The Angel Makers

The Angel Makers by veteran journalist Patti McCracken is a chilling dive into the world of true crime. The book takes us back to the 1920s in the Hungarian village of Nagyrév, where things got seriously dark.

Zsuzsanna Fazekas, aka Auntie Suzy, rolls into town in 1911, and guess what? Her husband is nowhere to be found. Suspicious, right? Then she racks up arrests for conducting illegal abortions, but somehow keeps dodging conviction. That’s when her side hustle begins.

She cooks up arsenic from flypaper and selling it to women who want to bump off their kin. And not just a few, mind you. We’re talking about husbands, kids, parents—anyone who stood in the way of what these women wanted. One woman killed seven family members! Auntie Suzy’s crew racks up a body count of at least 160 people over fifteen years. Her cousin is the clerk filing all the death certificates, so nobody blinked an eye until an anonymous note blew the lid off the scheme in 1929.

Cue the dramatic trial scenes, with sixteen women and one unlucky guy getting slapped with convictions. A few swing from the gallows, and Auntie Suzy? Well, she and a couple others die by suicide.

McCracken lays it all out with a mix of archival research and vivid storytelling. While the historical backdrop and characters are painted in rich detail, the pace kind drags because of her overindulgence in details. Don’t get me wrong, it’s creepy as heck in places, but I skimmed just to keep things moving.

In the end, The Angel Makers left me with mixed feelings. It’s an exploration of a seriously messed-up piece of history, but it might’ve worked better as a long-form article rather than a book.

Oh, and get this—some sources say the death toll could be as high as three hundred. Wrap your head around that one, if you dare.

Overall, The Angel Makers is a chilling tale, no doubt. Props to McCracken for bringing this macabre slice of history to light. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.

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