The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter

The-mad-sculptorI will be completely honest with you and say that I chose The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model and The Murder that Shook the Nation because I had it mixed up in my head with The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. Both are New York based mysteries set in the 1930s and both use alliteration with the letter ‘M’ in their titles. Beyond that, there is little similarity.

The Mad Sculptor is about a murder that rocked New York City in 1937. Robert Irwin, a brilliant young sculptor, went to the apartment of his unrequited love interest and killed her mother and a boarder before finally killing Veronica. Following the murders, Irwin was the target of a manhunt that lasted several months.

The portion of the story I just recounted I quite enjoyed. However, the story itself starts much earlier, looking at the hardships of Irwin’s early life and the criminal tendencies of his brothers. While this provided important context and background, it was a little drawn out and too thorough for my liking. Irwin spent much of his life in and out of care facilities and psychiatric hospitals and his psychological background comes to bear on his actions.

Who would like this book? I suspect that many American history buffs already know about these murders and who Robert Irwin was. To a large extent, I think this book may be directed at them. As I read all the background information on Irwin’s life I got the feeling that I should know who he was, and I didn’t. Readers who enjoy true crime should be drawn to this book. It reminded me of Devil in the White City by Erik Lawson, which I thoroughly enjoyed.


  1. Just like Andi, I had never heard of this murder but definitely off to do a bit of research…and if you haven’t picked up The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress yet, don’t pass “go” til you do 🙂 It’s my favorite book so far this year and inspired me to do tons of googling after reading it. It’s fantastic!

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