Superb ... [White] is an acclaimed historian of the American West, and he knows the Stanfords’ deep history like the back of his hand ... White writes with clarity, precision and a bone-dry sense of humor. He was aided by his brother Stephen White, an author of crime fiction, in shaping the narrative, and the book sustains momentum through plots, counterplots and diversions. Crucially, White has a lifetime of experience piecing together whole truths from a tattered and incomplete set of sources; some of the best bits in this story come from White observing himself trying to solve the puzzle ... Jane Stanford is so very bad, she is good: When she finally died, two-thirds of the way through the book, I missed her ... Just the crooked cops in this story would be fodder for a miniseries. Throw in Jane’s wacky spiritualism and lavish outfits, corporate corruption, academic animosities, warring newspapers and more suspects than you’d find in an Agatha Christie novel, and you have enough material for a full season ... Who killed her? White thinks he knows, and reveals his choice toward the end, but the journey to his conclusion is so absorbing it almost doesn’t matter.
Thrilling ... A true-crime thriller, revivifying a very cold case and portraying the early decades of the university ... It’s astonishing that Jane Stanford’s murder went unacknowledged for so long, and it’s equally shocking to realize how unlikely the existence of today’s Stanford University...is at all ... White is well positioned to excavate this tale. He digs deep into papers from Stanford’s archives...for context and clues ... White concludes with a convincing case fingering a killer, plus accessories after the fact ... The book is a reminder that our origin stories shape our present — and though past events can’t be changed, our interpretation of them certainly can.
Jane Stanford’s poisoning remains one of the most dramatic unsolved murders of its day ... Mr. White is...a brilliant, acerbic guide into a world that resonates with the present ... Offering a detective story with more twists and turns than a Dashiell Hammett novel, Mr. White leads us through his research into the labyrinth ... But he fails to make us care much for any of this dastardly cast of characters—including the victim ... Who Killed Jane Stanford? puts to rest any lingering doubts that the university’s co-founder was, in fact, murdered ... Mr. White is an adept and engaging tour guide to this corrupt and vivid world, as well as to Jane Stanford’s devotion to spiritualism. I found myself envying the undergraduates in Mr. White’s classroom, in which he used the murder to teach historical research methods ... The subtitle of Mr. White’s book might as well have been 'Why she deserved what she got.' The result is that the narrative largely relegates its subject to the role of victim—rather than to her rightful place as the forceful woman who kept the university alive in its early years. That emphasis may, in part, be due to the incomplete or distorted material Mr. White had to work with ... Mr. White has done an astonishing job of sifting through the available clues—and turning up an impressive array of new details, including a mysterious pharmacist with shifting addresses ... Fascinating.
Combining a prosecutor’s zeal for uncovering evidence with a crime novelist’s flair for suspense, White shows that Stanford died from ingesting strychnine ... Exactly who gave her the lethal dose is the book’s central mystery, but far from its only revelation. The unsolved murder of the college’s founding matriarch, it turns out, is integral to understanding how Stanford eventually became one of the world’s great universities ... White makes a compelling case for why Jordan and the university’s trustees would want to be rid of their overbearing benefactor. But there were other suspects who also had strong motives ... The mystery is only solved—satisfactorily, if not definitively—in the final pages of White’s book.
White offers up a rollicking account of Jane Stanford’s final years and violent death, all set against the seamy San Francisco carnival culture of the era ... Although she is the story’s central character, White does not make much effort to understand Stanford’s behavior, the dynamics of her marriage or what drove her cruelty ... There’s pleasure in watching an author revel in his material. White has taken a deep dive into the archives, and he gleefully analyzes the conflicting testimony, newspaper accounts, Stanford documents, old city directories and memoirs written by the key players ... The conclusion is anticlimactic given that the signs have been pointing in this direction all along — although White does come up with the name of a plausible accomplice. Despite the catchy title, solving the murder isn’t really the point of this book. Instead, it’s an intriguing look at the sordid Gilded Age history of a respected and storied academic institution.
... richly detailed ... offers a meticulous account of both poisonings and names the murderer ... The depth of [Bremmer's] research into Jane’s death as well as 'the politics, power struggles, and scandals of Gilded Age San Francisco' is extraordinary—especially since relevant police and private detective documents were lost to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire ... Patient readers will thoroughly enjoy White’s precise accounts of Jane’s life and times. Others, not so much ... the author is so enamored of the historical period that his descriptions of San Francisco politicking and wrongdoing hamper the narrative flow.
Reading like a conversational history lecture in book form...White’s mostly captivating book chronicles the deception around the death of Jane Stanford ... He digs into the politics of the university’s founding, and it’s here that White at times gets bogged down in responding to all the questions presented by the mystery. Outside those chapters, though, this is an eminently clear, sharp, and readable account, featuring staccato sentences and breezy chapters. As he interrogates the past, White leaves the reader wondering if the truth is always in the answers.
True crime doesn’t come more stranger than fiction than the unsolved murder of Jane Stanford ... White...provides the fruits of decades of research and analysis, in what is likely to be the last word on the case, including a plausible solution ... This is an instant genre classic.
Bremmer’s account is notable for its clear prose and concision. No one doubts that better planning and global cooperation would have lessened the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Readers unfamiliar with climate change will encounter an excellent introduction to the science and tactics to combat it ... Bremmer...offers a vivid description of how the world is dealing with these crises—so far ineffectually. The author’s entirely reasonable solutions involve government action, self-sacrifice, and tolerance of opposing opinions, all of which are in short supply at the moment ... An expert analysis of several critical problems with sensible, if not likely, solutions.