It was a crime that shocked the nation: the brutal murder in Chicago in 1924 of a child by two wealthy college students who killed solely for the thrill of the experience. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were intellectuals-too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. When they were apprehended, state's attorney Robert Crowe was certain that no defense could save the ruthless killers from the gallows. But the families of the confessed murderers hired Clarence Darrow, entrusting the lives of their sons to the most famous lawyer in America in what would be one of the most sensational criminal trials in the history of American justice.
Set against the backdrop of the 1920s-a time of prosperity, self-indulgence, and hedonistic excess in a lawless city on the brink of anarchy-For the Thrill of It draws the reader into a world of speakeasies and flappers, of gangsters and gin parties, with a spellbinding narrative of Jazz Age murder and mystery.
Mr. Baatz, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, has done meticulous research, and he writes extremely well. As a result he brings to vivid life the major characters. Not just the two murderers, but also the judges and lawyers. (The Leopold and Loeb families, hoping to save their sons at least from the gallows, hired no less a lawyer than Clarence Darrow to defend them.) He also gives us a picture of the crime-ridden, bootleg-liquor-fueled Jazz Age city of Chicago and its spectacularly corrupt political culture.