especially in the latter half of the book.

The one problem that I had with this book was that there were several grammatical and continuity errors (particularly relating to dates). In an Advanced Reader copy, I don’t note things like that, but I was not expecting them in a finished copy of a book and they were somewhat distracting.
  sangreal | Feb 21, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book features accounts of various murders committed in a small area of New Jersey, from 1743 to 1988. With the exception of the first tale, which is basically a campfire ghost story, the author regularly quotes from contemporary newspapers and other documents, so it looks like he did a fair amount of research. Unfortunately, his writing style, while readable, strikes me as a bit amateurish, his attempts at bringing some sense of vividness to his descriptions of these murders aren't terribly successful, and he often tends to linger on the more tedious details while passing up good opportunities for some discussion and analysis. The end result is that,while some of these cases are more intrinsically interesting than others, the book as a whole is much less engaging that it could have been. It may be useful to those specifically interested in the history of the Highlands area, and local residents who feel any curiosity about the subject may find it worth reading just because anything is automatically more fascinating if you know it happened in your own back yard. Those without a specific personal interest, though, may be better off skipping it. (For the record, I'm originally from New Jersey, myself, but my own stomping grounds were a bit farther south. And I did perk up a bit when one of the towns where I used to live got a very brief mention.) ( )
  bragan | Feb 11, 2009 |
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Visitors gazing out over the Highlands of coastal New Jersey might never guess that these rolling hills have been a stage for mankind s darkest deeds. In Murder & Mayhem in the Highlands, John King shines a spotlight on the region s violent history of kidnapping, murder, smuggling and extortion.… (more)

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