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




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. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7879-8226-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Jossey-Bass/Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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"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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