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A Twist at the End: A Novel of O. Henry and the Texas Servant Girl Murders of 1885 by [Saylor, Steven]
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A Twist at the End: A Novel of O. Henry and the Texas Servant Girl Murders of 1885 Kindle Edition


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Length: 580 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Product Description

Best known for his acclaimed mystery fiction set in ancient Rome, in A TWIST AT THE END Steven Saylor delivers a stunning historical novel about America’s first recorded serial murders—the Austin, Texas servant girl murders of 1885—artfully blending real characters and true crime into an engrossing work of fiction.

The city of Austin, Texas, “is fearfully dull,” wrote young Will Porter to a friend in the spring of 1885, “except for the frequent raids of the Servant Girl Annihilators, who make things lively in the dead of night.”

Years later, Will Porter would become the most famous writer in America— O. Henry, the toast of New York. The long-ago Austin servant girl murders would remain unsolved. But behind the O. Henry pen name, Will Porter was a man with secrets. The appearance of a merciless blackmailer and a mysterious stranger draw Porter back into the past, and back to Texas, to confront the twisted solution to those murders—and the secrets of his own soul.

When he was a young man in Austin in that spring of 1885, Porter fell in love. Her name was Eula Phillips. She was beautiful. She was married to someone else. And she was doomed to be a victim of the Servant Girl Annihilators.

The first victims were young Black women who worked in the households of Austin's most prominent citizens. The crimes were unspeakable, as the killer or killers used an ax and—in the newspaper parlance of the day—“outraged” the victims even as they were dying or already dead. The authorities were baffled. The murders continued, month after month, until suddenly, shockingly, on a bloody Christmas Eve, the pattern changed—and the trial that resulted would uncover an explosive scandal of sex and power that would tear the city of Austin apart.

The scene of these crimes was a capitol city in uneasy transition. On the wooded hills where outlaw gangs and Comanche Indians recently roamed now stood the grand homes of cattle barons and university professors. The animosities of the Civil War still lingered, and the struggle of Blacks for equality was just beginning. By day, politicians in the state legislature debated equal rights for women; by night, those same politicians mingled with the prostitutes of Guy Town, the city's notorious vice district. Southern manners concealed ugly secrets, all of which would be revealed before the saga of the Servant Girl Annihilators reached its end.

Against this remarkably rich and previously untapped background, Steven Saylor has crafted a novel that melds fact with fiction, employing characters both real and imagined. The crimes and trials described in "A Twist at the End" actually happened, and are described in intricate detail. In real life, no satisfactory resolution was reached. But in the course of investigating the crimes, Saylor has come up with his own startling conclusion to a century-old mystery. The result is a masterful novel of intrigue and murder, yet at the same time a romance of time and place, with a colorful cast of memorable characters brought vividly to life. It's a true tale of Texas, grand in both setting and scope.

"A riveting historical mystery...It’s all fascinating and provocative.” (New York Times Book Review)

“One of the mystery genre’s most inventive writers has turned his considerable talents—and his considerable ambition—to Austin, Texas, in 1885...The result is a worthwhile, engrossing, deftly written novel...Throughout, Saylor brings to bear his remarkable ability to evoke a vanished time.” (Sunday Oregonian)

"Saylor, a veteran of the historical novel, navigates these rapids with confident skill...Better still, in the manner of O. Henry himself, he saves a cunning twist for the end.” (Washington Post Book World)

“Saylor writes with a flawless hand perfectly matched to his story’s time and place." (Austin Chronicle)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3345 KB
  • Print Length: 580 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312980663
  • Publisher: Roma Sub Rosa Press (26 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00KLBHYVQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #297,422 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read for Austin Resident 20 September 2016
By Cristen Hewett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I live in Austin, Texas so thoroughly enjoyed reading about my city back in 1885. I knew O'Henry lived in Austin but never knew he was here during the infamous Servant Girl Murders so learned a great deal about the murders and Austin in general. I now need to make an effort to visit the O'Henry and Elizabeth Ney museums. :-) The story itself was engaging but I felt the final chapter dragged a bit and the ending was far-fetched...although I realize fictional. Still overall a fun read and I would recommend -- especially to a fellow Austinite
4.0 out of 5 stars I live in Austin and found that Saylor's description of ... 21 January 2016
By Marilyn Heath - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I live in Austin and found that Saylor's description of events and characters was based on facts and actual events. The mysterious men who traveled through Austin at the time of murders were fictitious, however. Although the mystery was never historically solved, Saylor's solution was quite remarkable.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of Austin at the turn of the century 22 November 2016
By Aimée - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Book indeed has a Twist at the End. Story kept me on edge. Hard to put down. Story surrounds servant girl murders in Austin Texas. Excellent history of Austin at the turn of the century. Would recommend buying this book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! 22 November 2001
By Kay Kelly - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I thought I might not enjoy this as much as Saylor's Roman novels, but it totally blew me away. Unlike some other reviewers here, I found it a riveting page-turner. I loved the Texas history, and the ending came as a stunning surprise.
I'm puzzled by the Amazon.com reviewer's saying the opening featured a great twist, while the end didn't. For me, the title of the opening section made clear what was happening (and I can't believe Saylor didn't realize it would). As for the end, I'd considered several possible suspects--it helped that I didn't know which characters were real and which fictional. But I never foresaw the thrilling finale. I could see on a rereading that there had been clues, questions about this character; but then, just as Saylor intended, I'd been given so many other things to think about that I'd forgotten how odd the person was.
My one small regret was learning from the Notes that some details and characters I had hoped were real were fictional. But I'm glad Saylor played fair with readers by telling us.
5.0 out of 5 stars This was the second time I've read the book -- a great read, doubly so because it is based on ... 24 January 2016
By Jean A. Samples - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I went to high school and college in Austin and am an O.Henry fan. This was the second time I've read the book -- a great read, doubly so because it is based on actual events in Austin and in O.Henry's life.