A former New York prosecuting attorney and prolific novelist recounts miscarriages of justice on the way to solving a highly publicized 1963 double murder.
Tanenbaum (Bad Faith, 2012, etc.) learned legal ethics and courtroom tactics from New York District Attorney Frank Hogan and Hogan’s assistants Mel Glass and John Keenan. This nonfiction murder mystery is intended as a tribute to those three, who realized police had arrested the wrong man after the August 28, 1963, murder of roommates Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie on the Upper East Side. Suspicion cast on George Whitmore Jr. in that case also led to felony charges against him in two Brooklyn cases. Using archival material and relying to some extent on his memory, Tanenbaum explains the tunnel vision, racism and overaggressiveness of police and prosecutors that led to the mistreatment of Whitmore. Eventually, the shoddy treatment of Whitmore figured into the historic Supreme Court ruling requiring law enforcement officers to issue Miranda warnings to suspects. In a parallel narrative, Tanenbaum also shows how Glass engineered the new investigation leading to the arrest and conviction of the actual murderer, Richard Robles. Many of the elements of the narrative are inherently fascinating: the circumstances of the crimes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the police investigations, the prosecutors' deliberations and the courtroom dramatics. Unfortunately, the author hampers the narrative flow with extended quotations that are obviously re-created using far too much novelistic license, and he also made the questionable decision to grant false names to 19 real-life characters, including police detectives, which calls into question the credibility of the story. Furthermore, page after page is filled with clichéd writing.
An intriguing saga that should have been better presented.