Eve Lazarus follows up her successful Cold Case Vancouver with the tale of a mid-60’s murders
Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer
Eve Lazarus | Arsenal Pulp Press
$21.95, 247 pages
Crime narratives have been with us for a long time. Some would class the biblical story of Cain and Abel as our first example, or suggest that the oral histories re-told in Homer or the Mesopotamian Tale of Gilgamesh represent our first records of a dark, crime imbued narrative style we have come to think of as “noir” and welcome in both its fiction and non-fiction modes.
Truly, there is something we love about a murder, whether on screen or on the page. Just check out the book racks in any air terminal if you doubt this. Without accounts of bloody death, deception and intrepid investigators, the North American reading public would be forced to fall back on history, biography or political economy. Although, to be fair, many of the stories on offer in such serious genres also partake of the noir spirit and any consideration of current political life, especially just south of us, seems imbued with darkness and crime.
Eve Lazarus gets it. The Vancouver-based true crime author has already made many friends among readers who enjoy her well researched studies of mayhem on Vancouver’s mean streets and in its seemingly innocent residential neighbourhoods. Those who enjoyed 2015’s Cold Case Vancouver will be pleased to know that Lazarus has done it again with Murder by Milkshake, her account of a scandalous murder case that set in Vancouver’s mid 60s.
Esther Castellani died horribly, dosed with arsenic over a long period by her husband Rene. In the finest tradition of the noir genre, her raffish and self absorbed husband, a local celebrity and radio personality, wanted to eliminate Esther in order to take up with another station employee, a much younger woman named Lolly. Lazarus tells the story of the murder and the subsequent trial in which Rene was convicted and sentenced to death. His sentence was reduced and he left prison on full parole in 1979, exercising his considerable psychopathic charm to meet and exploit other women. He died in 1982. So far, so noir.
Lazarus includes a follow up account of Esther’s daughter Jeannine and Lolly’s son Don reconnecting years after the trial, which gives the otherwise gritty story a touch of sentimental happy ending. Many readers will welcome the element of real life redemption this provides, and most will enjoy the author’s competent if undistinguished prose style and the compelling drama of her chosen topic.
Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected]