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Murder by Milkshake - An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer

Murder by Milkshake

An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer

By Eve Lazarus
Categories: Canada, British Columbia, True Crime, History
Paperback : 9781551527468, 248 pages, 2018


Finalist for Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Prize (BC Book Prizes); Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award; City of Vancouver Book Award

When forty-year-old Esther Castellani died a slow and agonizing death in Vancouver in 1965, the official cause was at first undetermined. The day after Esther's funeral, her husband, Rene, packed up his girlfriend, Lolly; his daughter, Jeannine; and Lolly's son, Don, in the company car and took off for Disneyland. If not for the doggedness of the doctor who treated Esther, Rene, then a charismatic and handsome CKNW radio personality, would have been free to marry Lolly, who was the station's pretty twentysomething receptionist. Instead, Rene was charged with capital murder for poisoning his wife with arsenic-laced milkshakes in one of British Columbia's most sensational criminal cases of the century.

Murder by Milkshake is the compelling story of the Castellanis, and of their daughter, Jeannine, who was eleven at the time of her mother's murder and who clung to her father's innocence, even committing perjury during his trial. Rigorously researched, and based on dozens of interviews with family, friends, and co-workers, Murder by Milkshake documents the sensational case that kept Vancouver spellbound, while providing a snapshot of the city's Mad Men-esque social and political realities in the 1960s.


  • Short-listed, Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Prize (BC Book Prizes) 2019
  • Short-listed, Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award 2019
  • Short-listed, Vancouver Book Award 2019


Eve Lazarus has done an exceptional job of reporting one of the most shocking and fascinating murder stories in Vancouver history. Her research is outstanding. -George Garrett, CKNW radio reporter (retired)

Not only a compelling insight into the methodical detective work of a 1960s homicide investigation but also a revealing exposé of one of the most high-profile crimes in Vancouver history. -Superintendent Mike Porteous, Vancouver Police Department

Deeply researched, Eve Lazarus has done everything short of getting up on top of the BowMac sign herself to get to the heart of the story behind the notorious Rene Castellani, whose crime is still one of the most unbelievable, strange, and remarkable chapters in Vancouver crime history. This isn't a murder mystery story in the traditional sense; Lazarus reveals a greater mystery about the motivations and actions of a criminal, how deeply the crime affected the innocent around him, the legacy of which plays out to this day. -Aaron Chapman, author of The Last Gang in Town and Liquor, Lust, and the Law

Eve Lazarus has written a chilling and highly readable story full of fascinating characters. Well done. -Dr. Heather Burke, forensic psychologist