ISBN: 0440165121
ISBN 13: 9780440165125
By: Shana Alexander

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About this book

Nutcracker begins at the ballet but tells the story of a seemingly wholesome all-American family, whose tranquil life's surface erupted in shocking acts of avarice, theft and murder. The victim was Franklin Bradshaw, Mormon self-made millionaire, workaholic. The killer was Bradshaw's grandson, prep school student. The architect of the crime was said to be Frances Schreuder, Bradshaw's daughter, devoted patron of the ballet, who used her father's money to buy a prestigious place in New York's cultural elite and who came to view George Balanchine as her true "father." Making extensive use of her exclusive access to certain materials and sources, Shana Alexander traces the intricate history of this crime from its genesis among the luxury high-rises of Manhattan to a bloody culmination in a dusty Salt Lake City warehouse. She follows the winding four-year police hunt, which began in procedural confusion and was carried out ultimately by smart, devoted - and lucky - detective work. She takes us behind the scenes of trials, their startling defenses and verdicts, and into the minds of a few people who carried family games too far.

Reader's Thoughts




The title says it all! Excellent true crime nonsense that proves the tired old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. Pulpy true crime drama about a high profile murder in 1978.Frances Schreuder is a one woman made for lifetime tv movie. She is a deranged, status seeking, paranoid schizophrenic, racist, drug addict, alcoholic, sadistic psychopath. She physically and emotionally tortures her 3 kids, alternately bestowing on them over the top affection and then heartlessly tormenting them with either neglect or full on abuse. The kids become so crazed that she succeeds in manipulating one of her sons into murdering her father in order to get her grubby paws on his vast fortune. Frances' father, Papa Schreuder is a parodic miserly coot who uses an empty beer carton as a briefcase and drives around in a rusty pickup even though he's worth millions from oil and auto parts. Frances' mother is a nervous woman stifled by her cold, penny pinching husband and by conservative life. She dotes on her needy and emotional youngest child, Frances and seems to live vicariously through her exciting and lavish lifestyle. Frances easily manipulates her mother into forging checks for her to cover her lavish purchases , like $40,000 earringa and a luxury upper east side apartment (Apparently Frances had been thrown out of Bryn Mawr college for forging checks as a co ed). Frances becomes a Manhattan socialite jet setter. A frustrated "dancer", she writes huge checks to the New York City Ballet who in turn are obligated to elect her to the board despite her reputation for being a lunatic. Some of the most entertaining parts of the book are the descriptions of Frances flitting around at the ballet events, often in inappropriate outfits with hundred dollar bills flying out of her handbag and rambling on about her (imaginary) relationship with "Mr. Balanchine". She abuses her influence as a board member by trying to strong arm the company into giving her daughter the title role in their production of the "Nutcracker".Frances literally drives her one son insane and he ends up in a mental hospital after smashing his college roommate's skull with a hammer. The other she mind warps into planning the murder of her father.


M Ale

Anne Hawn Smith

As I continue to explore the mind of the female sociopath this book provided an incredible multilayered example. I read the book years ago and it was so powerful, I remembered most of the story, but it was still fascinating. This time I tried to focus on the relationship of Berenice to her daughter, Frances. The story is about Frances Bradshaw Schreuder who contrives to get her son to murder her father. Aside from the sociopathy, there are other serious mental illnesses in this family of three generations.Frances is clearly the most disturbed, but on this reading, I was more struck by the toxic relation between Frances and her mother, Berenice. At first, Berenice seems to be a good-hearted soul who is terribly abused by her daughter and bilked of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is more than meets the eye. Berenice and Frances have a symbiotic and deeply pathological relationship. In the beginning chapter there is a description of the entire family standing around Frances' cradle singing to her all night long, night after night. Frances cries constantly and begins her life as the narcissistic center of this family and nothing changes through out her life. Berenice seems to demand that everyone in the family cater to Frances just to keep her from throwing a tantrum of epic proportions over the slightest thing.I have to wonder at why Berenice turned her back on her husband and 3 other children in order to constantly placate Frances. The older daughters seemed sane and reasonable, but Berenice was always turned towards Frances. She allowed her to live a lavish lifestyle in New York and ended up paying for the legal defense of her grandson, Mark, and her daughter for the murder of her husband. That is almost more unbelievable than the fact that she focused all her love and attention on this one child to the detriment of everyone else in the family.


This was a book I couldn't put down. Not because it was exciting, because I couldn't believe someone could be so evil, not only to her children but also to her parents. So much so to have her children kill her father. She was definitely a sociopath. Not only was she diabolically evil but I also put some blame on her mother. Her siblings also left a lot to be desired. This is one of the books I put first ahead of Ann Rule.

♥ Marlene♥

** spoiler alert ** Wow, What a book and what a family. I always say my family is crazy a a joke but my family is very sane compared to this family.Very intriguing book. I thought a lot of it was well written and some parts were not. (the end) Once I had finished it I had to know what had happened to this family and to my dismay i discovered Frances had only been in jail for 13 years or so. She died in 2004 and I am sure her mom managed to get her more money.The person i got most angry about was the mother Berenice. It appeared to me she hated her husband and did not really care for her other 2 daughters. only the youngest counted. The 2 oldest were smart to make sure she could not give everything to Frances but in a way she managed to do that anyways cause where did Frances get all that money from to pay for the ballet? That was not very clear to me in this book cause it said that Berenice "Only" ha! got 10.000 a month.Frances was sick so to me her mother is the one to blame most of it all. I googled this family and discovered a tribute page for Frances. (Yes i kid you not) but it was interesting cause I got to know a bit what had happen to Marc and Larry. They say the youngest child is doing very well but I can't imagine she can have such a childhood and not be scarred by that. Hope it is true though. I am glad I had a copy of this book and would like to read the other book about this case At Mother's Request one day.

Kathy Kaylor

Here's a contender for the Truth is Stranger than Fiction medal. It's about fratricide and majorly twisted family weirdness.

Linda Summers

Wonderful character studies into the minds of the family members. As I read, I was totally amazed at the avarice and manipulation and depravity one woman could wreak upon her family.

Stephanie Rubin

ooooooh--very gooey guilty pleasure

Jane Anne

Have u ever noticed how the STINGY ppl of the world end up either w nothing or on the wrong end of a crowbar? What's it all for? And who will ever forget Francis coming down her marble stairs like a Kabuki actor, yelling @ her old mother, "WHAT....ARE....YOU....DOING?" I've done that w my Aunt, I must admit, lol.

Dennis Littrell

Alexander, Shana. Nutcracker: Money, Madness, Murder: A Family Album (1985) *****CharmingOh boy. Just how much intense, stupid madness can one family harbor? The story reads like a parody of human behavior. Alexander's narrative, chuck full of detail and precise diction and some wonderful turns of phrase, often spirals into something like a long-running slapstick comedy too bizarre for television. The horror of neglect and greed, hatred, prejudice and violence are all here, but the form they take in this tale is so absurd sometimes that you have to laugh aloud at the sick antics. The three most important characters are: Franklin Bradshaw, the miserly patriarch, apparently murdered by his grandsons at the insistence of his youngest daughter, Frances, an incredibly depraved creature nobody could have invented, and Berenice, mother of Frances and husband of Franklin, a slavish practitioner of "smotherly love." They hail from Utah where Franklin is a non-practicing Mormon. He has spent a lifetime of working sixteen hours a day and has, through his auto parts business and oil and land leases, amassed a fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of (1981) dollars. Frances and everybody else in the family would like to get their hands on the money, and each of them is deathly afraid that the others are scheming to cheat them out of their fair share, and they are. But Frances, the youngest of the four Bradshaw children, is particularly evil. She is the pretty baby of the family that no one could ever say no to, who always got away with everything as a child and expects that to continue. When the world says, "Whoa, child, no!" she fights back with every scheme and wile she can muster, committing nearly any and all crimes imaginable. She usually gets away with them because she has a quality about her that prevents anyone from saying no to her, at least anyone in her family. She is perhaps as neglectful a mother as one can imagine, physically beating and mentally torturing her children, using them as pawns in her wars with her two ex-husbands and her parents and sisters. She is an alcoholic, a drug addict, a paranoid schizophrenic, a bigot, a class-conscious low life, who hates blacks, Jews and poor white trash; a woman who is as trashy as one can get, yet a woman who manages to manipulate her mother and father and others so that she always has time to drink and whore around and send her children to private schools (even as she pushes them out the door in the morning in their underwear without breakfast or bath).But enough. It's a good read, and I have to admire Alexander's writing ability. She makes it all very vivid and she does it with style and grace and without taking up some phony political position or presenting some shallow psychology. She sparkles the narrative with insight and bon mots and never slows down or bores. --a review by Dennis Littrell

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