True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa
I forget where I read the article that referred me to the book, but it went straight onto my Amazon wish list — I mean, what a crazy story. A Times reporter gets bounced from the magazine staff for inappropriate "compositing" of a subject, then gets a call that very night from another reporter, telling him a guy suspected of murdering his wife and three kids is impersonating him in Mexico?
I can't tell you how many times I've read an excerpt or a review that whets my appetite for a book, only to realize once I've got the entire book in hand that the excerpt/review is as good as it's going to get, but that isn't the case here — True Story may have benefited from the fact that I read it right after Positively 5th Street, but whatever the reason, I tore through it in a few hours. Poor reportorial decision-making aside, Finkel can really write. The prose gets just a bit damp a few times, usually when he's trying to work through what's drawing him to Christian Longo; some of the "there but for the grace of God" paralleling, he could have left out.
But Finkel knows how to move things along, and he's hitting it right on the sweet spot of the best crime writing: tantalizing the reader with an imminent answer, while acknowledging that usually there is no satisfactory answer. What exactly happened, why did it happen…"narcissistic personality disorder" is the ostensible reason, but of course there is no reason to any of it (see also: Jeffrey MacDonald).
The narrative goes so fast that, at the end, you won't know for sure what you just read; I've sat with it for a couple days. It raises interesting questions about ethics, about the relationship between accused and press, about how close any of us is to losing everything with one seemingly small decision. Good stuff; two thumbs up.
Tags: books Christian Longo Michael Finkel true crime