A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest

From the Publisher
In 1911 two wealthy British heiresses, Claire and Dora Williamson, came to a sanitorium in the forests of the Pacific Northwest to undergo the revolutionary “fasting treatment” of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard. It was supposed to be a holiday for the two sisters. But within a month of arriving at what the locals called Starvation Heights, the women were emaciated shadows of their former selves, waiting for death. They were not the first victims of Linda Hazzard, a quack doctor of extraordinary evil and greed who would stop at nothing short of murder to achieve her ambitions. As their jewelry disappeared and forged bank drafts began transferring their wealth to Hazzard’s accounts, Dora Williamson sent a last desperate plea to a friend in Australia, begging her to save them from the brutal treatments and lonely isolation of Starvation Heights.

In this true story—a haunting saga of medical murder set in an era of steamships and gaslights—Gregg Olsen reveals one of the most unusual and disturbing criminal cases in American history.

My review: I was bored at first when I started this book. But if you look at the books I had read just prior to this, you will see I was on kind of a murder and mayhem high when I started this book. Although this book also deals with a murder, it was a quite different method then I had previously read about. Gregg asked me not to give up on the book, since I was only at the 20 or so page mark I didn’t.

The time period of this book as mentioned, steamships and gaslights, a slower paced time and the book follows this, Gregg Olsen carefully sets the stage, drawing the people with care and attention to detail. In the end, one feels that they truly ‘know’ everyone involved in the case and since you know the characters, you care and want to know what happens to them.

What Gregg does is take a quote from after the case had ended, in some cases from after Linda Hazzard had died, giving the communities take on Starvation Heights, sometime the stories and superstitions that were common in that area. These are scattered about the narrative of the case and the trial. Also we learn the history of Linda Hazzard and her husband and son, how they came to be in Olalla and the trouble that seemed to follow them. Much of it of their own doing it must be noted.

What Gregg doesn’t do is report the trial word for word with trail transcripts. He does reprint some newspaper accounts and articles. Enough to keep you informed, but not so much that you are bored.

At the end of the book, he gives you a little synopsis of how he found out about this case and what intrigued him to write it. Where he got most of his information. This is important for me, I am always thinking as I read non-fiction, “How do they know that? How does the author know that this person said that?” And my absolute favorite part is when he talks about digging in the mud with his daughters on Father’s Day looking for bones and teeth. Well what else would you expect from a true crime writer on his day?

I recommend this book to fans of Historical True Crime.
Historical True Crime
Copyright: 1997

About Belleza

I got the name Bella because my grandfather called me Suzabell. I use that as a username and my friends on the site started calling me Bella. Thus was born: Bella Foxx's Life, now known as "just a city girl" since I have made the big jump from the country and am now living in the City, UES. I like to make jewelry (check out my blog "Bella is creative" started April 17, 2008) and write. I like to do cross stitch and knit. I sew, I don't really enjoy it, but I enjoy the clothes. I like to read the Bible, books, magazines, online newspaper articles, blogs, jokes on candy wrappers, ads on the subway, billboards, backs of food boxes, lists of ingredients and recipes, cleaning directions, sayings on shirts. I post my reviews on "Just a girl, living, reading, watching, and writing", on Shelfari, Library Thing and Goodreads.. I am allergic to practically everything: grass, trees, weeds, animal dander, dust, mold, wheat, apples, nuts, fish and coconut. The fish and coconut are so serious I carry an Epi-pen and wear a Medic-Alert bracelet. And last but not least. I love the Yankees.

5 responses

  1. Izabella says:

    I was googling how to find the address of Starvation Heights & I found "Bella is reading Starvation Heights" kay… my name is Bella, so I was intrigued to see what the site was…here I am & we (Bella's) were reading Starvation Heights at the same time! kindof weird in a kool way~ ;)I live near Olalla & am determined to find the house~ I just want to see if I could find one of those vanilla bottles he kept throwing in the gulch ;)on another note…have you read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"xo!!

  2. J. Kaye says:

    His fiction book is scheduled to be released very soon. I have it on pre-order at Amazon. Can't remember when it's supposed to arrive, but it should be soon. :)Happy New Year!

  3. Bella Foxx says:

    Thank you for your kind words. I am slowly getting better at putting my thoughts into words.

  4. Book Snob says:

    Wow this book sounds really good. I love historical fiction/non-fiction. Great review!

  5. Vickie says:

    SuziBella: Thank you for this review. I look forward to reading it and I am not always drawn to non-fiction. I do like Gregg Olsen's work, so that is an added bonus to your positive review.