Dave Cullen has accomplished a difficult task with this book- he presents a balanced, unsentimental story about the killers and their victims, the rampage, the run-up, and the aftermath. This is harder than it sounds considering how far into the minds of the killers Cullen must delve in order to formulate the narrative of what caused them to do what they did, and hot-button topics like the misconceptions about the Cassie Bernall story. The picture that emerges is just that- a picture. The author does not attempt to argue a perspective. What I found especially interesting, as I had not known about it, was the attempt by the local county sheriff's office to cover up and hide information. The Columbine shooting comes across as less the product of bullying than it is the unfortunate pairing of an explosive young depressive with a budding psychopath, leading to tragic results. I didn't realize how thoroughly inaccurate the news accounts of the incident, and its causes, had been. In a way, the real story is much scarier than the media version.
I was pretty familiar with this story already, having seen Heavenly Creatures when it came out and having read a few things about the case, but there were many details included in this book that I hadn't known and enjoyed reading. The detail available, including actual testimony from the case, lengthy passages from diaries, and information from many close to the case, was very impressive. I was frankly astonished to hear accounts of the way both girls maintained their sickeningly grandiose superiority complexes well after they were separated and in prison. I suppose I had imagined that it wouldn't have taken long for them to come back down to earth, but this was not the case at all.
Knowing that Juliet Hulme would go on to become a famous and well-respected author, I had hoped to see some iota of remorse or guilt, but the book ends with no such epiphany. It was very discomfiting, actually, to consider the possibility that perhaps Anne Perry truly is not and was never able to appreciate the wrongness of her conduct. Likewise I would have liked to have heard more about when and whether Parker came to truly regret what she had done. There are no answers about this to be had, however, as neither woman was involved in the research of the book and there is little information available about what either thought of what they had done when they were adults.
The narrator was a bit annoying to listen to, primarily because of the mechanical way he was reading, but it didn't bother me unduly.
I actually thought I was going to like this book more than I did. Maybe it's because Anderson Cooper seems a certain way on the news and comes across quite differently in his own words. I was put off initially by the way Cooper presented himself as almost an adrenaline junkie, feeling bored if he was not covering a war or stationed in some other dangerous place. It felt unseemly that he was drawn to places of such misery, especially after he went on at length about his reaction to the press that wanted to cover news of his brother's suicide. I hadn't known that he grew up with such vast personal wealth, which sort of exacerbated my impression of him as a person who was not truly connected to the misery he was seeing.
This was not the case with his discussion about Hurricane Katrina, however, and this was by far the best part of the book. He may have been better off sticking to that subject while periodically inter-cutting to his own story as he did throughout the book. The other parts weren't bad or poorly written, but he clearly felt a personal connection to the Katrina story that came across better and more clearly than the other stories described.
I had seen a review of this (book) from a friend and decided to get it on Audible. I was instantly hooked into the story from the first moment. What sets this apart from the traditional true crime book is the way the story is told from several different perspectives, based on interviews with friends, family and acquaintances of the victim, but also acquaintances and family of the perpetrated. It ends up being both a chronological story of a crime, its investigation, and the trial and a character study of many of the most prominent characters, not just the victim. It also presents a portrait of the difference between Japanese and British/American world views about crime, justice, society, and family. It really was almost impossible to stop listening once I started, and I highly recommend it if you're looking for an engrossing listen.
The narrator, who I have heard on several other audio books, was excellent.
I find Hare's work fascinating, and his psychopath test is an important contribution to many fields. While much of the book is interesting, it becomes obvious as the narrative goes on that 1) Hare thinks of psychopaths and being essentially a different species,which is a bit disturbing, and 2) he is not very open-minded once he has decided an individual meets the psychopathic definition- whether or not he has actually diagnosed the person. Interesting, but Hare comes across as seeing psychopaths around every corner.
I found this book very enjoyable, particularly listening to it in Ronson's own voice. The voice really adds a lot to the humor for whatever reason. It was an odd read, though, because while I enjoyed every part of it and found the subject very interesting, it was a little disjointed. It was like Ronson couldn't decide if it was a humor book or a piece of journalism. It works as humor, but wanders around quite a bit and makes no fleshed-out conclusions as journalism. This didn't bother me at all, but if you're looking for a methodical scrutiny of the "madness industry" as it is billed, it falls a bit short on that score. Still highly enjoyable, but as story-telling more than investigation.
I have followed the case of Damian Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Miskelley since 1996, when the documentary Paradise Lost came out. This memoir breaks my heart, as I listen to an innocent man go through the tortures of prison and death row- and before that of poverty and community ignorance. Through it all, Mr. Echols maintains poise and dignity. Listening to the story in Echols' own voice brought home the emotion and loss of the tragedy.
I personally was glad that there was little or no mention of the gruesome details of the murders and the new suspect arising from DNA tests, all of which is available in the many documentaries about the case and the websites supporting the West Memphis Three. This narrative is the story of Mr. Echols' life so far, which shines a bright light onto the inhuman conditions that we allow to exist in our prisons. A truly excellent memoir, which breaks your heart over and over again.
I was already pretty knowledgeable about Jim Jones and People's Temple, and the Jonestown tragedy, and still learned an incredible amount from this thorough and compassionate portrait of the people of Jonestown. I very much liked the technique of jumping around via the perspectives of different survivors and the use of diaries and letters to document what people were thinking as the Promised Land turned into Heart of Darkness. Heartbreaking and horrifying as it is to listen to the transcripts of the bitter end, it is so important for people to understand that ALL of the children and MANY of the adults did not commit suicide, they were murdered.
Another thing that comes across, which is absent from so many accounts of People's Temple, is how it could have been (and at times was) the groundbreaking social justice experiment that the congregants wanted it to be. How sad that the very thing (Jim Jones) that brought them all together is the same thing that tore the dream to shreds because all he really wanted was power.
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