A promising young author reappraises a notorious double murder—and her life.



A former resident of Appalachia reconsiders its unsolved “Rainbow Murders” in a genre-straddling debut that blends true crime and memoir.

Eisenberg tells two interwoven stories that span three decades in heavily forested Pocahontas County, West Virginia. The first—and by far the more interesting—story centers on the unsolved 1980 murders of two young women whose bodies turned up in a clearing after they were shot while hitchhiking to a festival known as the Rainbow Gathering. Alarming rumors quickly spread about local farmer Jacob Beard, who went to prison for the Rainbow Murders 13 years later. Then Charlie Rose and 60 Minutes II, having heard that serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin had confessed to the crimes, started poking around, and a judge granted a new trial for Beard, whom a jury found not guilty. Alleging police misconduct and malicious prosecution, Beard sued and was awarded nearly $2 million. Eisenberg learned of the murders while working for an anti-poverty program in the area after graduating from college, and she reconstructs the case with a brisk pace and a keen sensitivity to a Gordian knot of kinship and other ties that posed challenges for the police and suspects alike. The author’s compelling second story is, in effect, a memoir of her coming-of-age in Pocahontas County, involving bluegrass parties, lots of alcohol, and sex with an inapt partner. “I told him I was queer and that my most recent relationship had been with a woman,” she writes. “That’s cool, he said.” Several themes link the true-crime and memoir sections—including how we distinguish lies from the truth—and a related set piece explores the stereotypes of Appalachians as either “noble and stalwart” mountaineers or “profligate” and “amusing” hillbillies. With access to Beard and other key figures, Eisenberg avoids both perils and offers a nuanced portrait of a crime and its decadeslong effects.

A promising young author reappraises a notorious double murder—and her life.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-44923-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?