Starvation Heights

Dr. Linda Hazzard fashioned herself as a “specialist of fasting cures.” What she really was, was a marketer of death and greed. She took on a façade of caring and devotion to her patients, but very few of them ever lived to tell the tale. Her mistake was targeting wealthy clients, who unbeknownst to her, left a paper trail, and also relatives who wondered where their loved ones had gone. The true depravations of her crimes would have gone unnoticed had not it not been for the caring devotion of one nurse, a nurse who had given her entire life to caring and raising two sisters.

Claire and Dora Williamson were wealthy middle aged spinsters who traveled the world, searching for the perfect cure. There was always something better, something newer, a possibility of regaining vitality they felt they had lost, as well as the myriad of other ailments they were convinced they suffered from. After a lengthy correspondence with Dr Hazzard, the sisters felt confident that she could cure all their problems and give them a better handle on life itself. The Doctor seemed so sure of her methods that the sisters did not doubt anything that she had to say. After meeting with a few family members, but not revealing their plans, the sisters headed toward Seattle and hope. What they encountered however, was anything but what they truly expected. Within weeks of their arrival they were hardly recognizable, their weight had shrunk so rapidly. Others around them were shocked with their appearances, and what about all the personal belongings they had brought with them?

Reading through this story was shocking. The fact that anyone could be so depraved with another human beings life is despicable. Dr. Hazzard used manipulation and starvation as a means to an end. She took what she could from her victims, and thought none of them would ever live long enough to stop her. In her own mind, she was stronger, better, more capable of survival and success than anyone around her. Once she made up her mind to do something, she went all the way, bar nothing. In the end, her greed was her undoing. The arrival of Margaret Conway was the rest. Had Dora died before Ms. Conway arrived, more than likely nothing would have been done. Dora’s pleading, and the shocking revelations made to Ms. Conway and the girls Uncle by Dr. Hazzard proved to be part of her downfall. The rest was brought about by a Vice-Consulate of the British Empire, who worked doggedly to right a wrong he felt had to be stopped and the murderer brought to justice.

The true crime genre is one that will never cease to shock, sicken, horrify, but enthrall a reader. The depravity of the human race can be manifested in a few people, but the devastation that they can incur is something that can never be forgotten. While a blind eye might be turned for a while, the truth will always find an out. While justice was never fully served during the lifetime of Ms. Dora Williamson, Gregg Olsen has outed the worst of the crime in his book. The injustice one feels while reading through the pages, almost screams for a retrial in modern times, although evidence, witnesses and time are against the case. Had forensics been what they are today during the trial, one wonders what would have truly been uncovered during the sensational trial of the “Starvation Heights” sanitarium and the unorthodox methods of its founder and “medical expert”.

I loved this book, hated it and wanted more all at the same time. It was hard to put down, but not one someone could consider “light reading”, although the sensation of it can make you feel as though you are sitting in the courtroom listening to the testimony. This book is definitely worth a go!

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