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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Unclaimed Victim

ISBN: 1542046432

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 11/14/2017

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC) In 1938, at the height of the Great Depression, a madman hunts his victims through the hobo jungles of Cleveland, terrorizing the city. Ethel Harding, a prostitute struggling to survive both the cold streets and the Torso Killer, takes refuge with a devout missionary sect—only to find that its righteous facade conceals the darkest of secrets.

Sixty years later, the police find the butchered body of Alfred Wiley in the woods. But before his daughter, Kris, can even identify the remains, things he never told her begin to surface one by one—a mysterious private eye who’d been tracking him, an eerie website devoted to the unsolved “Torso” murders, missing archives, stolen books, and an abandoned Bible factory harboring vagrants. The more she learns about her father’s obsession with the Torso Killer, the more Alfred’s death appears to be related, pulling Kris further into Cleveland’s hellish past.

Living decades apart, Ethel and Kris must unravel the truth behind the city’s most notorious serial killer…or die trying.


My Review

D. M. Pulley returns following The Buried Book and The Dead Key with her latest historical fiction THE UNCLAIMED VICTIM—a blending of fact and fiction, history, a gruesome unsolved murder mystery, with dual timelines and dark hidden secrets.

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” – Fredrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good, and Evil, 1886

Pulley is a pro at digging up dark secrets of the past and blending with the present while intertwining her own fascinating "what if" shocking conclusion.

Cleveland, Ohio. In 1999 a man is found, Alfred Ray Wiley. The daughter Kris recalls the argument with her father. He wanted her to move back home. He did not like her wasting her time with starving artists.

A tattoo. Dark secrets. Her father’s obsession with the Torso Killer. The library books. and the Search for a Psychopathic Killer.

The Torso Killer got his name by cutting off his victims’ heads, arms, and legs. What did her father have to do with this horrible stuff?

Thirteen bodies from 1934-1938, victims of the serial killer dubbed as the “Torso Killer, and the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.”

In the past, 1938 during the Great Depression. A madman terrorizing the city.

Ethel Harding, a prostitute. The monstrous Harmony Mission. She was desperate. A horrible mistake. Her mother had thrown her out onto the street.

A religious cult. Brutal slayings. White supremacist. Crime group. Unsolved murders. The casualties of the Depression littered the banks with starving children and battered women. Bodies found in the river.

From 1935 to 1938, bodies were dumped in the area known as Kingsbury Run, a creek bed that runs from East 90th Street and Kinsman Road to the Cuyahoga River.

The victims included seven men and five women. Most were hobos and prostitutes, people living on the edge at a time when Cleveland was hard hit by the Great Depression. Many weren't missed for months.

Pulley takes a real shocking story and adds her own unique spin. It's her second book that shines a light on Cleveland's notorious past; the first, 2015's "The Dead Key," was a thriller set in the old Cleveland Trust Tower.

From 1930’s Ethel and 1990’s Kris – how are the two cases linked?

As with Pulley’s other two books, they are well-researched blending mystery, intrigue, and history.

Creepy and haunting, based on the most gruesome crime spree in Cleveland history, making headlines across the nation--and still haunting the streets of Cleveland. The killer who was never caught.

For fans of historical mysteries with a twist of Gothic. Also, fans of Aimee Austin (Sylvie Fox)’s Casey Cort Legal series- set in Cleveland will enjoy (have read them all). Always interesting for readers located in the South to visit the shocking secrets of the Midwest. Found myself doing additional research to learn more.

The author includes additional research for those interested in this era. View Video with the author.

Looking forward to seeing what's next.

A special thank you to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.

Review Links:




“Thoroughly grounded in the sparse known facts of the murders, Pulley’s well-paced and, at times, even hair-raising thriller also successfully portrays the gritty social and human realities of Depression-era Cleveland. Her use of a parallel narrative structure is enviably cunning, and her plucky but beleaguered heroines—1930s Ethel and 1990s Kris—will have readers rooting for them from first page to last. A genuine gothic treat, leading me to suspect that what the Torso Murders saga needed all along was a woman’s touch.” —John Stark Bellamy II, historian and author of They Died Crawling

“Architecture speaks to D.M. Pulley, and it tells her the most wonderful stories. Her mysteries are as twisty and strange as the real-world buildings that inspire her. The Unclaimed Victim is a new exploration of Cleveland’s most notorious unsolved mystery: Who was the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run? D.M. Pulley offers a chilling explanation that suggests the murders go on to this day. Has she cracked the case that drove Eliot Ness insane? I think maybe.” —James Renner, author of True Crime Addict

“A murder in the present intertwines with a set of killings from the past in D.M. Pulley’s engaging, addictive thriller. Pulley is both a natural storyteller and a meticulous researcher, and her tale takes us into a fascinating, forgotten corner of 1930s Cleveland. The Unclaimed Victim is a haunting and unputdownable novel!” —Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will

“D.M. Pulley dips from past to present with the touch of a master, squaring the bloody circle of two lives with an ending that’s both shocking…and perfect.” —Matthew Iden, author of The Winter Over


About the Author

DM Pulley

D. M. Pulley lives just outside Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, her two sons, and her dog. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a Professional Engineer, rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. Pulley’s structural survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, The Dead Key, the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. She is also the author of The Buried Book. Read More

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