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A true-crime murder mystery in Kenosha.

A well-liked businessman goes missing. Digging into his life, police learn of extramarital affairs and a connection to organized crime. An informant’s tip turns up his body, but the case dissolves into an investigative purgatory where nothing is solved. It’s a familiar story because it’s a hallmark of so many midcentury true crime tales from the underworlds of New York, Chicago and occasionally Milwaukee. But what about Kenosha? That question is the focus of Shallow Grave: The Unsolved Crime That Shook The Midwest (Barricade), the latest from mafia expert Gavin Schmitt. The titular grave belongs to Anthony Biernat, a vending machine supplier whose livelihood becomes entangled with dangerous men orbiting between Milwaukee and Chicago. After he disappears in 1963, Biernat’s kidnapping and murder reveal a thriving network of criminal enterprise, and the investigations spill over into a John Doe probe of municipal corruption. The dynamite story is painstakingly recounted through Schmitt’s research. So much background is pumped into the early chapters that the text threatens to overwhelm with its legions of characters and sprawling asides. But a compelling thread powers the final half to present a colorful narrative as the timeline flattens and Schmitt considers top suspects. It’s a dense read, but one that rewards invested readers.

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