Book Reviews, Books

Book Review: Tried Three Times: The Karemendi Story by Celeste Yost (Crime Fiction, Based on a true story)

Book Review: Tried Three Times: The Karemendi Story by  Celeste Yost

By: Jeff and Rebecca Holland

Hello! My name is Rebecca. I am a pastor and author. I also write book reviews. Recently, my husband, Jeff, asked me to read a book with him and to help him write a review for our local historical society’s newsletter. The book was entitled Tried Three Times: The Karmendi Story. It was as short book and very interesting, but it was also incredibly sad. The following is the review that we wrote together. You can purchase your own copy of the book on Amazon (affiliate link).             

The cover of the book shows a large railroad spike

  Tried Three Times: The Karemendi Story is a novel based on real events. The author combines her own imagination with newspaper accounts and court transcripts to tell the story of how three-year-old Matthew Karemendi was murdered by his mother, Margaret Karemendi, and her lover, Roy Lockard,  in Altoona, Pennsylvania on April 21, 1936.

              The book is concise and holds the reader’s attention; however, it also sad and deeply troubling. It describes in vivid detail the murder of young Matthew, and sensitive readers should be aware that the story is graphic in nature. Although the story is shocking, it is of historical significance because it happened here in own relatively quiet corner of Central, Pennsylvania. Many of the places where the events took place remain unchanged. You can still visit the plot of land where the Karmendi house once stood and the place where the actual murder was committed still looks much the same as it did over seventy years ago.

On April 21, 1936, a record breaking spring snowstorm swept through Altoona, PA. This was also the evening when Margaret Karemendi and Roy Lockard brutally murdered little Matthew Karmendi by striking him in the head repeatedly with a railroad spike.  The novel also details the subsequent trials that Margaret Karmendi and Roy Lockard faced. Roy Lockard was sentenced to death and executed on March 27, 1939. Margaret Karemendi served a total of twenty-five years in incarceration. She moved to Hollidaysburg after she was released and died of natural causes in the mid-1960s.

The author, Celeste Yost, is a paralegal and freelance writer whose work has been published in Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Passage Maker, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies Home Journal. She does a skillful job of combining both fact and fiction. It is clear that she has done a great deal of research and an extensive bibliography is included with the text. The book includes photos of local settings that play an important role in the story and reproductions of newspaper headshots of Margaret Karmendi and Roy Lockard.  

If you are fan of stories based on true events, crime fiction, or local history, you may enjoy this short novel. My husband and I took turns reading it together over the course of two evenings. In the end, we agreed that we enjoyed learning about the local history surrounding the tragedy, but that it was also very sad. Matthew Karmendi is buried in the Children’s Hedgerow of St. Mary’s Cemetery, Altoona, PA.

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