Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Secrets in the Cellar by John Glatt

Title: Secrets in the Cellar

Author: John Glatt

Format: Hardcover, 248 pages

Pub. Date: January 1st 2009

Source: Purchased from Goodwill.

Book Description via Goodreads:

Josef Fritzl was a 73-year-old retired engineer in Austria. He seemed to be living a normal life with his wife, Rosemarie, and their family--though one daughter, Elisabeth, had decades earlier been "lost" to a religious cult. Throughout the years, three of Elisabeth's children mysteriously appeared on the Fritzls' doorstep; Josef and Rosemarie raised them as their own. But only Josef knew the truth about Elisabeth's disappearance…

For twenty-seven years, Josef had imprisoned and molested Elisabeth in his man-made basement dungeon, complete with sound-proof paneling and code-protected electric locks. There, she would eventually give birth to a total of seven of Josef's children. One died in infancy--and the other three were raised alongside Elisabeth, never to see the light of day.

Then, in 2008, one of Elisabeth's children became seriously ill, and was taken to the hospital. It was the first time the nineteen-year-old girl had ever gone outside--and soon, the truth about her background, her family's captivity, and Josef's unspeakable crimes would come to light.

John Glatt's Secrets in the Cellar is the true story of a crime that shocked the world.



So, I'll be the first to confess that I was swept up in this case when it was first brought to the public eye. It's morbid, yes, but it's also fascinating. I had done research online to find out all that had happened, and learned that there were some books on the subject. Coincidentally, I stumbled upon this one at a thrift store and I couldn't resist picking it up. Unfortunately, it wasn't that great of a book.

This is a part of the True Crime book series, that is, a series of factual books that examine real life crime cases. True crime. So it really bothered me that the author used fictionalizations on the people in this book who are real people, and not characters. More than once, things like this were said: "He must have known he was evil" or "she must have been scared". The author doesn't know that. Stick to the facts, and quit trying to make an already horrible story more dramatic. This extends to the passages about Josef's personal life, where the prostitutes talked about how rough and violent he was, so that only a few of them would let him be a client anymore. He makes himself look evil- we don't need to look at his BDSM lifestyle to make him even more villainous. The prostitutes did take him as a client, and did their job. While it might be morally wrong since he had a wife, this seemed like an unnecessary add on to a guy who could already be a Batman villain. He doesn't need puffing up, he's horrid on his own.

The book as a whole also wasn't written very well. It was really repetitive. You could tell when the author was really proud of a phrase or a thought, because it would show up multiple times throughout the book. There were sentences that were awkward and ended with prepositions. There's also misuse of the word "irony". It feels rushed and it probably was, as everyone was quick to make a buck off of someone else's tragedy.

Personally, I also didn't really learn that much more from this book. I knew most of this from previously reading articles online. If you've never heard of this case or only know the rough story of what happened, I'm sure that you'd find it more interesting and engrossing than I did.

That said, the case is fascinating, so the book isn't a total loss. I appreciated the fact that in the middle of the hardcover edition, there's a few pages of photographs. I did think it weird though that the author vividly describes some photographs that are not included in these pages. I thought for sure it would be included, since he was so detailed, but nope.

I'm not sorry I read this book, but I'm not holding onto it either. It's the kind of book you only need once. If you're interested in crimes, nonfiction, or this case in particular, I'd recommend at least flipping through it, but maybe get it from a library instead of running out to the store to buy it.


Post a Comment