No Place Like Murder

No Place Like Murder

True Crime in the Midwest
Janis Thornton, foreword by Larry Sweazy and Ray E. Boomhower
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/29/2020
Format: Hardback 38 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-05277-3
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A modern retelling of 20 sensational true crimes, No Place Like Murder reveals the inside details behind nefarious acts that shocked the Midwest between 1869 and 1950. The stories chronicle the misdeeds, examining the perpetrators' mindsets, motives, lives, apprehensions, and trials, as well as what became of them long after.
True crime author Janis Thornton profiles notorious murderers such as Frankie Miller, who was fed up when her fiancé stood her up for another woman. As fans of the song "Frankie and Johnny" already know, Frankie met her former lover at the door with a shotgun.
Thornton's tales reveal the darker side of life in the Midwest, including the account of Isabelle Messmer, a plucky young woman who dreamed of escaping her quiet farm-town life. After she nearly took down two tough Pittsburgh policemen in 1933, she was dubbed "Gun Girl" and went on to make headlines from coast to coast. In 1942, however, after a murder conviction in Texas, she vowed to do her time and go straight. Full of intrigue and revelations, No Place Like Murder also features such folks as Chirka and Rasico, the first two Hoosier men to die in the electric chair after they brutally murdered their wives in 1913. The two didn't meet until their fateful last night.
An enthralling and chilling collection, No Place Like Murder is sure to thrill true crime lovers.

Author Bio

Janis Thornton is the Indiana-based author of the true crime story Too Good a Girl; two cozy mysteries, Dust Bunnies & Dead Bodies and Dead Air & Double Dare; and a stand-alone mystery, Love, Lies, and Azure Eyes. In addition, she has produced three pictorial-history books in the Images of America series, highlighting Indiana’s Tipton County and the cities of Elwood and Frankfort.
She is a member of the national Sisters in Crime organization and its Indianapolis chapter, the Authors Guild, the Indianapolis Writers Center, and the Tipton County Historical Society.
To see more of her work, visit, Twitter (@JanisThornton), and Facebook (


"Janis Thornton has combed the police blotters of the cities and towns of Indiana and turned up several dozen tales of 19th- and early 20th-century crime and punishment, sensational tales. These she tells in a fast-moving style full of the sort of grisly detail that satisfies the ghoul within each of us, and full also of the historical context and scene-setting that satisfies the would-be time traveler within each of us."

 (Will Higgins, journalist and conceptual artist)

"Today's world guarantees no shortage of true crime. But it would be a real crime if you missed Janis Thornton's latest book. It's just that good. Highly recommended."

 (Wes Gehring, author of Hitchcock and Humor)

"With thorough research and succinct summaries, author Janis Thornton shares fascinating murder cases from Indiana history. You've probably never heard of them before now, but you won't quit thinking about them later."

 (Donna Cronk, writer , New Castle Courier-Times)

"Janis Thornton wittily describes heretofore unheralded true crime stories from Indiana's small towns. She includes the details readers want and provides insight into why killers did what they did."

 (Keven McQueen, author of New England Nightmares, Horror in the Heartland, and Weird Wild West)

"A fascinating journey through the history of the Midwest's most heinous murders. Beautifully written, well researched, and not to be missed. This engrossing collection of historical Midwest murders reads like a thriller. True crime at its best. I couldn't put it down. A blow-by-blow account of the Midwest's most horrific murders, some shocking, some strange, all of them truly fascinating. A powerful true crime memoir. Thornton has penned a non-stop read."

 (Susan Furlong, bestselling author)

"Janis Thornton really knows how to bring life to true crime events. Her No Place Like Murder not only accurately captures the time and the place of the murders but also gives us real insight into the dastardly motives of the killers. Well done!"

 (Tony Perona, author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series and co-author of the Bucket List mystery series)

"No Place Like Murder is a true crime junkie's dream come true. Through her pictorial descriptions of time and place, Janis breathes life into every victim and every felon as though they are your contemporary friends, neighbors, and foes. Impeccably researched, this book is a bewitching historic glimpse of some of the lesser known, but equally ghastly Indiana murders that will leave you questioning your position on crime and punishment. "

 (Nicole Kobrowski, owner of

"Janis Thornton's latest book, No Place Like Indiana, eschews the charming myths of Hoosier life in the mid-1800s to -1900s. Instead she introduces us to delightfully wicked true crimes of our state covering a hundred year or so period—a wonderful recounting of murders that made headline back in their day. Through Thornton we meet murdering mothers-in-law, watch family quarrels go very bad indeed, and get to know such unforgettable characters as Isabelle Messmer, the spitfire blonde from Elwood, Indiana, known nationwide as the "Gun Girl." Thornton's tales are a slice of history, life as it was lived back then, and also, the most compelling, an examination of human emotions and the dark paths they can lead us down."

 (Jane Ammeson, author of How to Murder Your Wealthy Lovers and Get Away with It)

"When it comes to murder, nothing has changed over the centuries. The killers of today are the same as they were long ago. As proof of this theory, consider the true crime cases in Thornton's book, Not Place Like Murder. This provocative, intriguing, and compelling collection is a great read for those who are fascinated with the drama of real life and local history. Some of the stories will disturb and anger you—he murders of children!—but make no mistake, you will want to keep reading!"

 (Jama Kehoe Bigger, Executive Director, Midwest Writers Workshop)

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Table of Contents


PART I: All in the Family
1. The Mysterious Death of Belle Shenkenberger
2. The Liberation of Nora Coleman
3. ‘Sweet Dreams, Mother’
PART II: Wife Killers
4. Dan Snider and the Strychnine Solution
5. The Case of the Drowsy Uxoricidist
6. Death on Maish Road
7. Chirka and Rasico
PART III: To Err Can Be Murder
8. Manhunt for the In-law Outlaws
9. The Black Sheep of Goldsmith
PART IV: Loved to Death
10. He Was Her Man, But He Done Her Wrong
11. Fairy’s Grim Tale of the Murder on LaFountain
PART V: Deadly Decisions
12. Murder on Anderson and Main
13. The Strawtown Murders
14. Murder Unbecoming a Hero
PART VI: Worst of the Worst
15. The Awful Crime of Jesse McClure
16. Massacre on Laughery Creek
PART VII: Local Legends
17. The Legend of Kokomo Mayor H.C. Cole
18. Gun Girl
PART VIII: Unsolved but Unforgotten
19. Murder Most Foul
20. The Strange Death of Garnet Ginn