Queen of the Con: From a Spiritualist to the Carnegie Imposter

Kent State Univ. Oct. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781606354292. pap. $24.95. CRIME
Several recent books have studied the notorious North American fraudster and con artist Cassie Chadwick; Crowl’s (Murder of a Journalist) version leans heavily into the details of Chadwick’s crimes. Readers follow Chadwick through a sensational trial for fraud in 1889, then through a later period during which she defrauded banks and financiers of large sums of money by claiming to be the daughter of Andrew Carnegie. Chadwick’s life and personality undoubtedly make for vibrant subject matter, but this in-depth narrative sometimes gets bogged down in minutiae. The strongest chapters capture how the media sensationalized accounts of the criminal proceedings against her, as well as the public’s response. Crowl also discusses how Chadwick got away with her crimes for so long: he theorizes that her impunity was due in part to the financial systems of the era, and in part to a patriarchal society’s condescending attitudes toward women.
VERDICT Though Crowl’s book lacks the fast-paced excitement of other true crime narratives, readers curious about Chadwick will be satisfied by his thorough analysis of her life, her legacy, and the circumstances that made it possible for her to pull off such legendary cons.
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