Wambaugh's darkest nonfiction since The Onion Field: a sleek and steadily gripping chronicle of the rape/murder of two English girls and of the relentless manhunt for the killer, finally nabbed through the nascent technique of genetic fingerprinting. When pretty teen-ager Lynda Mann is found raped/strangled in November 1983 in the quiet English village of Narborough, police from the nearby county seat of Leicester mount a massive investigation. Led by bristly Inspector Derek Pearce, the 150-man murder squad follows up scores of leads, but a year later no probable suspect is in hand and the probe grinds to a halt. In July 1986, however, the killer strikes again—this time raping and strangling teen-ager Dawn Ashworth only a stone's throw from where he murdered Lynda. Moreover, this time the killer is apparently seen—and soon a churlish, slow-witted local boy, a kitchen porter, is confessing, albeit confusedly, to the killings. Meanwhile, however, British scientist Alec Jeffreys has devised a revolutionary new forensics technique whereby each person's unique (except for identical twins) DNA can be mapped into a distinct visual pattern. For the first time ever in a criminal case, Jeffrey's technique is applied, comparing the kitchen porter's blood with semen found on the two dead girls—and the shocker is that the DNA of the samples don't match: the kitchen porter is not the killer. Back to square one, Pearce and his men begin the greatest round-up in British crime annals, testing the DNA of the blood of over 4,000 men: Will the cops' biochemical net haul in the murderous sociopath who surely lurks in Narborough or one of its neighboring towns? A meticulous and suspenseful reconstruction that exchanges the sardonic humor of Wambaugh's recent work (The Secrets of Harry Bright, 1985; Echoes in the Darkness, 1987) for moralistic deep-delving into the suffering of the victims' families, the affectless sociopathy of the killer, and the gritty determination of the cops. A powerful and elegant police procedural.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 1988

ISBN: 055376330X

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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