By Strauss, Alix
Harper Paperbacks, $14.99, 325 pages

Looking for a grisly, gruesome, yet morbidly fascinating read?  By its very nature dark and disturbing, Alix Strauss’s Death Becomes Them won’t appeal to everybody, but for those willing to come along for the ride, it’s a compelling and original book that explores the suicides of the rich, famous, and notorious.

“Suicide and darkness have long plagued the ultra-creative. Their self-destructive vices and passion for excess follow them like a trail of empty bottles, and often beg the chicken or egg question. Is it their sadness that makes them so brilliantly creative, or does their brilliance and ability to create induce their sadness?”

Strauss, a journalist and short-story author, has written the ultimate celebrity tell-all book: one which delves into the final days of famous troubled and tortured souls ranging from Sylvia Plath to Vincent Van Gogh to Kurt Cobain and Hunter S. Thompson.  Not only does she recount the methods of their suicides, she looks at the factors leading up to those fateful decisions, as well.

Troubling yet fascinating, Strauss weaves a compelling batch of vignettes, devoting no more than a handful of pages to each suicide, but they resonate with depth. Sigmund Freud, for instance, had a severe cigar habit that led to mouth cancer, with holes in his jaw making his final days sheer agony.  Facts like these help us to answer the biggest question of all, why?

Eerie, yet a genuine page-turner, Death Becomes Them is a must-read for anybody curious about death and able to handle the often dirty details that go along with it.

Reviewed by Mark Petruska