True crime readers will not be disappointed. Anyone wanting a quick overview of the Stella Nickell story may not be happy with all the detail which Olsen has meticulously tracked down and recounted, but if you want all the ins and outs of the plot and the characters, this book has it all. I wasn't counting, but this family must be in the race for the highest number of house moves and taking up temporary make-shift accommodation with friends or family, the most partner swaps, the most one night stands, the amount of alcohol consumed, and general bad parenting. On the other hand, they were either in work or looking for work, family (except mothers and daughters) were close-knit and stood by each other through thick and thin, and there was always a friend they could turn to in a crisis. Fascinating family, fascinating plot, intriguing outcome. Olsen's research is painstaking and he writes well, although the interweaving of the stories of the two victims' families was a bit confusing at first. Also I felt a bit of the story was missing in my version because it went straight from the jury room deliberations to after the verdict had been handed down which left me baffled about when the verdict had been reached and even more baffled about the phone call to a juror and possible re-trail which were being mentioned. I went back and listened to that section again to make sure it wasn't just me, but it still seemed that part of the book just wasn't there. It is very competently read by Kevin Pierce - a simple straight-forward emotion-free narration - just right for this type of book.
This book has it all - plot, characters, surprises, suspense, rollercoaster of emotions - sadness, horror, sympathy, amazement, incredulity, frustration, anger. In short, the book has everything you could want to keep you interested. I took every opportunity to do something during which I could keep listening. I was a bit taken aback for the first few minutes by Richard Ferrone's narration but after a very short time I loved his voice and his presentation. He's just right for this book.
This book combines two of my most-read genres, true crime and history. Events from long ago, especially those involving cover-up at the highest level, often lack enough detail to be informative and certainly not enough to fill a book. But Jager has enough material to document the terrible crime, and to set the events and the characters within their social and political context. Everything is recounted in rivetting detail.Jager has obviously conducted a great deal of painstaking research, and the writing is excellent, as is the narration by Auberjonois whose voice and delivery are just perfect for the story.
I found the book compelling, not only for revelations about the identity of the Zodiac, but for the interplay of SF politics on a murder investigation and later, a coverup. I think the author has nailed it, when I consider the credibility of the presenter and the publisher (HarperCollins), the support of a qualified handwriting expert of a definitive forensic handwriting match of a few documents written and signed by Van Earl Best, Jr. and those written by the Zodiac, Best's name is embedded in two (2) of the Zodiac ciphers, the fact that both the Zodiac and VE Best, Jr. had identical scars on the same index finger. The motive, means and opportunity also support the finding but aren't needed. The only thing missing for a slamdunk beyond a reasonable doubt finding is DNA. And, Mr. Stewart and his biological mother have offered DNA to an expert who now has the markers to match to the DNA of the Zodiac.
BUT, the Blue Wall of the SF Police Dept stalled it all and closed the investigation in 2004, the week the author began making inquiries for the Best file. Above all else, they must protect their own: a black police detective who married the Zodiac's former wife (the author's biological mother) and who was somewhat of a bit player in the whole investigation behind Toschi and Armstrong.
To hell with the public's interest and the families of the victims.
This book and the author's narration made me want to continue listening.
Can I find something to criticize? Yes. Some of the investigation part repeats what was already in the life story of Van Earl Best, Jr. and I thought there was much too lengthy a discussion of the relationship between the bio mother and her husband Rotea (the detective), presumably to bend over backward to appear that no one is pointing the finger at him.
A definite 5 STAR book.
I just hope to hell this puts continued pressure on the higher-ups in the SFPD to get off their ASS and stop looking out for numero uno!