Author: Steve Shukis

ISBN-13: 978-0991193813

Publisher: Titletown Publishing, LLC

Arsenic is a metallic element that forms a number of poisonous compounds. Arsenic is found in nature. It can be found in compounds with oxygen, chorine and sulfur. These types of compounds are called inorganic arsenic compounds. When arsenic is in plants and animals it combines with carbon and hydrogen. This is noted as organic arsenic and is usually not as harmful as inorganic. The scary part is that most of these compounds have no smell or special taste. Some are used to preserve wood and others are used to make insecticides and weed killers. Imagine learning that the Food and Drug Administration released early results of an investigation of arsenic levels in rice. 

Arsenic is found in nature and in man-made products and even in some pesticides. Low levels are found in soil, water and air. The element is taken up by plans as they grow. This is startling as it means that arsenic makes it way into our food.

Imagine someone wanting to eliminate an entire family by finding a way to induce arsenic in their food or drink and the chemical goes unnoticed. Imagine long term exposure to low does of this causing the way a person’s cells communicate and reduces their ability to work or function. Even more frightening is the fact arsenic may be present in water that comes from privately owned wells, which contain higher levels. So, what if you put some in vegetables, grains or even mushrooms? What about rice? There are two types of arsenic: Organic and inorganic each one just as deadly. Believe it or not bother organic and foods that are regularly grown may contain arsenic. 

Herman Billik was said to be a Bohemian fortuneteller and quite familiar with arsenic and arsenic poisoning. Herman was accused and indicted on six counts of murder because he decided to kill several members of the Vrzal family. Each one dying of different causes masking the fact that someone had given them small yet frequent doses of arsenic. Billik was deemed and noted for committing these crimes as I continue with my review of Poisoned by author Steve Shukis a chilling, frightening story that features a sadistic, coldblooded and cruel serial killer. Chicago in the early 1900’s with its corrupt politicians, newly elected Mayor and brand new investigative detective. As we meet each one of the characters and learn the history behind the murders and the deaths of each of the members of this family, we hear the voice of Herman Billik denying his guilt. But, yet Herman managed to bilk thousands of dollars out of Rose Vzral stating that he would repay her as soon as he poisoned and killed his wife and mother. Six murders all dying of different causes yet only one the real cause. Fortuneteller or murderer swearing that he’s innocent except of milking Rose dry of her funds. But with testimonies by Jerry Vzral that allows readers to hear first hand the diabolical plot that he has created and the elaborate way he attempted to cover up what he had done the author describes in detail through the many testimonies the character of Herman Billik, his son Herman Jr. whose inconsistencies within his testimony make you wonder whose side he’s on and the testimony of Benjamin Parkinson will make you shiver.

Jerry Vrzal the young teenager who actually watched his parents and sisters die a slow death. Escaping his own death and winding up given medicine by someone close to Billik, getting sick, he was lucky to escape. Emma Niemann was spared, as was Bertha. But, Tillie, Rosa, Ella, Mary and Martin were not so lucky. Edna Billik after hearing the story about another young girls’ father and how he was found innocent, the judge refuses to allow any sentiment, and emotional upheavals during this trial. As Edna tries to save her father from death, Father P.J. O’Callaghan makes it his goal to find him innocent but why? Enter Inspector George M. Shippy and many other investigators whose methods of solving crimes and confessions are quite unorthodox. 

The two lawyers for the defense are inexperienced and no match for the prosecuting team. Francis Hinckley one young attorney went more than just the extra mile to help his client but was totally convinced he was innocent. So, who killed all of those people and others that will soon be uncovered? Who was so diabolical that they might just get away with murder? Inspector Shippy, State Attorney Popham, Judge Barnes and the state attorney who oversaw the case Healy, each working hard to execute this man not really concerned about guilt or innocence. Sentencing, reprieves, lost hope and one little girl named Edna whose courage and belief in her father holds him together. Rallies, Supreme Court battles and no end in sight as author Steve Shukis’s research, his understanding of the crime and his account will send chills down your spine. Governors on the take, politicians concerned with their own rewards, and one man’s life hangs in the balance as Emma and Jerry’s lies come to light but nothing changes. Courtroom scenes that are compelling, witnesses that admit they lied, evidence that was never discovered, coroners that cut corners and an ending you just won’t believe. Listen to the evidence and you decide: Is Herman Billik guilty?

Follow Here To Purchase Poisoned: Chicago 1907, a Corrupt System, an Accused Killer, and the Crusade to Save Him