The infamous myth-shrouded murder of Kitty Genovese (1935–1964) receives a much-needed re-evaluation.
The brutal, senseless murder of Kew Gardens resident Genovese went down in history as what magazine journalist and Cook (Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything, 2010, etc.) calls a “crime that lasted forever.” It lasted “forever” both in the sense that Genovese’s death was slow and painful from multiple stab wounds and in the psychological repercussions of the case, which would reverberate throughout academic and popular-culture circles for decades to come. The controversy that became front-page news and began to overshadow both victim and killer over the years was how 38 bystanders could have witnessed psychopath Winston Moseley stab young Genovese to death and not intervene in any way, thereby leaving her to die alone only a short walking distance from her apartment. Cook’s main agenda is myth-busting while also exploring the ways in which society has collectively learned lessons from those same myths about the 38 passive bystanders. But as we find out through Cook’s prolonged analysis of the case, Genovese’s murder was not quite the lonely death it was made out to be. Nevertheless, the author cites instances of how both criminals and victims of crimes learned from these long-perpetuated “bystander” untruths, as he eventually arrives at some well-founded conclusions on this controversial subject. Cook’s breathless pacing and painstaking research manage to make his minibio of Genovese sound more interesting that it should: He frames her own fairly quotidian existence (other than her attraction to women, which was definitely not quotidian in 1964) in the bigger picture of the important social changes that were taking place in New York City and in America as a whole in the early 1960s. The author’s game-changing contribution to the Genovese case pushes past mere sensationalism into previously unexplored territory.
An engrossing true-crime tour de force.