The Wilderness of Ruin

The Wilderness of Ruin

A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer

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In late nineteenth-century Boston, home to Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes, a serial killer preying on children is running loose in the city--a wilderness of ruin caused by the Great Fire of 1872--in this literary historical crime thriller reminiscent of The Devil in the White City.

In the early 1870s, local children begin disappearing from the working-class neighborhoods of Boston. Several return home bloody and bruised after being tortured, while others never come back.

With the city on edge, authorities believe the abductions are the handiwork of a psychopath, until they discover that their killer--fourteen-year-old Jesse Pomeroy--is barely older than his victims. The criminal investigation that follows sparks a debate among the world's most revered medical minds, and will have a decades-long impact on the judicial system and medical consciousness.

The Wilderness of Ruin is a riveting tale of gruesome murder and depravity. At its heart is a great American city divided by class--a chasm that widens in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1872. Roseanne Montillo brings Gilded Age Boston to glorious life--from the genteel cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill to the squalid, overcrowded tenements of Southie. Here, too, is the writer Herman Melville. Enthralled by the child killer's case, he enlists physician Oliver Wendell Holmes to help him understand how it might relate to his own mental instability.

With verve and historical detail, Roseanne Montillo explores this case that reverberated through all of Boston society in order to help us understand our modern hunger for the prurient and sensational.

The Wilderness of Ruin features more than a dozen black-and-white photographs.

Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780062273475
Characteristics: 308 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Cynthia_N May 11, 2017

Interesting book! Thank goodness we have progressed so much in deciphering crime scenes and DNA! Pomeroy was an extremely smart and disturbed individual who knew how to manipulate others. The odd thing about this book is it is intertwined with a Herman Melville biography. The author states that Pomeroy read one of his dime novels and there are periodically chapters on Melville that in no way relate to the story. Finally towards the end you see that the questions of good and evil raised by Pomeroy's crimes inspired Melville's Billy Budd. All the Melville parts felt unnecessary to the story but they did not detract from it.

May 08, 2015

Sentenced in the 1870s to execution, later commuted to life imprisonment, the 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy would nowadays be labeled a psychopath. But at the time, the boy was considered only an aberration for his torture, and later, murder of multiple younger children.
This book weaves together multiple areas of interest in late-19th-century Boston, examining the changing ideas of mental illness and violence, along with the historical context which properly frames the narrative. The author's description of Pomeroy walks along the line between sympathy and condemnation as we can see both his mistreatments and his true lack of conscience.


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