Boston Globe reporter MacQuarrie chronicles the October 1997 murder of ten-year-old Jeffrey Curley and its devastating effect on his family.
What begins as fairly typical, if unusually disturbing, true-crime material quickly turns into the stuff of Greek tragedy as the author plumbs the psyche of the real protagonist of the story—Jeffrey’s father Bob, a firehouse mechanic from a working-class section of Cambridge. Bob was estranged from his wife and beginning a new relationship when Jeffrey’s horrific murder at the hands of a pair of sociopaths thrust him into the limelight as the de facto spokesman for the reinstatement of the death penalty in one of the most liberal states in the nation. At first, perhaps as a result of the guilt he felt for not being present when Jeffrey needed him most, Bob was eager to play the role that death-penalty proponents asked of him. The sentiment the Curley case aroused in the public developed a momentum that nearly succeeded in overwhelming the anti–capital punishment contingent that was long in power in the statehouse, but crafty politics and unusually courageous politicians turned back the challenge. Then Bob found himself—and worse, the image of Jeffrey in his Little League uniform—being used as a political prop in campaign literature without permission. When the courts dealt Jeffrey’s murderer a light sentence, Bob lost all faith in the system to get the right man, let alone determine whether he lived or not. MacQuarrie’s familiarity with the physical landscape of Boston and its suburbs lends a captivating verisimilitude to the storytelling, and he masterfully captures the rawness of Bob’s emotions as he moved from inarticulate rage to a kind of transcendent wisdom.
A first-rate combination of true crime and social history.