Maniac by Harold Schechter

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Always pay attention to people buying a lot of explosives.

Quick synopsis: The Bath School disaster in 1927. Andrew Kehoe bombed the local Michigan grade school out of revenge for perceived slights and holy hell he didn’t stop there.

Fun Fact for Non-History People Will Like: This is still the worst school massacre in U.S. history even though most of us never heard of it before.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Kehoe blamed the school for his inability to pay off his debts. It was estimated at his death that he could have sold his property and paid everything off.

My Take: I don’t necessarily “enjoy” true crime, per se. I appreciate a well written story and when it helps the reader understand a little more about human nature than just recounting a story.

Schechter does two things. He slowly shows the deterioration of Andrew Kehoe including documenting the perceived slights which led him to do what he did. Even with this detailed walk-through, the ending is shocking. Kehoe didn’t just set a bomb at a school. He enacted a multi-step plan of revenge that spared no one except through good luck.

The other theme which Schechter tackles intermittently, but very effectively, is why most people have no knowledge of the Bath School disaster even with how amazingly sad it was. I won’t spoil it.

You are not going to feel good at the end of this book, but there is no way to tell this story.

Verdict: A brutal read but a vivid account of a psycho and how he came to do what he did. A must read for true crime readers.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Miriam C. Davis, The Axeman of New Orleans
  • Skip Hollandsworth, The Midnight Assassin
  • Gregg Olsen, Starvation Heights
  • Sinclair McKay, The Lady in the Cellar
  • Rich Cohen, The Last Pirate of New York
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Maniac by Harold Schechter
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