An engrossing account of a watershed missing-child case.
On May 25, 1979, six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared while walking the two blocks to his bus stop on his way to school in lower Manhattan. The case—which TV newsmagazine producer Cohen convincingly argues changed the way Americans think about their children’s safety—had a ripple effect beyond New York, eventually leading to the establishment of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, whose ubiquitous missing-child alerts on milk cartons in the 1980s raised public awareness about the phenomenon across the country. While most of those children were found and their abductors brought to justice, the Patz case remains open 30 years later. The author tells the complete, heartbreaking story, from day one of the boy’s disappearance to his family’s continuing efforts to bring a rapist and killer to justice. First-time author Cohen, who covered the case for 60 Minutes and Prime Time Live, admirably avoids a hysterical approach to the shocking subject matter. Instead, she lets the disturbing facts speak for themselves. The author had access to an astounding amount of information, including multiple interviews with Patz’s parents and former chief prosecutor Stuart GraBois. She also consulted the TV interviews with the prime suspect, though he declined to cooperate on the book. Cohen covers the story from all angles and keeps the main thread of the investigation clear, even while sharing some of its most intriguing left turns and red herrings, including a series of child molestations by a former boyfriend of one of the boy’s caretakers, and a trip, prompted by a psychic’s vision, to Hell’s Gate in the East River in search of Patz’s body.
A masterful combination of deep human interest and detailed criminal investigation into a parent’s worst nightmare.