A mostly engaging and disheartening capstone to a narrative of murder and malfeasance that has crossed into cultural infamy.




A startling update on the still-unsolved murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G., focused on powerful figures’ attempts to obfuscate the investigation.

Former Rolling Stone contributing editor Sullivan (The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt, 2018, etc.) delivers a follow-up to his revealing LAbyrinth, noting about that book’s publication, “even in 2002, I was incredulous that arrests hadn’t been made.” In LAbyrinth, the author focused on detective Russell Poole’s thwarted investigation, which uncovered “a cadre of LAPD officers—‘gangsta cops’—who were working for Death Row Records and aiding the record label’s CEO, Suge Knight, in commission of crimes that ranged from drug dealing to homicide.” This mushroomed into the tumultuous Ramparts scandal, which threw the LAPD into chaos; Sullivan shows how this scandal was “mostly trumped up” by Rafael Perez, one of the officers Poole had identified. Meanwhile, the departmental resistance Poole faced led to his retirement and decline; upon his death in 2015, Sullivan notes, “There was a sense about him of someone forever attempting to keep hope alive.” The author otherwise focuses on the legal battle between the city and Voletta Wallace, the bereaved mother of Notorious B.I.G., whose lawsuit forms the spine of this narrative. Sullivan documents how the lawsuit’s tortuous and inconclusive path nevertheless revealed concealment of evidence and other official misconduct. Simultaneously, an FBI inquiry into the case was squelched, with one agent noting, “If LAPD is involved in the Biggie murder, and the Biggie murder is solved, LAPD is done. They’re over with. Financially, they cannot survive.” In a circuitous narrative that lacks some of the propulsive energy of LAbyrinth, Sullivan identifies many such strange manipulations of the investigative process. Though readers must navigate such baffling bureaucratic roadblocks and a dizzying cast of characters, the author convincingly continues to support Poole’s essential thesis: that a team of criminal cops planned the rapper’s assassination and then enjoyed political protection.

A mostly engaging and disheartening capstone to a narrative of murder and malfeasance that has crossed into cultural infamy.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2932-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.



A former Justice Department lawyer, who now devotes her private practice to federal appeals, dissects some of the most politically contentious prosecutions of the last 15 years.

Powell assembles a stunning argument for the old adage, “nothing succeeds like failure,” as she traces the careers of a group of prosecutors who were part of the Enron Task Force. The Supreme Court overturned their most dramatic court victories, and some were even accused of systematic prosecutorial misconduct. Yet former task force members such as Kathryn Ruemmler, Matthew Friedrich and Andrew Weissman continued to climb upward through the ranks and currently hold high positions in the Justice Department, FBI and even the White House. Powell took up the appeal of a Merrill Lynch employee who was convicted in one of the subsidiary Enron cases, fighting for six years to clear his name. The pattern of abuse she found was repeated in other cases brought by the task force. Prosecutors of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen pieced together parts of different statutes to concoct a crime and eliminated criminal intent from the jury instructions, which required the Supreme Court to reverse the Andersen conviction 9-0; the company was forcibly closed with the loss of 85,000 jobs. In the corruption trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a key witness was intimidated into presenting false testimony, and as in the Merrill Lynch case, the prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, a violation of due process under the Supreme court’s 1963 Brady v. Maryland decision. Stevens’ conviction, which led to a narrow loss in his 2008 re-election campaign and impacted the majority makeup of the Senate, seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back; the presiding judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate abuses. Confronted with the need to clean house as he came into office, writes Powell, Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to take action.

The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61254-149-5

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Brown Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

Did you like this book?