Reviews of MIDNIGHT ASSASSIN: A MURDER IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND
"Historical whodunit devotees who have devoured all the literature on famous real-life mysteries will delight in this stirring and evocative account of an obscure turn-of-the-century Iowa murder....[the authors] vividly portray the era's attitudes toward women (indicated by a tolerance of domestic abuse) while crafting a tale that reads like a good novel."
"Midnight Assassin, meticulously researched and written by Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf, offers an absorbing look at a 1900 murder in an Iowa farmhouse and, as a subtext, how the roles of women in America were beginning to change....[an] engrossing real-life whodunit."
"It is almost impossible not to draw comparisons to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood ....Despite being a work of non-fiction, Midnight Assassin reads like a work of fiction. The prose is incisive and vivid. More than once the inexorable movement of events raised the hair on the back of my neck. The fine ear for detail, the vivid description of the lives of not only the Hossack family, but of those around them, and the totally unexpected plot twists make this a book that is difficult to put down."
"Bryan and Wolf cover the murder investigation and the trials thoroughly and gracefully. Better still, they place the crime in the context of the times, before feminism had won widespread acceptance."
"Bryan and Wolf's treatment is meticulous, thorough and insightful, providing a highly textured description of Iowa life circa 1900--its customs, mores, language and its criminal and judicial processes....The Hossack murder embodies the dark side of rural America: the harshness of farm life (hardly the pastoral fantasy portrayed in romantic fiction), the troubles within families isolated by distance and work, and the suffering of farm women in a patriarchal system that relegated them to slave labor without benefit of social standing."
"Aficionados of the unsolved case may find a delectable example in this retelling of the little-known but gruesome murder of an Iowa farmer....Meticulously but briskly rendered mystery."
"Midnight Assassin is a real-life murder mystery, to be sure. But it is also, among other things, a study of rural Iowa at the beginning of the 20th century; a commentary on the evolving role of women; a mini-biography of Susan Glaspell, a 20-something fledging reporter for a Des Moines newspaper who covered the case before achieving fame as an author/feminist; and an exploration about the difficulties of learning the truth in the context of the criminal justice system....This is mini-biography at its best, this is Iowa history at its best."
"...[Midnight Assassin] reads like a script of "Law and Order," with compelling characters, conflicting evidence and dramatic courtroom antics that clearly resonate with issues we are still grappling with today."
"The authors use trial transcripts and period newspaper accounts to tell this story, offering not only an interesting trial drama but also a look into the social attitudes of rural America at the beginning of the 20th century, especially toward women."
"The most enticing moments of the book--the ones that keep the reader turning the pages--pierce the sacred veil of Midwestern rural life and reveal the endless drudgery, loneliness, and hardship that most Iowan farm wives suffered a century ago."
"The gruesome murder [of John Hossack] enthralled Iowans as much as the Fall River, Mass., ax murders of a wealthy couple had captivated the nation and catapulted Lizzie Borden to notoriety a few years earlier."
"...a vivid, unflinching portrayal of life in small town America at the turn-of-the-century."
"Bryan and Wolf are not able to tell us who killed John Hossack and why; however, their book is valuable for the social context it establishes, a social context that illumines why Margaret Hossack was so easily convicted in a case based on compromised, questionable, incomplete, and circumstantial evidence. Thus, in its treatment of topics such as late-nineteenth-century gender roles, legal and judicial practices, and cultural norms governing rural Midwestern community and family life, Midnight Assassin offers anyone who is planning to teach or stage Trifles much valuable information that will enhance his or her understanding of one of America's most famous one-act plays."
"The book reflects meticulous research, documenting the hard scrabble everyday existence of farm families, the political environment and the social norms that may or may not have countenanced spousal abuse. Family troubles were to be kept behind closed doors and troubled families could not depend on any community support."
"Midnight Assassin is a gripping, fascinating account....It is a book you can't put down, and part of the reason the whole thing holds you is that it's so well written and structured....In their skilled and masterful presentation of the facts and findings, Bryan and Wolf balance the case so the reader goes back and forth on who did the actual murder. Midnight Assassin is a work of literature in the way art, in the hands of professionals, can transform a skein of reality into something mesmerizing and lasting."
"...well-researched and thoughtful."
"It's really a study of a community and the reaction of its people to such a crime. It's a study of how allegiances fall when a community is close-knit and distant--at the same time. And it's the tale of how a family reacts when such events occur in their home--a father murdered, a mother charged. The whole thing is fascinating beyond description. I couldn't put the book down."