The newest entry in Geary’s true-crime graphic-novel series A Treasury of XXth Century Murder takes readers to New Orleans just after the First World War. Between May 1918 and August 1919, 12 people in New Orleans are either murdered or seriously injured by a man who breaks into their houses in the dead of night and uses their own axes to attack them. New Orleans was a city of immigrants and at first it seems as though the Axe-Man is attacking only Italian grocers and their families. But when he branches his attacks out to include others, authorities don’t know where to turn. The Big Easy is suddenly a city is in panic, but no one can find a pattern to the attacks and suspects are few.
Geary shows the same flair for pacing and drama here as he did in the other volumes in this series and in his nine-volume A Treasury of Victorian Murder series. He builds the tension by slowly revealing the facts, using a journalistic tone of voice that rarely dips into sensationalism. He allows his art to show the horrors of murder, with dramatic shadows, wide-angle shots, and close-ups all used to good effect. Geary’s black-and-white palette and line shading give the right historical feel to his tales, and he has a sharp eye for the details of a time period. That, combined with his historical research, makes his story all the more horrific as the reality of it is impossible to escape.
The Terrible Axe-Man is a worthy addition to a collection, but librarians might do well to consider adding it to the true crime section, rather than graphic novels. While graphic novel fans have often already discovered Geary’s terrific work, it is now time for true crime aficionados to see what he has to offer them. Though there are bloody murder scenes, high school libraries still should consider this volume and the others in the series. Geary’s work is an excellent way to hook older teens on historical research. They won’t believe what horrors lurk in the depths of history!
Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on August 1, 2010
The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans