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CRUEL DOUBT by Joe McGinniss Kirkus Star


by Joe McGinniss

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-67947-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Reporting on the same crime as Jerry Bledsoe in Blood Games (see above), McGinniss (Blind Faith, 1988; Fatal Vision, 1983, etc.) again shows why he heads the ranks of true-crime authors--delivering a page-burner of shifting suspicions, macabre ironies, and reversals of field too extreme for fiction. In the early morning of July 25, 1988, in the town of Washington, N.C., Bonnie Von Stein, 44, and her second husband, Lieth, were attacked in their bedroom by a stranger wielding a club and a knife. Lieth was killed and Bonnie survived with stab wounds, head lacerations, and a collapsed lung. Having almost no clues, detectives turned their attention to Bonnie's college-age son and daughter. When the children were brought to intensive care, they seemed bored by their mother and completely indifferent to their stepfather's death. As she recuperated, Bonnie also seemed too cool, too efficient to the local gumshoes. When it was discovered that Lieth had left two million dollars, she too became a suspect. Eventually the investigation narrowed to Chris Pritchard (Bonnie's son) and his college buddies. Instead of going to class, they played weeks-Ions games of Dungeons & Dragons, acting out fantasies fueled by alcohol, Ecstasy, pot, and much LSD. Eleven months after the attack, Pritchard was charged with murder and a long manhunt began for the "Dungeon Master," a shady figure named Moog. Pritchard had sent Moog and another player to his family house: If they killed the parents, there would be enough money for Ferraris, top-end stereo equipment, and serious computers. Covering the trial, McGinniss draws a chilling portrait of Pritchard's lawyer agonizing over the good chance he has of getting Pritchard off. The lawyer dislikes Pritchard's insolence and tells his colleagues he fears the boy will murder again if acquitted--so he cuts a deal with the D.A. ensuring that Pritchard will not be executed, but will do life. Exciting reading that edges out Bledsoe's account and, no doubt, will hit the charts and find a home there.