A VERY PRIVATE WOMAN by Nina Burleigh

A VERY PRIVATE WOMAN

The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer

KIRKUS REVIEW

The most riveting personality in this thin biography by freelance writer Burleigh is not its murdered subject, Georgetown socialite Mary Meyer, but instead the lawyer who successfully defended the murder suspect. Meyer was the divorced wife of CIA division chief Cord Meyer and one of the parade of women who had affairs with President John F. Kennedy. Her sexual liaison with the president probably ended in late 1962. She was murdered in October 1964. A black man, Ray Crump, who had no good explanation for his presence near the murder scene, was arrested and tried. The prosecution couldn—t prove its case, and Crump was found not guilty. (Crump’s lawyer was Dovey Roundtree, who had worked her way through college as a domestic, went on to become a successful criminal defense lawyer in Washington, and could, as she said, ‘’ . . . talk the fat off a hog.”) The real controversy surrounding Mary Meyer’s murder wasn—t the Crump verdict but the fact that her diary—which presumably contained details of her affair with JFK and possibly CIA secrets—went missing. Conspiracy theories were swirling around the Kennedy assassination, and Mary’s death was incorporated into some of those theories. Journalist Burleigh examines the evidence without turning up much that is new; the purpose of her book is to tell Mary’s not very interesting story. Well-born into the Pinchot family, well-bred (Vassar), and well-connected, Mary was also attractive, intelligent, and charming. She developed a minor talent as a painter; her friends admired her for a somewhat free-spirited lifestyle (she questioned Timothy Leary on how to guide LSD sessions). Short on solid information—many firsthand sources are dead or not talking, and Mary’s papers were destroyed—the book is also carelessly written and carelessly edited. Another “I Slept With JFK” scenario, disingenuously and pretentiously veiled as the story of a “woman on a quest.” (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1998
ISBN: 0-553-10629-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1998




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