In the mid-1930s, the Cleveland, Ohio was the scene of some of the grisliest murders in American history. The dismembered bodies of prostitutes and hobos were fund around the city, but mostly concentrated in the areas populated mainly by the homeless. Eliot Ness, famous for his capture of Al Capone in Chicago, had been brought in to clean up the city’s corrupt police force, and became consumed by this case.
The killer was never publicly identified, despite the suspicion of some that it was Dr. Frank Sweeney, a man who had clawed his way out of poverty and become a skilled and wealthy surgeon.
The American Sweeney Todd: Eliot Ness’s Toughest Case by Marilyn Bardsley is a fictionalized account of these crimes, based on interviews with the families of Ness and Sweeney, police who investigated the murders, and the few documents still in existence. She shows that Ness knew Sweeney’s identity and guilt, but kept it hidden for more than four decades, for a variety of unknown reasons—some political—and, that Sweeney ended his life sealed in a mental institution, from which he continued to taunt Ness.
This book reads like the fine fiction it is, but is even more chilling given that it’s based on fact. The author, who is the best-selling author of After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, shows that she richly deserves kudos as one of the best writers of fact-based crime books in America today.
I give this book five stars.