A Bat in the Belfry

The True Story of the Boston Belfry Murderer

Non-Fiction - Historical
661 Pages
Reviewed on 06/21/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

A Bat In The Belfry by B.A. Ellis is a stunning historical novel depicting one of the greatest crimes and trials in the late nineteenth century. Fire ravages Boston in 1872, demolishing a large portion of the city. The following year another fire takes place and, in its aftermath, a couple discovers a man assaulting a young woman. The husband chases the attacker while the wife attends to the victim. However, they were too late; the young victim was already dead before the attacker had started to ravage her body. Thomas Piper, the second son of an affluent carpenter, resembles the description of the murderer and had access to the weapon and opportunity. Thomas is brought in for questioning, but although he is a good fit for the attacker, the police don't have enough evidence to arrest him. A couple of years later, a small girl goes missing after Sabbath School and is found up in the tower, fatally injured. As the church sexton, Thomas is the prime suspect in her death. He is placed on trial for her murder. Is Thomas Piper guilty of one or both deaths, or is he a victim of circumstance?

Who knew that court proceedings could be so fascinating? A Bat In The Belfry by B.A. Ellis contains the riveting and wonderfully detailed account of the Thomas Piper trial. I was completely engrossed as I read through the trial and was intrigued with the author's impressions of the crime spree. Several horrendous crimes took place in Boston at that time, and the author posits that they may have something, or rather someone, in common. Interestingly, although the reprehensible acts were appalling, they were a catalyst for changing a few laws and regulations. It seems it even affected fashion. I thought it interesting that men stopped wearing cloaks at that time so they wouldn't be mistaken for the villain. The history behind the story is interesting and compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it to those who love to read court cases and historically accurate novels. This is one you won't want to miss!