Readers are given every bit of evidence available and will be hard-pressed to reach a verdict; it’s fun trying, though. Fans...

THE TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN

A new history of the trial of the late 19th century: Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), accused of the murder of her father and stepmother.

Robertson, a former Supreme Court clerk and legal adviser at The Hague, amply shows how the wheels of justice often move slowly, by small steps. First, there was an inquest, in which Lizzie testified along with her maid, Bridget Sullivan. Lizzie and her sister Emma were estranged from their father and, especially, their stepmother. They were also jealous of property their father had purchased for his wife’s sister; attempting to mollify them, unsuccessfully, he had deeded another property to them. Accounting for her morning, Lizzie offered differing statements about what she was doing. With Emma visiting out of town, it was only Lizzie who had the opportunity to kill both parents, even hours apart. After the inquest came Lizzie’s arrest and imprisonment, where she exhibited a stoic demeanor that would carry her from the preliminary hearing through the trial. She was self-possessed and unruffled, ready to accept whatever fate dealt her. While she did break down a few times, as when her father’s skull was presented, for the most part she seemed confident and intent on following every testimony. Constantly whispering in the ear of George Robinson, her lawyer, she seemed to treat the trial as an exercise in controlling what the jury was allowed to hear. Robertson presents the story with the thoroughness one expects from an attorney, but she manages to avoid the tedious repetitiveness inherent in a trial by providing close looks at other contemporaneous elements such as Lizzie’s attempt to buy poison, a newly discovered hatchet, and the contradictions of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Readers are given every bit of evidence available and will be hard-pressed to reach a verdict; it’s fun trying, though. Fans of crime novels will love it.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6837-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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