The Devil's Gentleman by Harold Schechter

The Devil's Gentleman

From renowned true-crime historian Harold Schechter, whom The Boston Book Review hails as “America’s principal chronicler of its greatest psychopathic killers,” comes the riveting exploration of a notorious, sensational New York City murder in the 1890s, the fascinating forensic science of an earlier age, and the explosively dramatic trial that became a tabloid sensation at the turn of the century.Death was by poison and came in the mail: A...

Details The Devil's Gentleman

TitleThe Devil's Gentleman
Release DateOct 16th, 2007
PublisherBallantine Books
GenreCrime, True Crime, Nonfiction, History, Mystery, North American Hi..., American History

Reviews The Devil's Gentleman

  • Beverly
    Having just finished another historical true crime book, Death at the Priory, The Devil's Gentleman suffers in comparison. Death at the Priory is focused and succinct; whereas, The Devil's Gentleman is broad and discursive. I wouldn't normally mind going off in other directions to give the reader a taste of the age, but the only time I was truly interested in this diversion was when the author made a connection from a lawyer in the case to Presid...
  • Laura
    Several things:1. I was really not amused by the constant nudge-nudge suggestions that Roland Molineux might have been (stage whisper) gay. For one thing, there's no proof, and for another, who cares? Unless of course the writer is insinuating that Roland committed the crime BECAUSE he was (maybe, possibly, if you turn your head and squint) queer, which I'm sure Schecter would never do. Because that's terrible.2. I also wasn't amused by the const...
  • Valerity (Val)
    A true crime book by Harold Schechter about cold blooded cyanide poisoning murders back in the 1890's, committed by the handsome and privileged black sheep son of a revered Civil War general, one Roland Burnham Molineux. A major scandal at the time, and a big media sensation fanned using yellow journalism, as it was full of sex, sin, jealousy and revenge.
  • Lori Summers
    It is sometimes interesting to read two similar books at one time. I’ve been doing that for a week or so, although the other book is my lunchtime reading so I’m making far slower progress on it. Both are true-crime books about murders that took place in the last few years of the 19th century. This one is about Roland Molineux, who lent his name to an often-cited legal statute familiar to viewers of Law & Order (it has to do with the inadmissa...
  • Rebecca
    I stumbled across this volume in a used book store, and, intrigued by the title, picked it up. (See? Sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover, or at least by its title!) From the second I cracked the front cover, I was in love, and I plowed through it every chance I got. The only time I paused was to think "How have I never read about this before?", which, given how this set precedent for law, procedure, and the "trial of the century" escapade...
  • Sarah Shaw-Stahlke
    I read this book on the plane from New York to London and I've never had such an enjoyable flight; I don't read a lot of nonfiction books but I think I'll start since I enjoyed this one so immensely. The book is about Roland Molineux, a young New York aristocrat, who was charged with murder via poisoning at the turn of the century. Think of the media circus involving O.J. Simpson but rewind to 1901 and add a good dash of yellow journalism courtes...
  • Sarah
    I found this true story of the first New York trial of the 20th century fascinating. I especially liked all the footnotes Schecter used to give further detail of a fact that he used in the story. I look forward to reading his other true crime stories.
  • Rachel M
    Not only a very interesting story, but told in a quite engaging way. Despite the fact that this is a pretty long book, it was a page-turner for me! I will definitely seek out this author again because the pacing, storytelling and writing were so appealing.
  • Ronnie Cramer
    Terrific historical saga of a privileged and petulant ne'er-do-well who resorts to murder. Includes information on the yellow journalism of the day, which was also explored in MURDER OF THE CENTURY by Paul Collins.
  • Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
    I'd like the author's books so much better if he didn't bring in all the additional information. The story stands on its own and everything else was not necessary. Review to come.
  • Dkettmann
    Very well done book, on a story I had not heard of before. I think the best attribute of this work, is that it keeps you in suspense through a handful of trials, appeals, hearings etc. There is so much information poured at the reader throughout, I found it impressive that no hints/spoilers were dropped regarding what would be the final outcome. Fun read, and I think it would pair well with another book I recently read regarding turn-of-the-previ...
  • Erin
    This is more of a 3.5 out of 5. I really enjoyed the case and the parallels to today’s media circus. It gave a great overview of yellow journalism and enough forensics to keep me well entertained. Plus, it was interesting to see how much the public's fear of poisoning hasn't changed. I can see my parents warnings about strange candy in this book. "You don't know where that's been." still rings true.
  • Jim
    I wouldn't put this among my favorite nonfiction crime books, probably because I thought the author was trying to do too much, but it was an interesting piece of social history that many readers will enjoy. Certainly most of this is forgotten, even by historians of the period, though much of course is well known, such as the yellow press battles.
  • Alice
    So far I like it more than I thought I would. I'm generally not a big fan of turn-of-the-century true crime, perhaps their depravity is not up to my standards. But this one takes place in NYC which is kind of a neat facet for me.
  • Melissa
    Some parts were a little slow, but definitely liked the parallels of courtroom cases in the late 1800s/early 1900s to the disasters of today.
  • Carol
    Interesting, but too long and repetitive.
  • Day Rusk
    The practices of yesteryear, compared of those of today, are startling. In today`s day and age, if one was to receive unsolicited medicine in the mail, addressed specifically to them, chances are it would be thrown away, certainly not consumed. We live in a day and age where concerns regarding product tampering reside; not so much at the turn of the 19th and 20th Century, where it seemed individuals had a more lackadaisical attitude about such th...
  • Bill Tyroler
    Every jurisdiction, I’d wager, regulates admissibility of a criminal defendant’s uncharged acts as proof of the offense being tried. The idea is that you don’t want juries convicting someone just because they think he has a propensity to commit crimes. Typically, though, other-crimes evidence is admissible for a supposedly limited, carefully circumscribed purpose, e.g. FRE 404(b)(2): “This evidence may be admissible for another purpose, s...
  • Scott Johnson
    This was such a weird thing for me to read. I had zero idea what it was about going in, it was in a pack of history books and I selected it basically at random on my Kindle one night when I couldn't decide what to read next. I had no idea who anyone was or what the outcome was (aside from the spoilers in the first chapter where you start with Molineux on death row at Sing Sing, so you kind of know where the first trial goes).This was laid out in ...
  • Pat MacEwen
    A fascinating look at a fin de siecle poisoning in New York City that turned into a media circus thanks to Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, and was chronicled by Nathaniel Hawthorne's son Julian. The victims? Henry Barnet, for one, though his death was at first blamed on diphtheria. Then Harry Cornish, who barely survived, while his cousin Katherine Adams did not. The weapon? Bromo-seltzer doctored with cyanide and sent to Barnet and ...
  • George Lai
    I approached the book with some hesitation as I did not think a book on one/two murders could hold my interest. Amazingly I found it quite engrossing and the fact that the case resulted in a landmark legal precedent, that certain behavior was not then known to medical science, and was also a precursor to today's media circus, was enlightening. Certain historical figures e.g. Hearst, Pulitzer etc were central to the story. Now whenever a Pulitzer ...
  • Kim
    Uneven and biased. A stark contrast to Collins's "The Murder of the Century," which I mention because there is some overlap between the two (the rise of yellow journalism, coverage in murder trials, etc.). It was a long, dull struggle to finish this, and the author's opinion of what happened (and the people involved) is quite jarring - it doesn't allow for the reader to truly form their own opinion about what happened and why. I'd skip this one.
  • Levi Gangi
    Highly researched content, but way too long. For the amount that actually happens in this book, there’s no way it should take 15 hours to listen to it. I appreciate the author’s attempt to paint a portrait of the turn of the century culture, but the endless quotes from newspapers, journals and long-winded speeches from the court room just go on and on...and on.
  • Lauren
    Even though it could be about 100 pages shorter, I really liked this. It felt like a total guilty pleasure read, but actually is a legit piece of nonfiction that taught me a lot. If you're a slow reader, it'll take you a while to get through, but the craziness of the story will compel you to forgive the author's loquacious tendencies :)
  • Samantha
    This was strangely riveting, thought it dragged a bit during the trial narrative. The author's research was impressively thorough and the book reads well for the most part, though I could have done with fewer direct citations of source material, as they left me feel a little like I was reading someone's college research paper.
  • Lu
    It was an interesting look into the societal stratification and biases at the turn of the century. It was an era when reputation and status could trump justice even more blatantly than it does today. The writing was a bit stilted and "Victorian" (long descriptive passages, overblown vocabulary). Yet, it still was worth the read. I would have been happier with a 3 1/2 star rating but a 4 will do.
  • Heather
    The crime of the century. Roland Molineux (ne'er do well, pompous) son of war hero General Edward Molineux charged with poisoning two men he had beefs with. The circumstances of the resulting murders and the subsequent trial.