Pulse: 60-Second Critic: Nonfiction

Boy in the Box: The Unsolved Case of America’s Unknown Child
By David Stout (Lyons Press; $16.95)

In his fifth book, New York Times reporter Stout recounts Philly’s most infamous unsolved mystery: an unidentified dead boy found naked, beaten and left in a cardboard box in the city’s Fox Chase neighborhood. The story has been reported and re-reported since the day the boy was found in 1957 — garnering a new generation’s attention a decade ago when the body was exhumed for DNA testing — but Stout weaves old details with fresh interviews for a riveting account of the investigators (including Philly’s legendary Vidocq Society) who dedicated themselves to the case, and their theories. A large cast of characters may overwhelm the reader, and multiple asides about other child murders seem gratuitous at times, but the book nevertheless envelops the reader with a timelessly, tragically engaging story.