Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Smuttynose Murders

We are on vacation this week at camp. I don't have any pictures to share yet but will next week. Gary is striper fishing today and Hannah and I are watching movies and will go swimming later.

The campground is very quiet during the week. There's probably less than 10 sites with people on them right now.

Last week before we left, I read a book called the Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. Synopsis: A newspaper photographer, Jean, researches the lurid and sensational axe murder of two women in 1873 as an editorial tie-in with a brutal modern double murder. She discovers a cache of papers that appear to give an account of the murders by an eyewitness. The plot weaves between the narrative of the eyewitness and Jean's private struggle with jealousies and suspicions as her marriage teeters.

I can not stop thinking about this book. I love it when a book stays with me like this. The story is based upon a true double murder that took place in 1873 off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. One woman, Maren Hontvet, survived being murdered herself by hiding throughout the bitter, cold night outside with her dog. When rescued the next day, she named the murderer, Louis Wagner, and that's where the questions begin. Was Maren the real murderer? Did the State of Maine convict and hang an innocent man?

The capture, trial, conviction, escape, recapture, imprisonment and eventual execution of Louis Wagner made headlines for 27 months. He insisted to the end that he was innocent, that God would not allow him to be executed for crimes he did not commit. This unwavering position, stated with calm conviction, swayed even the editor of a major New York newspaper who recorded Louis' last hours.

A number of strange events and urban legends surround the highly publicized proceedings. Some pro-Louis sentiment must certainly have been a reaction to the fervor with which Seacoast locals regarded the heinous attack on such innocent women. 10,000 residents reportedly swarmed around the city and the train station when Louis was returned to Portsmouth from Boston. The next day hundreds of fishermen and "shoalers" marched to the city jail intent on lynching the killer named by Maren Hontvet.


This book is definitely worth taking the time to read, especially if you like to be left with a head full of questions and ponderings.

8 comments:

Sue said...

You HAVE to watch the movie! It's awesome. I watched the movie first, not realizing that it was a book. Then I had to read the book! It's got Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley, it's really good.

heather said...

where in the world is susan-sandiego?

i knew that title was familiar, haven't read the book or movie...will have to now.

heather said...

mmmhhmm, i read movies.

lime said...

sounds very intriguing to say the least!

Heidi said...

sheri! hope you are enjoying your time at camp. I read that book over a year ago when we still lived in Maine, and I loved it too. definitely an excellent read. but then again, I love Anita Shreve's work. how you been lady? hope life's been good to you while I was MIA from blogland. missed reading your posts.

ccw said...

Have fun at camp!

I will check out this book.

Yvette said...

Wow...I missed this entry somehow! I also saw the movie and I agree w/ Sue..its good!

Anonymous said...

I'm an hisrotical enterpreter in southern me. To this day the trial of Louis Wagner is still in debate.
I often speak to visitors of the facts and ledgends. Karen and Anethe are buried in South Cemetery in Portsmouth N.H.. The axe,believed to be the murder weapon, lay a few streets away on display in Portsmouth.