PREACHER'S GIRL by Jim Schutze


The Life and Crimes of Blanche Taylor Moore
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 Involving but unsatisfying chronicle of the murderous career of a Bible Belt Borgia. Though strong in delineating his story's milieu of food franchises and fundamentalism and its medical world of offhand diagnoses and slapdash record-keeping, Schutze (a former investigative reporter for the Detroit Free Press) falters by supplying only the most rudimentary motivations for his villain's crimes. Blanche Taylor Moore was born and raised in the mill towns of North Carolina--a state, Schutze points out, that has a history of arsenic poisonings far in excess of the national average. In 1973, Moore's first husband, one James Taylor, died of a mysterious ailment characterized by nausea, diarrhea, and convulsions. A few years later, a fellow employee, Raymond Reid, with whom Moore was having an affair, died under almost identical circumstances. It was only when Moore's second husband, Dwight Moore, began exhibiting the same symptoms that suspicions were aroused, tests administered, and it was discovered that Moore had been spiking her husband's banana pudding with dollops of Anti-Ant, an arsenic-based insecticide. Taylor's and Reid's bodies were exhumed and found to bear traces of the poison, and evidence surfaced that Moore's father and her mother-in-law by her first marriage also had received doses of the pesticide. Brought to trial, Moore denied everything, going so far as to mail herself a ``confession'' from a physically disabled alcoholic who had recently died; she was found guilty and today is on death row. In a brief prologue, Schutze attempts to explain Moore's murderous ways by telling how her preacher-father forced her at age nine to have sex with a parishioner to whom he owed money. Since the only possible source of that story is Moore herself, the explanation lacks conviction. Though in many ways parallelling Ann Rule's Everything She Ever Wanted (1992), Schutze's investigations into a potentially riveting true-crime scenario remain tabloid shallow. (Twenty b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-11934-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993


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