In Cold Blood meets Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family: a harrowing, profoundly personal investigation of the causes, effects, and communal toll of a deeply troubling crime - the brutal murder of three young children by their parents in the border city of Brownsville, Texas.
On March 11, 2003, in Brownsville, Texas - one of America's poorest cities - John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered their three young children. The apartment building in which the brutal crimes took place was already run down, and in their aftermath a consensus developed in the community that it should be destroyed. It was a place, neighbors felt, that was plagued by spiritual cancer.
In 2008 journalist Laura Tillman covered the story for The Brownsville Herald. The questions it raised haunted her, particularly one asked by the sole member of the city's Heritage Council to oppose demolition: Is there any such thing as an evil building? Her investigation took her far beyond that question, revealing the nature of the toll that the crime exacted on a city already wracked with poverty. It sprawled into a six-year inquiry into the larger significance of such acts, ones so difficult to imagine or explain that their perpetrators are often dismissed as monsters alien to humanity.
With meticulous attention and stunning compassion, Tillman surveyed those surrounding the crimes, speaking with the lawyers who tried the case, the family's neighbors and relatives and teachers, even one of the murderers: John Allen Rubio himself, whom she corresponded with for years and ultimately met in person. The result is a brilliant exploration of some of our age's most important social issues, from poverty to mental illness to the death penalty, and a beautiful, profound meditation on the truly human forces that drive them. It is disturbing, insightful, and mesmerizing in equal measure.
©2016 Laura Tillman (P)2016 Simon & Schuster
I'm a recovering journalist and am drawn to stories about reporting the news. I have images etched in my mind that I'll never forget.
Laura Tillman's book takes the reader beyond the ten to 14 inches that a print reporter is allowed to cover a news story. It takes you beyond the who, what, where and when and into the why: not only why people kill, but why people have to judge.
Tillman's mind is like a rock tumbler. The sharp-edged details are sanded and polished. The end result is something more clearly seen, knowable, and truer than truth.
Julia Whelan's narration is perfect for this work. It is musing and contemplative and is an excellent vehicle for the author's perceptions. Good throughout, Whelan is exceptional in her conveyance of the final chapter.
The story is good. I liked that she made it about the community as a whole. The author used powerful imagery, and good structure for how the chapters are divided. I did not like the anti-death penalty tangent she went on. For someone that seems to give such a balanced perspective on each issue in the rest of the book, she ruined the overall effect in that chapter, choosing to focus on the quotes of those against the death penalty. Her bias came through more in that chapter than any other and it came across uncomfortably one-sided. She glossed over quickly reasons why people might support it, and gave long flowery quotes from experts against it. Although it is an uncomfortable topic, I feel it could have been handled in more balanced manner. Her conclusions may not have changed, but without weighing both sides equally, she's unlikely to change anyone's mind and only alienate those who feel differently. Overall it reads very little like a typical crime novel. Its more flowery and poetic than typical for that genre which for fans of the genre is a little offputting and gets to be distracting after awhile. It might be a good introduction for those new to True Crime. The narrator was a little monotone in the begining, but she really got her rhythm as the story unfolded and did a pretty good job. Overall, an average book. It however, is not one I would ever read a second time.
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