IF YOU TELL

A TRUE STORY OF MURDER, FAMILY SECRETS, AND THE UNBREAKABLE BOND OF SISTERHOOD

Murder, torture, and sisterly love milked for all their potential melodrama.

A true story of three abused sisters who helped put their mother behind bars.

Nobody seemed to notice when a live-in babysitter vanished from the home of Dave and Shelly Knotek in tiny Raymond, Washington, in 1994. Then two more of the family’s boarders disappeared, and Shelly’s three daughters suspected the frightening truth: The couple had murdered the missing people. In his latest true-crime book, Olsen (Lying Next to Me, 2019, etc.) follows the half sisters, whose fears proved justified when—after the older two went to the police with the approval of the third—Shelly and Dave were arrested in 2003 and sent to prison for their roles in the deaths of babysitter Kathy Loreno and two others. It’s a grim tale, told in 85 short, James Patterson–esque chapters, leavened only by the sisters’ courage, strength, and love for one another. For years, Shelly inflicted sadistic abuses on her boarders and her daughters as Dave helped or stood by passively. Loreno was drugged, beaten, starved, and subjected to a crude form of waterboarding using a bucket and modified seesaw, and the Knoteks’ other victims endured similar cruelties. Olsen had access to the sisters, Dave Knotek, and a grandmother. Yet his overheated and repetitive prose robs the victims’ heart-rending stories of the high emotional impact they deserve. The three sisters are TV movie–ready tropes: Nikki, the strong-willed oldest; Sami, the accommodating middle child; and Tori, the baby who understood nothing until she understood everything. As for their mother, “Shelly was Cujo. Freddy Krueger. The freaky clown, Pennywise, from It.” For all its sordid details, the book never satisfactorily answers a question at its heart: In the sort of small town in which everyone tends to know everyone else’s business, how did the Knoteks’ horrific crimes go undetected for so long?

Murder, torture, and sisterly love milked for all their potential melodrama.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0522-7

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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