Maniac: The Bath School Disaster and the Birth of the Modern Mass Killer

Little A Mar. 2021. 232p. ISBN 9781542025324. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781542025317. $14.95. CRIME
School massacres are disturbingly regular occurrences today, but a century ago they were unheard of—until May 18, 1927, when Michigan’s Bath Consolidated School became the site of an enormous explosion that killed 38 children and six adults and injured more than 50 others. Set off by a local farmer, Andrew Kehoe, it was the first and one of the deadliest school massacres in U.S. history. Crime writer Schechter pieces together the causes—in the years after World War I, there was a movement in America to overhaul the badly outdated rural school systems, and in 1921 Bath began construction on a modernized school building. But the increased taxes to pay for the school angered some, especially Kehoe. With the postwar farm crisis already causing financial strain, the additional taxes levied for the school incensed him to the point of violence. Readers may wish for more detail on Kehoe’s own psychology and thoughts; nevertheless, the minute-by-minute account of the event and the firsthand reports create a strong sense of place and time and bring this chilling story to life.
VERDICT A vivid narrative that’s sure to please those interested in historical true crime tales.
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