House of Horrors by Nigel Cawthorne

Opening Sentence:In 1984, two weeks after the end of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, a young woman in a small town in Austria was drugged, dragged into a cellar and repeatedly raped by her own father.
Synopsis:In the quiet Austrian town of Amstetten in the balmy spring of 2008, a truly horrifying vision of hell was discovered by police in the cellar of normal suburban home. Over the next few days, in what turned out to be one of the worst cases in Austrian criminal history, a shocking story of incarceration and sexual abuse gradually came to light, disgusting the entire civilised world and raising many questions about the depths to which human depravity can sink.

On 28 August 1984, seemingly respectable family man Josef Fritzl had lured his 18-year-old daughter Elisabeth into the cellar of their family home, where he then drugged and handcuffed her in a windowless dungeon he’d spent years constructing. For the next 24 years Josef held his daughter captive in unimaginable conditions and repeatedly raped her. Seven children were born from the perverted union. Three were imprisoned with their mother, never seeing the light of day until they were released in April 2008. Three others were taken to live as the adopted or fostered children of Josef and his unwitting wife Rosemarie. One poor infant, dying soon after birth, was incinerated by the monster. When the eldest child, Kerstin, was admitted to hospital with multiple organ failure, Josef’s sickening web of incest and abuse was uncovered by the authorities.

This is the full and utterly disturbing, true story of what happened in those underground chambers of horror.
Genre:True Crime
Comments:I was kind of surprised that a book about the Fritzl’s was published so soon. The author certainly didn’t waste any time! We all saw the news about this poor woman and her children, but the truth is much more horrifying than even the media hype. The nightmare life these people were forced to endure for twenty-four years would have sent many people insane, but Elisabeth managed to survive with enough presence of mind to seize her chance at escaping.

House of Horrors is not an enjoyable read, but it is an informative one. The author has shown sensitivity to the emotional and psychological needs of the victims by refraining from publishing intimate details of the crime (unlike the paparazzi, who insist on imposing on their privacy) and the book is written in a casual style that makes it easy to read.

Whether you are interested in true crime or simply wish to learn about this particular case, this book is worth reading.

Categories: Impressions

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1 reply


  1. Books I Read In October 2008 « Rafferty's Rules

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