As a true crime buff and new fan of horror poetry, this combination of both was a must-read for me!
The collection reads more like a story, following Holmes from his beginnings, to his first forays into crime and other ill pursuits, to the building of his murder castle in Chicago, and beyond. I thought I would read a few each day, but I got sucked into the narrative flow of the poems and ended up reading through it mostly in one sitting. It isn't the type of poetry book you would want to dip in and out of at random, at least until you've read it all the way through once.
Tantlinger bases the work on fact, but isn't afraid to let imaginings and possibilities fill in the holes where we don't really know the truth of what happened with Holmes and his victims.
If you are into true crime, you are probably already aware of the strange interest, that weird compulsive magnetism toward serial killers—those enigmatic and eminently terrifying monsters whose minds we just can't quite comprehend. What is it about them that compels them to horrifying acts and yet allows them to seamlessly blend in with everyone else?
If you are perhaps a bit afraid of poetry, this collection is a wonderful example of how poems don't have to be obfuscating. Tantlinger's use of language is measured, image-driven, and often playful, and her attention to line breaks and spacing give the lines fresh readings upon closer inspection.
I think the whole project could have dug deeper into the psychological component of what makes the man a monster, as it instead stay fairly narrative in structure and substance. There is space in poetry for wonderings, lucid dreamings, what-ifs, and whys that you just can't explore the same way in fiction.
I loved the poems and the story they told, but I'm left with an unfinished feeling as to what the collection was supposed to represent. It could be a lot of things: hidden evil or the cycle of evil, the psychological underpinnings of psychopaths, a study in victimology. . . But I didn't feel that the collection left me pondering a specific great question. I don't think this detracts from the collection at all, hence my 5 stars, but it could have added another dimension to an already strong piece of writing.
Just like the intricate paths, secret hallways, and hidden trapdoors of Holmes's murder castle, The Devil's Dreamland twists through the life and mind of one of America's most infamous serial killers and is sure to leave you with plenty of nightmares for your next trip to dreamland.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.