The Potato Masher Murder: Death at the Hands of a Jealous Husband

Kent State Univ. Aug. 2020. 250p. ISBN 9781606354049. pap. $24.95. CRIME
Retired journalist Sosniecki tells the story of crimes of domestic violence committed in broad daylight, sometimes publicly, in a world where women were often beaten and occasionally murdered by jealous husbands for perceived slights or social indignities. The gruesome case covered here takes place in the small northern Indiana town of Mishawaka, where, in 1906, the author’s great-grandmother Cecilia Ludwig was murdered by her spouse, Albin. According to prosecutors, Albin knocked Cecilia out with a wooden potato masher, then set her on fire; the defense’s claim was that Cecilia assaulted Albin with the appliance first and Albin lashed out in response. Sosniecki deftly sets the scene. One gets to know the town, the neighborhood, and the people intimately—so clearly that readers can imagine the street where Albin, who suspected that his wife was seeing other men, stalked her the night before the murder, as well as the closet in their home where she was found the next afternoon. While the focus on the minutia of the court case occasionally slows down the narrative, the details are of utmost importance to understanding Albin’s fate as well as the attitudes toward domestic violence at the time.
VERDICT Fans of court dramas, turn-of-the century mysteries, and lurid true crime will appreciate this work.
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