True Crime Philadelphia: From America’s First Bank Robbery to the Real-Life Killers Who Inspired Boardwalk Empire

Lyons. Nov. 2021. 264p. ISBN 9781493036158. $28.95. CRIME
Journalist Canavan sheds light on burglaries, murders, riots, and other crimes that took place in Philadelphia during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Highlights include Al Capone’s arrest for possession of a concealed weapon (and his imprisonment at Eastern State Penitentiary); the 1874 abduction of four-year-old Charley Ross, considered to be the first kidnapping for ransom in the United States; the 1871 assassination of Black civil rights activist Octavius V. Catto; and the 1787 public stoning of a woman accused of witchcraft—she was killed just streets away from the Constitutional Convention taking place at Independence Hall. The stories in the first half of the book are rich with detail, while those in the second half would benefit from more fleshing-out; the text is at times repetitive, and the book ends on an abrupt note. Scholarly readers will appreciate notes on newspaper articles and other resources.
VERDICT Readers in the Philadelphia area will likely be most interested, though general audiences will appreciate how Canavan uses historic images to create a vivid sense of setting.
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