A thorough, journalistic recounting of two crimes, five years apart, linked by the same alleged perpetrator.
Former New York Times correspondent Pulitzer (Murder in Paradise, 2003, etc.) and Thompson (co-author: A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation, 2005, etc.) narrate the tale of Joran van der Sloot, accused in the 2005 Aruba disappearance of teen Natalee Holloway, and the 2010 Lima, Peru, murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez. The authors approach the narrative like reporters, dispensing with florid descriptions and sticking to a no-nonsense, just-the-facts writing style. The book jumps between its two story lines and locations, with chapters alternating between the still-unsolved Holloway case, and the Flores killing, which occurred five years to the day later. This device is effective in maintaining suspense, despite the fact that many readers will know, from the worldwide news coverage of the case, what has happened. A final outcome is yet to be determined; as of the book’s conclusion, van der Sloot awaits trial in Peru on the Flores murder, and Holloway’s body has never been found. By the end, the suspense turns into sadness for all of the lives irrevocably damaged by their contact with van der Sloot, who has continued to offer various and conflicting stories, making the likelihood remote that the truth will ever be known. The authors’ conclusion is clear from the book’s title, and from their sympathetic portrayal of the victims and their families. But the villain, a charming liar and sociopath from an upper-middle-class Dutch family, remains a cipher. Is van der Sloot truly a monster, or did his tragic flaw cause an accident to spiral out of control, destroying his own life and the lives of many others? The authors decline to explore any possible nuances of their subject, and in doing so miss an opportunity to elevate the book beyond its genre.
A worthwhile read for true-crime fans and followers of the case, but those looking for insight into the mind of a killer will be disappointed.