Book Review: Glensheen’s Daughter, The Marjorie Congdon Story

congdon manse.gifFor many years, I lived in the Minneapolis and loved visiting Duluth. On one of our visits, when it was one hundred degrees below zero, I am not kidding, we visited Glensheen, the mansion turned museum of the millionaire Congdon family. During the tour, they would not discuss any details of the double murder of the heiress, Elizabeth Congdon or her nurse, Velma Pietela. I am not sure if it was out of courtesy because the manse was donated to the U of MN who ran the tours, or legal implications, but it always left me wondering. We were standing on the edge of a famous crime scene, but no one would talk about it. “Yes, Virginia, there are two elephants in the room, dead elephants, but no one is talking about them. Aren’t the chandeliers delightful?”

Sharon Darby Hendry must have worn hip waders to read through all of the transcripts (4000 pages) from multiple trials that lasted months. She also thoroughly researched background information. I appreciated her level of attention to detail without boring the reader with it. She sifted carefully.

The book is about more than just the initial murders, but the life of Marjorie, Elizabeth’s adopted daughter, who went on to commit many other crimes, always lying and manipulating and getting less than what justice would require.

If this had been a work of fiction, I would have put it down after fifty pages, but the amazing thing is that Marjorie really lived and really did all of these things, and probably more things. A quick internet search shows that she is still alive somewhere. That is even creepier.

If you are into profiling, mental health issues, Minnesota history, or lives of the rich and famous, you will enjoy this book.

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