Every time I’ve written a review of a new addition to Rick Geary’s Treasury of XXth Century Murder series, I start with the phrase, “Well, Rick’s done it again.” Trust me, this time will be no different. Once again the titan of tragedy has provided us with a new story of murder, denial, romance, hatred, and revenge that will keep readers glued to their seats. In his latest story, Geary tells us of one Stanford White: successful architect (he designed Madison Square Garden), popular with the ladies, and richer than you can imagine. Naturally, this earned him some enemies along the way. Once again, Geary brings us a story full of weird coincidences, weird people, and a justice system that wasn’t quite ready for prime time.
When Stanford White took up with the underaged Florence Evelyn Nesbit, a dancer in the cast of Floradora, he had no idea he wasn’t her only admirer – there was also a Mr. Harry K. Thaw. As weird as Mr. White was, Mr. Thaw wasn’t close behind. Even with everything she went through – imprisonment, weird trips with Mr. Thaw’s mother, and alleged rapes by both men – poor Evelyn never understood she was just an unknowing pawn in the game that was playing out. Mr. White ended up dead, but will we ever really understand Mr. Thaw’s unquenchable rage?
Geary always does such a great job of making a really complicated and detailed story easy and fun to follow. There are many locales, many different faces, and a lot of different scenarios in which we find our main players, but Geary manages to make everything fit together seamlessly. His ability to make a story interesting isn’t just because he chooses interesting stories, it’s because he’s a great storyteller who brings people to life through his words and his illustrations.
The illustrations in Geary’s XXth Century Murder series are entertaining to look at and certainly add much to the story, as fascinating as that story may be. Of course, I love me a good pictureless murder mystery, but Geary’s illustrations bring all the players to life. They do a great job of setting the bigger stage, because oftentimes these stories span cities, states, countries, and continents. His black and white precise line drawings are crisp and well developed. Each line is perfect. There’s no shading here; everything is clean, clear and concise. Narration is provided in every panel and never takes away from or gets in the way of the illustration itself. Text neatly flows into the pictures and the two work well together to create panels full of information and action. The illustrations in this book are particularly pleasing. At the moment of the murder, Geary gives the characters facial expressions that are so expressive, makes the resulting chaos from the murder so cacophonous, that I felt like the book had suddenly become animated. Geary’s ability to create motion and movement within panels with no coloring is tremendous and makes me feel like I’m watching an old murder mystery on black and white film.
As always, Geary has given teens and adults another great entry in his Murder series. Geary’s stories provide the reader with that feeling that everything isn’t quite right; maybe justice was served and maybe it wasn’t. As I’ve mentioned before, I love recommending these books not only to interested readers, but also to those doing reports on specific crimes or time periods because of how well researched they are. Each book ends with a detailed bibliography and information on what happened to the main players after the main event. Get ready for another intriguing and fascinating tale of murder thanks to Rick Geary and his Eisner-award winning series, Treasury of XXth Century Murder.
Madison Square Tragedy: the Murder of Stanford White
by Rick Geary