American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America’s Jack the Ripper

Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781250041166. $29.99. CRIME
Stashower (Teller of Tales) traces Eliot Ness’s career with a focus on the media-named Torso Murders, which shook the city of Cleveland. Over a course of three years, citizens discovered bundles of dismembered body parts. Twelve killings in all were ascribed to the unknown assailant, dubbed the Mad Butcher, and only two victims were positively identified. Ness was famous for his work in Al Capone’s downfall. After some less prestigious work shutting down moonshine stills in the mountains, Ness landed a job that played to his strengths: Cleveland’s safety director. Here he could modernize the police force, use his gang busting skills against the city’s organized crime, and ferret out corruption within the ranks. Cleveland needed this, but what the city wanted was a hero who could stop the Mad Butcher. Stashower’s Ness is a flawed do-gooder, frustrated by city politics, sullied by personal indiscretions, and taunted by postcards from the man he suspected was the Mad Butcher but couldn’t prove.
VERDICT Stashower was born in Cleveland, and his personal connection to the city breathes life into this well-researched and chilling account.
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