Sympathy for the Devil: The Emmanuel Baptist Murders of Old San Francisco by Virginia A. McConnell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
True crime, particularly when the crime happened a long time ago, is somehow a perfect read when you're feeling sick - this book fit the bill in much the same way that P.D. James' The Maul and the Pear Tree did a few years ago.
The murders of Blanche and Millie took place in April 1895, in San Francisco, so there was no way to process the crime scenes in a modern sense: no "Bones", no "CSI" and no BAU to profile the murderer. Instead there was a lot of circumstantial evidence, conflicting witness statements, and two newspapers to whip the public into a frenzy. Ms. McConnell does a great job of sorting through all this and of pointing out where modern court cases and murder investigations differ from what happened.
In the beginning of the book, however, she suggests that Theo Durrant was not the murderer, that there were other, equally plausible suspects; by the end of the book, however, she seems to have changed her mind. There are two others who might have done one (or both) murders, and it would have been interesting to explore that a little. Perhaps the lack of documents (due to the age of the crimes, the difference in what evidence was collected back then, and the 1906 earthquake destroying some of the records) prevented her from pursuing that.