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Starvation Heights [Paperback]

Gregg Olsen
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1997 True Crime
Recounts the true story of a female quack who ran a health spa in Ollala, Washington, in the early 1900s, and the two wealthy sisters whom she tortured, starved, and robbed of their inheritance.

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The setting is a forested wilderness in the Northwest, circa 1911. The villain is a tall, egotistical woman doctor with an imposing jawline and a fierce will to dominate others. The victims are two wealthy English sisters, gullible health faddists after the fashion of those who flocked to Dr. Kellogg's sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. But unlike Dr. Kellogg's comparatively gentle method of diet plus enemas, Dr. Hazzard's method was to literally starve her patients to death--and then defraud them of their valuables. Acclaimed true-crime writer Jack Olsen calls this book, "a literary and journalistic achievement of the highest order," and says, "Gregg Olsen reinforces his standing as one of America's greatest crime reporters, evoking the early twentieth century with a master's touch. No reader will ever forget Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard and her sadistic technique of mass murder by starvation."

Review

“A fascinating turn-of-the-century story of medical malpractice and murder. If you liked The Alienist, you'll find Starvation Heights all the more gripping because this story is true.” —Michael Connelly

“An engrossing and compelling look at a shocking crime in another era. Olsen’s deft touch takes us back to the early 1900s so cleverly that reading Starvation Heights is akin to stepping into a time machine.” —Ann Rule

“An account of real-life villainry that outdoes anything a novelist might concoct.” —Les Standiford, author of Meet You in Hell
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STARVED TO DEATH... Oct. 9 2006
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This well-crafted book is a fine example of investigative reporting at its best. Taking events from nearly a hundred years ago, the author makes the story come alive for readers of today. Those who like the true crime genre will especially enjoy this book about a bizarre murder.

In Olalla, Washington, in 1911, Claire and Dora Williamson, two wealthy British sisters on holiday in the United States, were bamboozled by a Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, who sold them on the idea of fasting as a cure for their minor ailments. The two sisters enthusiastically adopted the doctor's solution, and therein the groundwork was laid for the tragic events that were to unfold. Although Claire was more gung-ho than Dora on the idea of fasting as a way to better health, where one sister led, the other was sure to follow, as they were so close.

The sisters underwent the doctor's restrictive dietary regimen, becoming wraiths of their former selves in the process, and the treatments that they received at the hands of the doctor were brutal. Trapped and isolated in the doctor's sanitarium, which was located in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, the sisters were at the mercy of the doctor. Although a secret cry for help was sent to a faithful family retainer, for one of the sisters help would arrive too late.

The author describes the efforts that were made to bring this so-called doctor to justice. It was interesting to discover that the doctor had no medical training but was licensed by the state of Washington to practice as an osteopath. Moreover, so skeletal would her patients become that the local yokels would refer to the doctor's sanitarium as "Starvation Heights". It is little wonder that a number of the patients died, usually the wealthy ones.
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5.0 out of 5 stars STARVED TO DEATH... July 18 2006
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This well-crafted book is a fine example of investigative reporting at its best. Taking events from nearly a hundred years ago, the author makes the story come alive for readers of today. Those who like the true crime genre will especially enjoy this book about a bizarre murder.

In Olalla, Washington, in 1911, Claire and Dora Williamson, two wealthy British sisters on holiday in the United States, were bamboozled by a Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, who sold them on the idea of fasting as a cure for their minor ailments. The two sisters enthusiastically adopted the doctor's solution, and therein the groundwork was laid for the tragic events that were to unfold. Although Claire was more gung-ho than Dora on the idea of fasting as a way to better health, where one sister led, the other was sure to follow, as they were so close.

The sisters underwent the doctor's restrictive dietary regimen, becoming wraiths of their former selves in the process, and the treatments that they received at the hands of the doctor were brutal. Trapped and isolated in the doctor's sanitarium, which was located in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, the sisters were at the mercy of the doctor. Although a secret cry for help was sent to a faithful family retainer, for one of the sisters help would arrive too late.

The author describes the efforts that were made to bring this so-called doctor to justice. It was interesting to discover that the doctor had no medical training but was licensed by the state of Washington to practice as an osteopath. Moreover, so skeletal would her patients become that the local yokels would refer to the doctor's sanitarium as "Starvation Heights". It is little wonder that a number of the patients died, usually the wealthy ones.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Publisher's Weekly Review May 21 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Publisher's Weekly
When true-crime author Olsen (Abandoned Prayers) moved to Olalla, Wash., he was skeptical about reports of a local crime. In the early part of the century, he was told, a woman doctor killed her patients at a place called Starvation Heights. But Olsen began a dossier on the sinister sanitarium, the Hazzard Institute of Natural Therapeutics, eventually spending three years assembling information from books, interviews, newspapers, letters, comic books and trial transcripts. After reading Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard's Fasting for the Cure of Disease, British heiresses Claire and Dora Williamson arrived in Hazzard Institute in 1911 and were met with a regimen of fasting, broths, enemas and exercise. Within months, the sisters were emaciated and Claire died. When family nurse Margaret Conway arrived to find Dora "a hideous skeleton on the verge of death," she rescued her, and subsequent events led to the greedy, evil Hazzard's arrest and trial. Olsen brings an eye for atmospheric detail to a forgotten terror tale that nearly slipped into oblivion. Demonic and true, this is the even darker side of the health fads satirized in T.C. Boyle's The Road to Wellville.
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4.0 out of 5 stars True-crime at its best! Nov. 29 2001
Format:Paperback
By the time you get through the first 50 pages, you will absolutely despise Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, a turn-of-the-century witchdoctor, who preyed on the confused, weak-spirited and disillusioned. Indeed, Dr. Hazzard was a woman who would stop at nothing to feed her greedy, narcissistic longings for wealth and public stature. Veteran true crime author Gregg Olsen's knack for detail allows the reader to see clearly just how devious, evil and stubborn this so-called doctor was. One of Dr. Hazzard's cures for blindness, for example, included starving a young boy for three weeks.
But more important than the drama, author Gregg Olsen brings us into the soul of the story and helps us to understand why the victims -- a pair of wealthy British sisters -- sought out Dr. Hazzard's unorthodox treatment in the first place. We feel shame and sorrow for these women, yes; but we also put ourselves in their place. What would I have done in a similar situation? Even for the most experienced writer, this is no easy
task.
STARVATION HEIGHTS is a (medical) thriller ride of a lifetime. Olsen uses the skills of America's finest novelists to tell this disturbing true tale of deception, spiritual theft and, finally, murder by the most appalling means: starvation. By the time you turn the last page, you will be wondering if Olsen has pulled a fast one and made the entire story up. But of course he hasn't. Every last word is painstakingly extracted from his diligent research and obvious skills as a master reporter. Put down Robin Cook at once and read this "real life" medical thriller instead! Gregg Olsen, one of the most original true crime writers working today, paints a fascinating portrait of one human being, under the most deplorable circumstances imaginable, dominating another. A great read by a great writer!
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Big Disappointment!
Seems that the author has scoured history books to come up with a subject to make money. I expected to read some forgotten crime of the century only to find that the 'criminal' was... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Laxton
5.0 out of 5 stars Chillling
Couldn't put it down! It was like a horror story, but true!
Published on May 31 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A Movie waiting to Happen
Misery and death at a 1911 sanitorium. It sounds like the "Road to Wellville" takes a dark turn. Again, diet or lack of in this case seems to be the cure for everything. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2003 by janice page
4.0 out of 5 stars A Movie waiting to Happen
Misery and death at a 1911 sanitorium. It sounds like the "Road to Wellville" takes a dark turn. Again, diet or lack of in this case seems to be the cure for everything. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2003 by janice page
4.0 out of 5 stars starvation heights, haunted?
I know the family that lives in the home that the murders took place. I go to school with there son who is cousins with my bestest friend. Its not haunted so shut the hell up.
Published on Nov. 9 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional story telling
I devoured this book in one day. It was a simply irresistable read, due in no small part to Olsen's lyrical prose. Read more
Published on March 14 2001 by Jacqueline Landry
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history of deadly quackery!
Our generation born in the fifties and sixties were raised to believe that certain types of crime are prevalent now due to lax morals, divorce and family abuse, and that the... Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2000 by K. L Sadler
5.0 out of 5 stars Have a couple of Hostess Twinkies ready while reading!
I am an avid reader of true crime books. This is one of the best I've read in a long time. Even though I live not far from Fergus Falls, MN, I had never heard of Mrs. Read more
Published on April 13 2000 by TundraVision
2.0 out of 5 stars I was disappointed
I bought this book after reading the glowing reviews it received at this web site.
I bought this book expecting something as hard-to-put down, as chilling, and as memorable as... Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2000 by Amazon Customer
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