The kidnapping and death of Charles Lindbergh’s son is often referred to as “the crime of the century.” Reading Rick Geary’s “The Lindbergh Child” makes it easy to see why; this is one of those puzzling stories that have no definitive, easy answer. And now, of course, almost 80 years later it’s rather certain that we’ll never know what really happened. With that in mind, though, Geary’s presentation of the events leading up to and following this landmark case will have you playing armchair detective along with everyone else.
For those unfamiliar with the case, Charles Lindbergh was a national hero after performing the first successful solo transatlantic flight at the young age of 25. Several years later, Lindbergh married and the two settled down and soon had their first son, Charles Lindbergh Jr. And that’s when things get a bit tricky. What we do know is that on the evening of March 1st, 1932, Lindbergh’s child was kidnapped out of his crib after having been put down to sleep; his disappearance was not noticed until 10pm, some two hours after the nurse left once she was certain the baby was asleep.
From there on, the sequence of events is anyone’s guess. Was it an inside job? A prank gone awry? A conspiracy that was plotted for months? A spur-of-the-moment crime? Geary follows the events before and afterwards with meticulous accuracy, presenting each piece of evidence as well as the interviews, investigations, and horrifying discoveries made as the police tried to find the missing child even as they cooperated with the kidnappers’ ransom notes.
Geary leaves no stone unturned here; maps are provided for the areas that the major events take place, as well as a blueprint of the house itself. Geary himself analyzes some of the information given, offering up many different possibilities even as he deliberately avoids settling on a single answer. It’s a creepy story, and with each twist and turn as it progresses it’s hard to not become more and more disturbed by what happened. Geary’s “Treasury of Victorian Murder” books all have their disturbing moments (in particular I recommend “The Beast of Chicago,” which will probably shock you upon reading its events) but this one seems more so, perhaps because of the unsolved nature of the crime and holes in the evidence around the person who was eventually convicted for the kidnapping.
As always, Geary’s delicate, beautiful art shines here. No one draws people quite like Geary does, with the thick lines that feel almost sharp as they carve out individual features. With Geary you always get a real sense of the time period that he’s set his stories, with appropriate wardrobe and scenery choices throughout the book. And of course, one can’t leave out Geary’s trademark lettering, which in an industry dominated by computer-generated letters and large companies handling dozens of books every month, continues to look unique and attractive and extremely well done.
“The Lindbergh Child” is the sort of book that once you pick up, you can’t put back down until you’re finished. Forget modern murder cases like O.J. Simpson or Robert Blake; once you read “The Lindbergh Child” you’ll really understand what it takes to have a sequence of events be named “the crime of the century.” Unforgettable, from start to finish.