The Murderess Must Die
by Marlie Parker Wasserman
August 16 - September 10, 2021 Tour
Was Martha Place a wicked stepmother, an abused wife, or an insane killer? Was her stepdaughter a tragic victim? Why would a well-dressed woman, living with an upstanding husband, in a respectable neighborhood, turn violent? Since the crime made the headlines, we have heard only from those who abused and condemned Martha Place.
Speaking from the grave she tells her own story, in her own words. Her memory of the crime is incomplete, but one of her lawyers fills in the gaps. At the juncture of true crime and fiction, The Murderess Must Die is based on an actual crime. What was reported, though, was only half the story.
Praise for The Murderess Must Die:
A true crime story. But in this case, the crime resides in the punishment. Martha Place was the first woman to die in the electric chair: Sing Sing, March 20, 1899. In this gorgeously written narrative, told in the first-person by Martha and by those who played a part in her life, Marlie Parker Wasserman shows us the (appalling) facts of fin-de-siècle justice. More, she lets us into the mind of Martha Place, and finally, into the heart. Beautifully observed period detail and astute psychological acuity combine to tell us Martha's story, at once dark and illuminating. The Murderess Must Die accomplishes that rare feat: it entertains, even as it haunts.
Howard A. Rodman, author of The Great Eastern
The first woman to be executed by electric chair in 1899, Martha Place, speaks to us in Wasserman's poignant debut novel. The narrative travels the course of Place's life describing her desperation in a time when there were few opportunities for women to make a living. Tracing events before and after the murder of her step-daughter Ida, in lean, straightforward prose, it delivers a compelling feminist message: could an entirely male justice system possibly realize the frightful trauma of this woman's life? This true-crime novel does more--it transcends the painful retelling of Place's life to expand our conception of the death penalty. Although convicted of a heinous crime, Place's personal tragedies and pitiful end are inextricably intertwined.
Nev March, author of Edgar-nominated Murder in Old Bombay
The Murderess Must Die would be a fascinating read even without its central elements of crime and punishment. Marlie Parker Wasserman gets inside the heads of a wide cast of late nineteenth century Americans and lets them tell their stories in their own words. It’s another world, both alien and similar to ours. You can almost hear the bells of the streetcars.
Edward Zuckerman, author of Small Fortunes and The Day After World War Three, Emmy-winning writer-producer of Law & Order
This is by far the best book I have read in 2021! Based on a true story, I had never heard of Mattie Place prior to reading this book. I loved all of the varying voices telling in the exact same story. It was unique and fresh and so wonderfully deep. I had a very hard time putting the book down until I was finished!
It isn't often that an author makes me feel for the murderess but I did. I connected deeply with all of the people in this book, and I do believe it will stay with me for a very long time.
This is a fictionalized version of the murder of Ida Place but it read as if the author Marlie Parker Wasserman was a bystander to the actual events. I very highly recommend this book.
This is both a compelling and disturbing fictionalized account of the actions leading up to and including the first woman put to death in an electric chair at Sing Sing. Wasserman has done a good job of developing Martha, the murderess. We get a good sense of her childhood and then her character as it developed. We know, of course what is going to ultimately happen but Wasserman creates a narrative leading us up the actual murder, the ensuing court case, appeals and finally the execution that kept me turning pages. There are some gruesome aspects to this book as an execution before Martha's is described in all its botched fullnss.
This is a good psychological study of the murderess Martha. While Wasserman only had newspaper reports and other objective information, she created a very emotional account. The point of view changes frequently as we experience the actions and thoughts of many people involved. That technique can be confusing but worked relatively well in this book.
The book is a good debut effort. I really appreciate the author note at the end of the book identifying which events and people are historical and which Wasserman created. I look forward to her next true crime fiction she is researching even now.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Read an excerpt:
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(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)