A hard-hitting, meaningful, and debate-inspiring exposé on one of the darkest elements of the criminal justice system.

LET THE LORD SORT THEM

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE DEATH PENALTY

The evolution of capital punishment in America.

Austin-based journalist Chammah, a staff writer for the Marshall Project, effectively splits his report between a history of the death penalty and its incremental downfall in recent decades. He focuses predominantly on Texas, an ultraconservative state at the epicenter of the debate, and examines how public opinion has shifted to embrace other punishments, such as life without parole. The author first charts the historical rise of executions from the early 1970s, corresponding with a dramatic rise in violent crime. In Texas, the political conversation has been focused on the types of crime that warrant it as well as consideration of a defendant’s “future dangerousness.” The state’s long history of “frontier justice” has meant that “of the roughly fifteen hundred executions that Americans have carried out since the 1970s, Texas has been responsible for more than five hundred.” Chammah profiles several key figures, including Elsa Alcala, a former assistant district attorney and judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; and Danalynn Recer, a lawyer and prominent death penalty opponent. In dramatic fashion, the author also interweaves details about high-profile capital crime cases. Among others, he thoroughly examines the executions of Karla Faye Tucker (1998) and Shaka Sankofa (2000), looking at the cases from multiple angles. Throughout, the author keenly probes critical perspectives on whether compassion is warranted for death row convicts or if the act of fitting the punishment with the crime is sufficient. “Both sides,” he writes, “need to downplay and amplify free will, only at different moments in their narratives.” With great conviction, Chammah presents an expansive portrait of the death penalty through the perspectives of opponents, defenders, families of the executed, and the sentenced themselves, illuminating a passionately debated issue with cleareyed impartiality. The author’s inclusion of so many legal cases detracts from the narrative but doesn't weaken its premise or impact.

A hard-hitting, meaningful, and debate-inspiring exposé on one of the darkest elements of the criminal justice system.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6026-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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: yesterday

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

NIGHT

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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