Take a delightful dip into thrilling true crime stories

  • Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013 12:01 a.m.

SALISBURY — The appeal of historical true crime is not so difficult to imagine: vivid eras are brought to life in these accounts; they are usually well researched. Readers are offered the satisfaction of the compulsion to face the worst in human nature; the assurance that justice has been done, and the chance to empathize with the victims in their hours of need.

Erik Larson conveys what life was like in Chicago as the 19th century drew to a close in the book “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.” Chicago’s city leaders were out to prove to the nation and to the world that Chicago was up to the challenge of putting together a monumental World Exposition.


Larson goes into great detail to describe the effort put forth by numerous architects, builders and politicians. He also tells the darker story of H.H. Holmes, whose engaging charm seduced at least a score of unfortunate women, and the activity that took place at a building just a short distance away from the fair site.

“The Great Pearl Heist” is the story of an elaborate criminal scheme that unfolded over a period of several months in 1913 London. The pearls in question were part of a magnificent necklace that had been assembled over a long period by Max Mayer, one of the finest jewelers in London. It was a situation made for a heist, and one of the greatest criminals of the period, Joseph Grizzard, seized the opportunity to make it.

Fortunately for law and order, the London’s Scotland Yard and the underwriter who had insured the necklace for Lloyd’s of London were just as inventive and daring.

In “The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago,” Douglas Perry writes about Maurine Watkins, a girl reporter with the Chicago Tribune in the 1920s, who was the first to cover the sensational story of two Jazz Age women who killed their men with the same casualness they gave to filing their nails. In this account, journalist Perry illuminates both the murderesses who held court at Cook County Jail and the newspaper writers who showcased them.

Paul French writes in the book “Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China” of a mutilated corpse that is found at the base of Fox Tower on Jan. 8, 1937, which poses a special problem for Peking police.

The victim was a free-spirited young woman named Pamela Werner. When Pamela wasn’t attending school in Tientsin, she lived in Peking with her adoptive father, Edward Werner, a scholar and former British consul. She had been beaten to death and then dumped at Fox Tower.

The British government increased its efforts to impede the investigation, suggesting that a cover-up, if not a full-blown conspiracy, was afoot. Racial bigotry also played a role in the British government’s insistence that the investigation should focus on Chinese rather than foreign residents.

Be sure to stop by Rowan Public Library for your chance to step back in time.

Computer classes: Introduction to NC Digital Library and eBooks — Feb. 18, 7 p.m., South; Feb. 19, 1 p.m., East (registration required, call 704-216-7731); Feb. 21, 9:30 a.m., Headquarters.

Learn to browse, search and check out items from the NC Digital Library collection. Read eBooks on a computer, laptop, Kindle, Nook or other e-readers. Classes are free. Sessions are about 90 minutes long. Class size is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis. Dates and times at all locations are subject to change without notice.

Children’s Storytime: Weekly through April 26. For more information. call 704-216-8234

Headquarters — Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time (18- to 35-month-olds); Wednesday, 11 a.m., Baby Time (6- to 23-month-olds); Thursday, 10:30 a.m., Preschool Time (3- to 5-year-olds); Thursday, 4 p.m., Noodlehead (4- to 8-years-olds.)

South — Monday, 4 p.m., Noodlehead; Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Baby Time; 1:30 p.m., Preschool Time; Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time.

East — Monday, 10 a.m., Baby Time; Monday, 11 a.m., Toddler Time; Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., Preschool Time.

JR’s Adventure Club: Headquarters, Feb. 2, 11 a.m. A different adventure each month for children of all ages. Call 704-216-8234 to learn more.

Moon Mullins in concert: Headquarters (only), Thursday, 7 p.m., Stanback Auditorium. Award-winning thumbpicking guitarist Comer “Moon” Mullins. The concert is free and all are welcome to attend.

Movie night at Headquarters: Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m., “O Brother Where Art Thou?” All movies are rated G, PG or PG 13. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.

Chocolate festival for teens: All 5:30-7 p.m. South, Feb. 12; East, Feb. 25; Headquarters, Feb. 26. Chocolate fountain, taste testing, painting and more. For more information, call 704-216-8234.

Book Chats for Children: South (only), Feb. 21, 4:15 p.m., “Catwings” by Ursula K. Le Guin, grade 2. Children in grades 2-5 (different grade each month) are invited to participate in Book Chats at South Rowan Regional Library in China Grove. Registration is required and space is limited. Please call 704-216-7728 for more information.

PAC Club: Headquarters, Feb. 23, 1 p.m. Popular Activities and Crafts Club focusing on a different popular children’s book series each month. Call 704-216-8234 for more information.

Book Bites Club: South (only), Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m., “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. Book discussion groups for both adults and children will meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open to the public and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information, please call 704-216-8229.

Displays for February: headquarters, Sidney Blackmer collection; South, student art by Corriher-Lipe Middle School; East, 4-H by Ann Furr.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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