Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ray's Reviews: "Murder in Michigan's Upper Peninsula" by Sonny Longtine

"Murder in Michigan's Upper Peninsula" by Sonny Longtine (History Press, $19.99) offers a gripping look at the most memorable, gruesome crimes committed in that picturesque area.

This is not a volume that's meant to be read in one sitting; some of the stomach-churning descriptions are quite vivid and disturbing.

The well-illustrated book includes many vintage photos of individuals and locales, including a graphic image of the McDonald cousins, who were hanged by a drunken mob in Menominee in the 1880s after killing a Deputy Sheriff.

Set in chronological order, the book has two dozen brief chapters, beginning in 1846 with the unsolved murder of James Schoolcraft, brother of famous ethnologist Henry Schoolcraft.

Longtine delves into the dark family life of the morose suspected serial killer John Tanner Jr., but also offers another theory.

The well-chronicled 1913 Italian Hall Disaster in Red Jacket, in the Keweenaw Peninsula, which killed 73 people, including 62 children, is described in detail. No one knows who yelled "FIRE" at the crowded Copper Country banquet hall.

There are many chapters examining murders in towns that no longer exist, areas that were hubs of activity during the boom era of mining and logging. Senseless murders expose killers who were drunk or exceptionally angry. Innocent victims abound, although not all were so innocent.

Longtine includes one of the area's most famous murder cases, with a trial in Marquette. Country lawyer John Voelker handled the defense for Coleman Peterson, who was accused of murdering Mike Chenowith in a Big Bay tavern.

Later, Voelker would write a novel about it, "Anatomy of a Murder", under the pseudonym of Robert Traver, which was made into a memorable Otto Preminger movie.

Longtine's collection of vignettes showcases the artwork of Judith (Suvanto) Greene, who provides well-drawn images of victims and murderers. Many of the photos come from the author's personal collection.

The well-organized book relates facts involving assorted murders through 2006, including the convoluted case of Thomas Richardson, accused of pushing his wife off a cliff at Munising's Pictured Rocks.

There is also a detailed bibliography of references, including websites and newspapers.

A graduate of Northern Michigan University, Longtine is the author of "Marquette, Then and Now", "Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Life, Legends and Landmarks" and "Courage Burning".

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on July 6, 2014.

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