Picks and Pans Review: The Professor and the Prostitute

updated 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Linda Wolfe

For connoisseurs of ghastly, true crime stories, here are nine acts of violence, distinguished by the fact that apparently respectable people committed them. The title story is about William Henry James Douglas, a professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University's School of Medicine in Boston. He fell in love with a young prostitute and when she failed to live up to his fantasy, murdered her and put her body in a dumpster. The corpse was never found, but the police tracked Douglas down. A husband and father, he confessed at his trial. Other tales concern a 14-year-old Dallas boy who shot his wealthy parents to death because they were strict; a New York doctor-medical researcher who disappeared from her weekend home on Nantucket Island; the strange deaths of twin doctors Cyril and Stewart Marcus (Wolfe wrote a novel based on this case in 1980); a New York mother who killed her sleeping children and committed suicide; the murder of a woman who had once been a man, and other unsavory stories. Many of these were written for a magazine, and that's what they read like: articles about notorious cases that can use more thorough investigation. Unfortunately Wolfe, inspired by what she calls new journalism, has seen fit to include herself in the narrative as a character. She is merely a puzzling distraction. The only audience for this kind of exploitive book must be made up of those who never outgrew the true crime features in the old Sunday tabloids. (Houghton Mifflin, $16.95)

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