Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #289: Chester & Grace: The Adirondack Murder by Rick Geary

Rick Geary is back, with a new book about a historical murder -- one that was the basis for Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and a couple of classic movies.

But this is not a new book in the Treasury of Victorian Murder, or in the Treasury of XXth Century Murder -- it's one of the smaller one-off books that Geary has been publishing himself and promoting on Kickstarter, following The Elwell Enigma, The Story of the Lincoln County War, The Death of Billy the Kid, and Murder at the Hollywood Hotel. (And the even weirder The Secret Door at the White House, which, usually for Geary, is not about murder at all.)

So you won't find it in a bookstore; your best way to get it has already closed, since the Kickstarter campaign obviously ended a while ago. (It may turn up in his online store soon, but it's not there yet.)

Well, maybe I should take that "one-off" comment back: Chester & Grace: The Adirondack Mystery does proclaim itself to be the first in yet another series of Geary books about famous murders, the "Little Murder Library." I'm not sure if this means anything is changing with the other series, if he's now branding the things I'm calling "one-offs," or if it actually is yet another new series of historical murder stories from Geary. As with so many other things in the world, we will see what we will see. [1]

One July day in 1906, a young couple rent a rowboat at Hotel Glenmore on Big Moose Lake in upstate New York. They don't return that night, and a search eventually turns up the woman's body. She is identified as Grace Brown, an unmarried woman from Cortland (downstate). She was also pregnant. The man is believed to be her boyfriend, Chester Gillette, and he is soon found, identified as the man at Hotel Glenmore, and put on trial for Grace's murder.

Chester, of course, denies that he killed her, though his story changes somewhat. At first he denies ever being there, but eventually claims that she was distraught and threw herself out of the boat. And that he tried to save her, but it was in vain, and he couldn't even find her body and was so distraught by grief he just started walking in the wrong direction for several days.

The jury and judge do not find this convincing. Chester sees justice, in the usual way of the time: fried in the electric chair in 1908.

Geary is an old hand at telling these stories, and does it well here. He's working with softer colors than usual this time, possibly some kind of colored pencils or art crayons. But his precise lines and detailed schematics are the same as ever, and he has a knack for faces that are both subtly expressive and period-appropriate. As with the other self-published books, the text is set in a large, bold font as captions and text around his illustrations -- this is slightly less "comics" than his books about murder in the NBM-published series are.

[1] ObBadMovieQuote: "Future events like these will affect you...in the future!"

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