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WHEN SATAN WORE A CROSS


By Fred Rosen

Harper True Crime, November 2007 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 0-06-123986-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-123986-1

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Toledo, Ohio. 1980. The body of a nun was discovered in the sacristy of a hospital chapel. Sister Margaret Ann, a seventy-one-year-old nun, had been strangled, stabbed, and her corpse posed in a disturbing manner. The police had a prime suspect, a priest, but he was released. Father Gerald Robinson would remain free until twenty-three years later when his name resurfaced in connection with allegations of rape, sodomy, and satanic rituals.

Investigators then decided to re-examine Father Robinson as Sister Margaret Ann's killer.

Mr. Rosen is a former New York Times columnist and author of several true crime books including THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD: Survivors of the 20th Century's Infamous Serial Killers, FLESH COLLECTORS: Their Ghoulish Appetites Drove Them to Crimes that Only Began with Murder, LOBSTER BOY, BODY DUMP (co-authored with Buddy Scalera), and TRACKER: Hunting Down Serial Killers (co-authored with Maurice Godwin).

In the case dubbed "Lobster Boy," the author is credited with detection that led to the conviction of the killer.

This is the first book that I have read by this author, although his name was familiar to me. I have not read any of his previous books because they did not cover crimes that I had a particular interest in.

It's a good thing I don't assign stars as a rating system for my reviews. I'm not sure this book would rate even one star.

Yes, it's another case of sexual abuse or exploitation by the clergy but that's not the reason I'm unenthusiastic about the book. With the current spate of television shows and movies that are centered around crime and forensic science, I think the general audience and reader will have some awareness of what is and isn't good police procedure and what can and can't be proven forensically. This author managed to make the information he was presenting boring. I didn't like the pacing or the writing style.

It's not always easy to read or review true crime books. Voracious true crime readers may find some true crime texts lacking in gruesomeness while others feel the details are too gruesome. I have a medical background so I don't find gruesome details detract from my reading yet I can understand that for many, such details may cause other readers to set the book aside and not finish reading it.

Basic facts and descriptions of the crime aside, it may also be difficult for a reader to judge, based on reviews, whether a particular book will satisfy or not. I follow crimes in the Pacific Northwest but I prefer the writing style of Ann Rule to those of other several other local writers.

What does that have to do with WHEN SATAN WORE A CROSS? Just this. If you are a true crime reader with particular interest in this type of crime or already a fan of this author, then you may find this book satisfying. On the other hand, you may find, as I did, that the writing style got in the way. For instance, if I had written this book, following the prologue, I would have jumped to page 15 and begun with the description of Mercy Hospital, introduced the primary individuals, and then worked in more of the background information. But I didn't write this book and I have to read it as the author wrote it.

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