An uneven but often enthralling collection of true-crime investigations.

THE CASE OF THE VANISHING BLONDE

AND OTHER TRUE CRIME STORIES

Veteran narrative journalist Bowden resurrects a half-dozen works of true crime, ranging from merely creepy to palpably fascinating.

Best known for his visceral accounts of warfare in Mogadishu and the lives and deaths of Pablo Escobar and Osama bin Laden—not to mention his excellent Vietnam book, Hue 1968 (2017)—here the author recalls his foundations as a reporter, a trade that “hones an appetite for crime.” The opening story, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1983 as “The Incident at Alpha Tau Omega,” is awkward. While Bowden’s writing is solid and sincere, his attempt to parse the moral implications of the gang rape of a female college student comes off as both overly disturbing and painfully sympathetic to the perpetrators. Similar themes arise in “why don’t u tell me wht ur into,” a 2009 Vanity Fair piece in which Bowden uses the case of a sex offender to debate the ethics of entrapment à la the TV show To Catch a Predator. The author’s reporting in “…A Million Years Ago” (Vanity Fair, 2012), about the investigation into a decades-old cold case, has attracted some controversy, but there’s no skepticism about his portrayal of the investigation itself, resolutely documented and as incisive and enthralling as any true-crime podcast or episode of NCIS. The collection picks up considerably with the introduction of private eye Ken Brennan, a no-nonsense, profane former Long Island cop. “I’m from New York,” Brennan tells one suspect. “I talk like that to everybody.” Readers are likely to have encountered some version of the title story (“from the start, it was a bad case”) in popular media. However, that piece and its companion stories, “The Body in Room 348” and “Who Killed Euhommie Bond?” are as gripping as any murder mystery and feature shades of Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe.

An uneven but often enthralling collection of true-crime investigations.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2844-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

THE DEFENSE LAWYER

THE BARRY SLOTNICK STORY

The Patterson publishing machine clanks its way into the nonfiction aisles in this lumbering courtroom drama.

Barry Slotnick made a considerable fortune and reputation as a defense attorney who had a long list of controversial clients, including mob boss John Gotti and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. An “urbane lawyer known for his twenty-five-hundred-dollar Fioravanti suits, he was not unacquainted with violence,” write Patterson and Wallace. One of his early cases, indeed, involved a group of Jewish Defense League members who allegedly blew up a Broadway producer’s office, killing a woman who worked there. Slotnick’s defense was a standard confuse-the-jury ploy, but it worked. He put similar tactics to work in his defense of Bernhard Goetz, the “subway shooter” whose trial made international news. The authors open after that trial had concluded in yet another Slotnick win, and with a sensational incident: He was attacked by a masked man who beat him with a baseball bat. The evidence is sketchy, but it seems to place the attack in the hands of organized crime—perhaps even Gotti himself. No matter: Slotnick, “who saw himself as the foe of the all-powerful government” and “liberty’s last champion,” was soon back to representing clients including Radovan Karadžić, the murderous Bosnian Serb who was eventually imprisoned for having committed genocide; Dewi Sukarno, the widow of Indonesia’s similarly bloodstained president, “arrested for slashing the face of a fellow socialite with a broken champagne glass at a party in Aspen”; and Melania Trump, who had chosen Slotnick “to handle her prenup.” In the hands of a John Grisham, the story might have come to life, but while Patterson does a serviceable if cliché-ridden job of recounting Slotnick’s career, he fails to give readers much reason to admire the man.

For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49437-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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