Next book

THE INSANITY DEFENSE AND THE MAD MURDERESS OF SHAKER HEIGHTS

EXAMINING THE TRIAL OF MARIANN COLBY

Did Colby get away with murder? You be the judge. Recommended.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A lawyer recounts a woman’s sensational murder trial and the implications of her insanity defense.

The title is the literary equivalent of click-bait, but this is a meticulous and well-written account of one of Ohio’s most infamous murders, second perhaps in notoriety only to the Sam Sheppard case. This is not a whodunit; Tabac’s debut book begins with this statement: “In 1965, Mariann Colby, an intelligent, attractive Shaker Heights housewife and mother, shot a nine-year-old neighbor boy to death.” The boy was the son of John Young Sr., with whom the obsessed Colby “was hopelessly in love.” According to one theory, she murdered his child in revenge because he rebuffed her advances. Young told the police after identifying his son in the morgue, “Mariann Colby did it, and I believe that it was me that she wanted to kill.” Colby would become “one of the state’s most infamous villains.” Her formidable defense attorney, Gerald Gold, considered Colby’s situation to be “an electric-chair case.” When his plea to prosecutors to make a deal that would spare her life was rejected (“All of the neighbors wanted to see Mariann Colby dead,” he said), he decided to mount an insanity defense. Tabac is a practicing attorney and an emeritus professor at Cleveland Marshall College of Law. He does an admirable job of laying out the facts of the case and writing accessibly about the insanity defense, from its historical roots to the risks it presented Gold. Though readers know from the get-go that Colby is the culprit, Tabac’s deft uses of foreshadowing (“Despite a shocking act of betrayal that she committed against” her son) hint at the case’s twists and turns and should heighten readers’ eagerness to see justice done and to discover what happens next. He advances the story through dramatically doled out revelations that make this book on par with the better episodes of NBC’s true-crime series Dateline. The jury is still out on the author’s practice of bolding the first paragraph of each chapter.

Did Colby get away with murder? You be the judge. Recommended.

Pub Date: April 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60635-352-3

Page Count: 184

Publisher: The Kent State University Press

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2019

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 24


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Next book

UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

Categories:
Close Quickview