STARRED REVIEW
January 2017

A forgotten detective’s story

By Brad Ricca
In 1917, the disappearance of an 18-year-old girl named Ruth Cruger caught the nation’s attention. Wearing her blue winter coat and a floppy hat, the recent high school graduate left her family’s Harlem apartment to run errands on a cold February day. At first her family assumed Ruth had gone ice skating, since she’d left with her skates in hopes of getting them sharpened.
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In 1917, the disappearance of an 18-year-old girl named Ruth Cruger caught the nation’s attention. Wearing her blue winter coat and a floppy hat, the recent high school graduate left her family’s Harlem apartment to run errands on a cold February day. At first her family assumed Ruth had gone ice skating, since she’d left with her skates in hopes of getting them sharpened.

But hours later, as the skies darkened and snow fell, Ruth still hadn’t returned home. Retracing Ruth’s steps, her sister tracked down the motorcycle shop where Ruth had left her skates, run by a man named Alfredo Cocchi. A few days later he, too, had vanished.

Police detectives got busy—to no avail. Although they searched Cocchi’s shop, they found nothing. More than two weeks later, authorities concluded that Ruth had simply run away from home. Unwilling to give up, the Crugers hired a lawyer and detective named Grace Humiston, who didn’t rest until the case was solved, months later, with the discovery that Ruth had indeed been murdered at Cocchi’s hands.

Brad Ricca’s account reads like a fictional detective story, with the fascinating figure of Humiston at the center. Although she later faded from public view, Humiston remained dedicated to crimes involving women and girls, even publishing a magazine entitled New Justice, aimed at the protection of girls.

Ricca, a filmmaker and expert on comics, brings an interest in popular culture and media to his narrative, much of which had to be pieced together from newspaper accounts. Ricca’s dramatic, novelistic storytelling makes for a great read. And thanks to his detective work, Humiston and her remarkable commitment to justice have been rescued from obscurity and brought to life.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Mrs. Sherlock Holmes

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes

By Brad Ricca
St. Martin's
ISBN 9781250072245

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