Book Review: The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks

The Lindbergh Nanny
Mariah Fredericks

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s hard for me to resist a story about the Lindbergh kidnapping and I enjoyed reading this historical fiction account of Betty Goss, the nanny who took care of the Lindbergh baby and was the last person to see him alive. If you’re not familiar with the kidnapping, here’s a quick summary.

On March 1, 1932, in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, Charlie Lindbergh, toddler son of the famous aviator Charles and his wife Anne, was asleep in his crib when someone climbed a ladder, came through the window to his nursery and kidnapped him. Two months later, a trucker discovered his partially buried body on the side of a nearby road. In September 1934, police arrested a German immigrant carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann and charged him with murder. Hauptman insisted he was innocent, but a jury found him guilty and he was electrocuted in 1936.

Betty came under a great deal of scrutiny because she had left the window to Charlie’s room open on the night of the kidnapping. Police and investigators felt strongly that it was an inside job, that someone had told the kidnapper that the Lindberghs would be home that night and suggested that Betty left the window open to allow access to the room. But Betty wasn’t the only person under suspicion. Police questioned and requestioned many members of the staff who worked for the Lindberghs as well as the Morrows, Anne’s family. Police also investigated Betty’s past, suggested she was connected to the Chicago mafia and were suspicious of her relationship with a young Norwegian sailor.

Fredericks does a good job describing the lives of the super-wealthy Morrows and Lindberghs and the lively, sometimes scandalous relationships between the Morrows’ butler, chauffeur, maids and servers, as well as the Lindbergh’s cook and caretaker. Readers also get a look at what Charles and Anne were like as new parents. Charles insisted on a strict hands-off parenting style and felt that too much affection and attention was a bad thing.

I liked how the author described their lives before the kidnapping, during the investigation and at the trial where Betty was called to testify. I also liked how the author tells the story through Betty’s point of view. In her closing notes about the book, Fredericks talks about her fascination with the Lindbergh kidnapping and her interest in writing about Betty Goss. “When I first started exploring the identity of the actual Lindbergh nurse (the term then preferred over ‘nanny’), I was amazed no one had written her story since it first appeared in the headlines nearly a century ago.”

I was going to give this a 3.5 star rating because at times, I had trouble following parts that described Betty’s movements and thoughts. But the story picked up a great deal during the trial and totally surprised me with a possible explanation of how the kidnapping occurred and who was responsible. Definitely speculative, but we will never know the true story.

There is plenty of information about the kidnapping online and you can start with this Wikipedia account. In addition, if you’d like to read more, check out these two books, the first reviewed by my sister, K (thanks K!).

Their Fifteen Minutes: Biographical Sketches of the Lindbergh Case by Mark W. Falzini

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

35 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks

    1. Yes, and although I wasn’t around when it happened, because I’m from New Jersey and my families were too, I’ve always known about it. Thanks for the visit 🙂

  1. Barb — glad the book picked up and moved up from 3.5 stars
    I think historical fiction has much value and I am especially curious about “The Aviator’s wife” now – hmmmm
    Ana’s partly because we just watched the movie called The Aviator – about Howard Hughes – a much different story

    1. Oh yes, I watched that movie! Yes a much different story, but equally intriguing. I agree that historical fiction has much value. I think schools should use it more to teach kids about history – in a way that would engage them. Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Early in my years as a pilot I was fascinated by Lindbergh. This sounds like a good book, Barbara. It has never occurred to me before that she might have fallen under suspicion. Her life afterward must have been difficult. Thanks for the suggestion – adding it to my list!

    1. Hi Lynette – it was terrible the way they criticized her for leaving the window cracked open and the wild speculation about her connection to the Chicago mafia. I think her court appearance vindicated her in the public’s eye. It’s a fascinating story. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. It was a very sad, terrible thing, and despite the fact that Lindbergh was 100% a fascist, Hitler-loving, Nazi, I still feel sad about what happened. Not sure I want to read this though… it is on my “maybe” list for now.

    1. Hi Davida – yes, the book did not cover Lindbergh’s support of fascists and Nazis, those years came later so any mention would have been historically inaccurate. Although the author did include one brief conversation about Hitler – more just a comment Lindbergh made. And she didn’t portray him as terribly likable – he had a cruelish side to him in the story. At this point in time, however, Lindbergh was an American hero. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Such a tragedy! I can only think what I’d go through if my grandson were kidnapped and then… I wish the police then had the tools that modern police have. They would have solved it.

    1. Hi Noelle – I think you’re right on all counts. It was a terrible tragedy for the family. Makes me glad I’m not famous – the attention is too much. Investigators today would have had a lot more resources. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Tim, yes, being from New Jersey, my family has been interested in this story for decades, so I couldn’t resist when I saw a new book about it. And also yes, the author did a great deal of research. Thank you for stopping by!

  5. This sounds like such an interesting read, Barb. I enjoy historical fiction, and the speculation about who done it is intriguing. The “why” is so compelling to me. Thanks for sharing the book and your review.

    1. Hi Diana – thank you for stopping by! I enjoyed reading The Lindbergh Nanny. And yes, the “why” always makes me want to understand the crime. I’m not sure they got the right guy, but we will probably never know. It was interesting to me to read about the crime from the nanny’s point of view.

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