Friday, 6 January 2016 Finishing Zero at the Bone

  • Zero at the Bone – The Playboy, The Prostitute, and The Murder of Bobby Greenlease
  • by John Heidenry
  • Publisher – St. Martin’s Press
  • Copyright – 2009
  • 211 pages

Rating – 8/10


Carl Austin Hall

Review – The 1953 kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease set of a storm of media coverage. Greenlease was the six-year-old son of a wealthy Kansas City car dealer. Bobby ‘s father, Robert Greenlease, subsequently paid $600,000 in ransom. But the case ended in tragedy when police found Bobby’s body buried in the yard of a home in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Killers

The home belonged to Bonnie Heady, a local woman who had fallen into alcoholism and prostitution. A man named Carl Austin Hall goaded Bonnie into the kidnapping and murder. The two villains are the main focus of John Heidenry’s Zero at the Bone. 

Hall was born into wealth, but had taken a wrong turn as a young man. Despite being written out of his mother’s will, he still received the bulk of her estate (after it first passed to another relative). Hall blew the entire fortune in about five years and ended up spending time in the Missouri pentitentiary. Hall was a morphine addict and (like Bonnie Heady) was a horrible alcoholic. He hoped that kidnapping Bobby Greenlease would put him back on easy street.

Heidenry’s Book

The strength of Zero at the Bone is its brevity. At just over 200 pages, the book flies by and never bogs down. But the brevity can also frustrate the reader. Carl and Bonnie remain – in many ways – mysteries to the reader at book’s end.

Heidenry chose a great topic. The story is consistently interesting. After the murder, Carl and Bonnie’s incompetent attempts to evade the police inevitably lead to their downfall. Also, Heidenry covers the mystery of what happened to the $600,000 ransom, which is a good story in and of itself. The book closes with the story of the Greenlease family, which – understandably – never recovered from the tragedy.

True-crime fans will enjoy Zero at the Bone. It’s a fascinating story that is well told by John Heidenry.




About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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