INTERNAL COMBUSTION by Joyce Maynard
Kirkus Star

INTERNAL COMBUSTION

The Story of a Marriage and a Murder in the Motor City

KIRKUS REVIEW

Novelist Maynard (The Cloud Chamber, 2005, etc.) examines a real-life murder for the nasty truths it reveals about a family of four torn apart by its pursuit of the American dream.

In 2004, respected fourth-grade teacher Nancy Seaman picked up a hatchet and killed her husband, semi-retired automobile engineer and executive Bob. Was it self-defense or premeditation? Only Nancy knows; she’s serving a life sentence in a Michigan jail. Maynard, no stranger to stories of corruption born of ambition (To Die For, 1992), takes on a tale that offers few conclusions but a host of intriguing questions. The central one: Where does happiness lie? Bob was a man who liked his Detroit Tigers season tickets and working on his vintage Mustangs; Nancy was a polished, proud woman who carefully tended her ideal life in Farmington Hills, a tony suburb of Detroit. They and their two sons, one favoring their mother and the other their father, made up an unhappy clan caught between keeping up appearances and having loving relationships. Maynard devotes the first half of her book to tracking down the Seamans’ extended family, locating the roots of their marital problems and detailing the opinions and reactions of friends, coworkers and neighbors. Noting that her work falls under the ethical shadow cast by not just Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood but the 2005 film Capote, she drops her detachment and becomes a presence in the story. She resists choosing sides about who was the real victim, Bob or Nancy. At times, she openly admits struggling with her feelings about her own family’s dysfunction and divorce. In the end, Maynard finds enough common ground with the Seamans to portray a family broken, but one more familiar than strange.

Painful, intimate and blood-spattered: a gripping true-crime tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-7879-8226-1
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Jossey-Bass/Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2006




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