One of the odd things about being a crime author is that your research takes you into all sorts of areas you'd usually never venture. In the course of her writing, having set all her books in Boston, Lisa Gardner has inadvertantly discovered some of the best places in the city to successfully hide a body.
In the 1970s, South Boston was home to one of Boston’s most notorious Irish gangsters, Whitey Bulger. Whitey ran his own organized criminal operations, while also working as an informant for the Feds, ratting out his Italian rivals. After spending sixteen years on the run as one of America’s Most Wanted, Bulger was finally found guilty of multiple counts of murder, extortion and racketeering. Most law enforcement experts, however, believe those charges represent merely the tip of his full criminal iceberg. In fact, I had a medical examiner once tell me she would probably spend the rest of her career digging up bodies left behind by Bulger’s reign of terror. Having said that, Southie is now some of the most valuable and desirable property in Boston. Great Irish pubs, decent schools, and waterfront real estate. It really is lovely!
Boston State Hospital
A hundred-year old asylum plunked down in the middle of one of the most densely populated neighborhoods of Boston before being shutered in 1987, the property has everything a good mystery hunter would like. Creepy abandoned buildings. Long roster of troubled inmates. Rumors of cover ups involving various heinous crimes that may or may not have occurred while the facility was still in operation. Personally, I found the site of the abandoned hospital perfect for hiding six mummified remains in my novel Hide. And after talking to at least one of the nurses who worked at the asylum, I stand by my underground pit of human remains. To be fair, the vast acreage is now being redeveloped. At least some of the old hospital buildings have been torn down and half of the property is now a nature park for the Audubon Society. Yep, long winding trails through dark copses of trees, across land once roamed by shadowy lunatics. Go for a walk. I dare you.
There’s a reason all those old gangster movies talk about sleeping with the fishes. Discovered in 1614 by John Smith, Boston Harbor has a long history of being one of America’s most important harbors and one of its more notorious ones. From unchecked pollution that in 1966 inspired a local hit song, Dirty Water (still played at Red Sox games), to yes, a favorite dumping site during the Irish gangster/Italian mob wars, it’s been one busy harbor. Of course, a major cleanup effort has resulted in significant improvements in water quality. Fishing and swimming is now permitted. As for what you might find, still encased in concrete at the bottom...
Famous for its long rows of elegant townhouses (often referred to as brownstones), Newbury Street has long served as a haven for the wealthy in downtown Boston. Of course, just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you don’t have secrets. Periodically, renovations on the historic homes have yielded some startling discoveries, from a skeleton in a chimney to human remains in the attic. Personally, I love to stroll past the stately residences on a beautiful fall day, and ponder what might still be hidden behind that spiral staircase there, that wall of horsehair plaster here, or that back flagstone patio, still awaiting repair...
So yes, come to Boston. Visit the pubs of Southie, enjoy the beautiful waterfront, take a walk with the birds, and definitely stroll down Newbury Street. It’s a gorgeous, historic city. And it still has many secrets to share...
Lisa Gardner's new book, Crash & Burn, has just been published in paperback.