Darkhorse Multimedia, Inc.

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By Marilyn J. Bardsley

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True-crime aficionados will be delighted by THE AMERICAN SWEENEY TODD, a disturbing, intimate look through the eyes of one of America's cleverest and most dangerous serial killers.

A brilliant but troubled surgeon becomes a serial killer – but can he evade the famous Elliot Ness?

Dr. Frank Sweeney had a troubled childhood. raised in poverty with an alcoholic and abusive father. A bright and hardworking young man, he served in the Army in World War I and afterwards worked his way through medical school, building a successful career as a doctor. But his inner demons came back to plague him in the form of alcoholism and drug addiction, and his marriage and career paid the price. His broken mind turned to murder as a means of finding release and power, and he began to kill and decapitate anonymous victims, becoming known as the Mad Butcher. But Elliott Ness, fresh from his campaign against Al Capone, had come to Cleveland to reform its police department, and he was hot on the Butcher’s trail. Could he bring down Sweeney’s violent career?

THE AMERICAN SWEENEY TODD is a short book, which is partly regrettable and partly a blessing. It is regrettable, as it is extremely well-written and powerful. It is a blessing in that once you pick up this book, it is very difficult to put it down until it is finished, and it is haunting. The well-advised reader will set aside an hour or two of uninterrupted time for this book, will read this book in broad daylight, not before bed, and ideally will have a hot shower and something comforting and ordinary to do afterwards.

The book is presented from Frank Sweeney’s first-person perspective, and it brilliantly draws the reader, directly and believably, into his viewpoint: his arrogant contempt for others, his bubbling anger at the world, his violent urges – and also his struggles to free himself of his demons and find a better, healthier life for himself and his loved ones, especially his sister. He is not presented unilaterally as a demon nor a monster – just a man, even seemingly ordinary enough at times, until his brokenness and anger come into vivid view again, all the more disturbing for the contrast. The murders are described with chilling straightforwardness, with just enough detail to convey their true psychopathic horror, right alongside journal entries describing affectionate visits to his beloved sister, or subtly taunting evenings spent having drinks at a police bar with the very officers investigating his case. The story is at once enthralling and horrifying, heartbreaking and spine-chilling.

True-crime aficionados will be delighted by THE AMERICAN SWEENEY TODD, a disturbing, intimate look through the eyes of one of America’s cleverest and most dangerous serial killers.

~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader