Murder & Mayhem in Rockford by Kathi Kresol was published by the History Press (Arcadia Publishing) in November 2015. As a librarian and proprietor of Haunted Rockford Tours, Kresol is intimately familiar with the darker side of her city’s history. Now she has compiled some of those stories, both infamous and lesser-known, into a beautifully designed book sure to be enjoyed by readers interested in both history and true crime.
Murder & Mayhem in Rockford is divided into two parts, aptly named Murder and Mayhem. In part 1, Kresol examines nine murder cases, ranging from the death of a county sheriff to a man who murdered his own sisters. In part 2, she recounts five disasters, accidents, and fires, and ends with three chapters on Prohibition and the Mafia in Rockford from 1920 to 1933.
The events in the book take place in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a few from the 1960s and ’70s. Kresol shows that Rockford has always been an immigrant melting pot, and despite its early industrial prosperity, has always been a violent place. The participants, victims and perpetrators alike, come to life on the pages.
Kresol heavily relies on newspaper articles, which were known for being “colorful” during that time period. It is difficult, however, to find records verifying the details of these events. Kresol does an admirable job filling in the blanks and being as accurate as possible while still being entertaining.
From its cover, to its paper quality, font, photos, and layout, Murder & Mayhem in Rockford is a beautifully designed book. Its organization is simple and easy to follow, with short, entertaining chapters and a thorough bibliography for each chapter. The only thing it lacks is an index, but with such a well-designed book, finding specific information is not difficult.
If Murder & Mayhem in Rockford has one flaw, it is the length-to-price ratio. At 128 pages, it retails for a staggering $21.99, which is not uncommon for History Press books. At that price, the book is more of a collector’s item for people interested in Rockford history. Unfortunately, there is no Kindle edition for readers looking for a bargain, as of the date of this review.
Readers interested in both history and true crime will enjoy Murder & Mayhem in Rockford. It is a titillating and informative read, with many little-known historical anecdotes about this industrial city in northern Illinois.