The Girls of Murder City | Review

"Chicago, bless her heart, will swallow anything with enough gore and action."


As a fan of the 2002 movie Chicago, I instantly picked this book up when I saw it on the discard shelf at the library. I love a good nonfiction and to be honest, I haven't read that many that were based in America, let alone in 1920 Chicago. For someone that has never looked into the era and knew nothing about it besides jazz and prohibition had happened, this was incredibly eye opening. You only ever know the era that you're born into, you can't possibly experience another one. So reading about it, learning about everything that a woman went through when she wasn't being accused of murder, made me feel grateful to have more freedoms.

However, if you were a 'lady-killer' of the times, you were one of two things. Either you were beautiful and fascinating or you were ugly and one hundred percent guilty. As men dominated the court rooms, they also made up the entire jury. So your looks decided upon whether or not you were going to swing or walk free. Honestly, it's not that much different today, though I'd like to think that whether or not someone is guilty would be looked into for the facts instead of just how someone looked. (Sadly, this might not be the case. I don't know, I'm not a lawyer and have never sat on a jury).

We follow a few different perspectives in this book with the voice of the narrator; one from the woman who eventually would write the play of Chicago, Maurine Dallas Watkins, who at the time is a journalist in the windy city. Or rather, the city of lady killers. We have two other women that we follow exclusively, Belva Gaertner, who inspired the character of Velma Kelly, and Beulah Sheriff Annan, who inspired the character of Roxie Hart.

We also get to see some of the lawyers that inspired Billy Flynn, who was a combination of two men, and a look into the lives of other women in the jail. It was an incredible read altogether. Sometimes when I'm reading things like this, it's easy to forget that this actually happened and it's wild when you remember it. History is a funny thing, isn't it?

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