Review: Murder, Michigan

Murder, Michigan: Seventy fascinating and dramatic murders that have violently shaped the dark side of Michigan history, by Gary W. Barfknecht
This is an obscure paperback that I picked up at the incredible John K. King Books, in Detroit, for $12. In briefly retelling the stories of 70 murders, the author takes readers through Michigan history: from before the arrival of the French fur traders in the 18th century up to the arrival of serial killers like John Norman Collins, who was convicted of murdering young women in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in the late 1960s. There were racial riots, labor riots, gangsters, an anarchist assasin (Leon Czolgosz, who killed President McKinley) and even a German spy. But the most incredible story is “The Mad Bomber of Bath.” Blaming the loss of his farm near the town of Bath on an increase in school taxes, Andrew Kehoe rigged the school building itself with dynamite. Thirty-eight students and teachers died, and the number would’ve been greater if not for the fact that Kehoe hadn’t wired up enough batteries to detonate all the explosives that were in place. (He had already murdered his wife.) Then it turned into a suicide mission: Kehoe blew up his own truck when the school superintendent passed near, and both men died, along with three bystanders. In all, 45 people perished on May 18, 1927. Political and social trends come and go, but psychopaths have been around forever.

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