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July 17, 2018

4/4/2018 1:38:00 PM
The Wife of the 'Devil' 'A Competent Witness: Georgiana Yoke And the Trial of H. H. Holmes'

Evanston author Judith Nickels' first novel looks beyond the monstrous killer lurking in the shadows of Erik Larson's “Devil in the White City” to tell the story of his wife. “A Competent Witness: Georgiana Yoke and the Trial of H. H. Holmes” was named a 2017 Best Book for Indie Historical Fiction by Kirkus Reviews.

Ms. Nickels grew up in Evanston/Skokie and graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1974. A reference librarian in the northern suburbs for more than 30 years, she became interested in Georgiana Yoke when asked by the Lake Bluff History Museum to investigate Ms. Yoke’s connection to Lake Bluff.

She says the project “hooked” her on Ms. Yoke and her family. As she continued to delve into the life and ancestry of her subject, it was the misinformation about Ms. Yoke that eventually gave Ms. Nickels the idea of writing a book to set the record straight.

Rather than the prostitute or conspirator she was often portrayed, Ms. Yoke was from a hard-working, religious and very respectable Indiana family, Ms. Nickels discovered. The men at the department store where she worked after her move to Chicago much admired her. No one was surprised when a rich, charismatic entrepreneur chose to marry her.

But Ms. Yoke’s “good catch” turned out to be the sociopath and murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes.   

The novel takes a revisionist view of the infamous murders, telling the story as it unfolded to Georgiana Yoke, the innocent wife of the man who would one day be called America's first serial killer.

For more information on the book, please see

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