Helen Brach the heiress to the Brach candy fortune disappeared into thin air in 1977 and was never heard from again. Throughout the years this case has been examined and reexamined countless times. Books have been written, made for TV movies, and so on have all speculated about what really happened to the “Candy Lady”.
This case not only placed the spotlight on Helen's disappearance and obvious murder, but on the horse racing industry in the Chicago area. When Helen met a man named Bailey, a notorious womanizer and con man, he lured her into the horse business as part of his con. Bailey also lured a horse vet, a man knowledgeable about the sleazy underbelly of the industry, into one of his cons. In the end Bailey would go to prison, Helen would be dead, and the vet would become an informant.
But, that is not the whole story. There were actually two possible scenarios and it is entirely possible that the man sitting in prison for Helen's murder did not commit the crime.
As it turns out, Helen's Houseman was the last person to see her alive. Jack Matlick was also a con man and hung with some really rough characters who were part of the “Chicago Horse Mafia”. When Helen realized she was being scammed she had to be silenced. This group of people really had more to lose than Bailey and the explanation for Matlick's involvement makes a lot of sense. So, why did the FBI stick with Bailey?
Bailey's attempt to swindle another wealthy lady and his bringing in Ross Hugi, a horse vet who had often looked the other way when he saw horses being drugged, abused, and used in insurance scams, would wind up putting him on the FBI's radar. While Bailey was absolutely a criminal and certainly deserved a jail sentence, there really wasn't much evidence he committed murder, nothing solid, and without a body, it was really a hard case to prove.
In this book the author outlines the case against Bailey, and the case against Matlick. While it seems he spent more time on Bailey's side of things, that is because the case against him was not all that open and shut. It does seem plausible he had something to do with Helen's death, but, the case against Matlick was far more convincing and made more sense to me.
This book is short and merely outlines the case against the two primary suspects. The entire industry the case is centered around is portrayed as sleazy and filled with shady characters and racketeering. If you are unfamiliar with this case, and that is entirely possible since it is over 35 years old, you will be shocked at the extent of animal cruelty, making some passages very difficult to read, and the way Bailey conned so many women, some who were practically on their deathbed. While older, very wealthy women are still thought of as “Pigeons”, I would like to think women aren't as vulnerable to this type of guy in modern times.
This book doesn't go into many courtroom details and minute investigative procedures, like many true crime books do. The author confesses to having spent numerous years working on this case, and so I did find it a little odd that the book was so short after having spent all that time gathering information. However, it would appear the author's main goal was to briefly present the case against two men, and ultimately allow the reader to determine which person committed the crime. Despite its brevity, the book is still really interesting and the case shone a harsh light on horse racing the general population found shocking. To this day the body of Helen Brach has never been found and it is debatable if the real killer is sitting behind bars. A cold case? An unsolved mystery? You decide.
Over all this one is a 3.5 for me.
Thirty-five years ago, Helen Brach walked out of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and vanished without a trace. By all accounts, the 65-year-old heiress to the E.J. Brach & Sons candy fortune was in good heath. But shortly after her leaving the clinic the details of Helen Brach's life—and presumed death—moved from fact to speculation, and they have been shrouded in mystery ever since.
Who Killed the Candy Lady?: Unwrapping the Unsolved Murder of Helen Brach is the true and complete story of Helen Vorhees Brach's mysterious disappearance and unsolved murder, as told by veteran Chicago journalist Jim Ylisela. This book will reveal the sordid facts behind the case and the seedy underbelly of Chicago's notorious crime world. Drawing from never-seen documents, interviews, and insiders' perspectives of prosecutors, horse thieves, and candy heiresses alike, Who Killed the Candy Lady? is a true-to-life whodunnit.
This is a fascinating and entertaining tale, and after finishing it readers will be unable to stop themselves from jumping to their own conclusions. Written with the straightforward precision and sly wit of a longtime Chicago writer immersed in the case's details, Who Killed the Candy Lady? is the ultimate guide to this unsolved murder mystery.