Lovefool 08.20.12 | Love Bleeds

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Rick Geary studies a torrid love affair gone gruesomely wrong in Lovers' Lane, the latest in his ongoing series of true life murder mysteries.

 

 

I can't imagine ever being so mad at someone that I'd murder them. Which isn't to say that I don't have a terrible temper, because I do sometimes, but I have a very strong flight response when I get tired of fighting with people. I'm confident that nearly every single argument I've had in my 20s has, at some point, been punctuated by me throwing up my hands and saying “I'm going for a walk,” only to return ready to have a conversation and not a fight, despite the other party's intentions. Cowardly? Perhaps. But I've often said that discretion is the better part of valor and I believe it. Not everyone does, though.
 
So it was with some trepidation that I cracked opened NBM's Lovers' Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery, which arrived this weekend with a most satisfying thump on my porch floor, all wrapped up for my delectation. I spend so much time looking for delightful squishy romances that sometimes, I want to read something that gives us a look at the sketchier side of love. You may remember how thrilled I was about Criminal: The Last of the Innocent earlier this year. (That book is messed up. But awesome! So awesome! So awesome that I'm trying to broaden my horizons.) We've got to look at the bad-bad-bad side of love, too, I think, in our quest to puzzle out funnybook romance. And, in my search for bad love gone worse, Lovers' Lane delivers. More a true crime graphic novel than a romance comic, it's pretty salacious, even with an affair at the center of it all. In fact, that's the tamest part of the story and, even as a ‘20s story going up against the horrors of today's modern news, the tale is still pretty jarring.
 
The story goes that the Reverend Hall, a popular local minister married to a Johnson & Johnson heiress, and Mrs. Mills, a songbird in the choir and wife of a church employee, were engaged in some not so pure extracurricular activities that everyone was politely ignoring, as they sometimes do in such situations. One night, they both vanish, only to be found dead in a local trysting spot. Gruesomely dead, too. Ickily dead, scarf-tied-over-nearly-decapitating-wounds dead. I mean, gosh. Can you imagine? Being so pissed off at someone that you slice their throat open and take bits of it out? Because this is what labels this story as personal in my mind—the murderer took every single organ used in singing from the deceased's throat. How mad does one have to be do that? How many times do you have to politely disregard congregation gossip? How many poorly written love letters do you have to find before you rip someone's throat out? Because the only person that happened to was Mrs. Mills. Reverend Hall was shot, yes, but it was fairly clean. One shot through the temple and that's it. Mrs. Mills was mutilated and that smacks of someone being pretty miffed at her. To me, anyway.
 
But, somehow, from there, the story turns into a classic whodunit, one that is still unsolved to this day. Was it Mrs. Hall? Her brother on her behalf? Mr. Mills seemed okay with the whole thing so it probably wasn't him. A random stranger who thought it was his girlfriend and some other dude? Were the victims killed there or were they dropped off? Did the police seriously pass around the evidence and let people traipse around the field where they were found? Did the murderer REALLY leave the couple's love letters scattered around their bodies? Are we seriously supposed to believe that neither of their spouses did this? Seriously, how did neither of them end up in jail?
 
Rick Geary, telling the tale as part of his “Treasury of XXth Century Murder” series, leaves it up to us. He gives us facts but no motives. He gives us alibis but asks no questions about them. He draws no conclusions but does draw some very clean lines, leaving the messy tale beautifully uncluttered. He very carefully lets us know that Mrs. Hall, throughout the lengthy case, said she knew nothing of the affair. He lets us know that Mr. Mills liked Rev. Hall enough, apparently, to not mind if he borrowed his wife for the evening. He presents the aforementioned alibis, which are pretty thin in some cases, with nary a wink and gives us just the facts, nothing but the facts. But, as far as I can tell, the facts are pretty damning, despite a jury's findings.
 
Love, nerdlings. I don't know how people last when it ends up looking like this. And, as Geary's story demonstrates, sometimes they don't. | Erin Jameson
 
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