Fiona's True Crime Book Reviews: D by author

Barbara D'Amato
The Doctor, the Murder, the Mystery

Chicago, 1968. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated. The city lay in fear of black mobs, student unrest, violence in the streets. As Barbara D'Amato says, "It was not a good time to be going to trial for anything. It was an absolutely terrible time to be black and going on trial for murder." This stirring tale about a clearly innocent man (his alibi was unassailable) shows how a murder investigation can--by narrowing its focus on a "prime suspect"--go completely awry. A good third of the book is about the doctor's adventures as a fugitive in Africa, where he spends time with such notable figures as Eldridge Cleaver and Idi Amin. Winner of Anthony and Agatha Awards for Best True Crime.

Don Davis
Hush Little Babies

If you're suspecting of murdering someone close to you, and you don't have much evidence to support your version of events, your fate may depend critically on what you do after the murder. Darlie Routier, accused of murdering her two young sons, did almost everything wrong. She was inconsistent when talking to the 911 operator, she didn't try to stop her sons' bleeding, and a week after the deaths, she laughed and played with Silly String at a 7th birthday party held at the older boy's grave. Even the playing of her son's favorite song, "Gangsta's Paradise," was held against her. Hush Little Babies is true crime in the tradition of Texans who "live large" in a material sense, but author Don Davis doesn't allow the flamboyant aspects of the Routiers' lifestyle to distract him from presenting the disturbing loose ends in the prosecution's case. He is a conscientious writer: before he expresses an opinion, he allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. In the end, it's a sad, puzzling tale.

Joe Domanick
To Protect and to Serve

The opening scene is a doozy: Tom Bradley, the black mayor of Los Angeles, faces an angry crowd just after the acquittals in the Rodney King beating trial. "Say what you gonna do," a fat woman bellows. "It's your police department. Say what you gonna do!" Little does the crowd realize the power of the LAPD. Joe Domanick goes back to the '30s to find the roots of that power, and takes the reader through the history of what he accurately calls "a quasi-military organization ... outside of the democratic system of checks and balances." Domanick has a delightfully energetic prose style. In his hands these stories of anti-labor squads and Red baiting, dragnets and "robocops," generate so much suspense, reading this book is almost like watching a movie. And, as the Los Angeles Times writes, "While Domanick unearths much dirt about the LAPD leaders, To Protect and to Serve excels at drawing fair, empathic, multidimensional portraits of their lives." Winner of the 1995 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.

John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker
Journey Into Darkness

Some authors are worth reading because of their area of expertise, even when their objectivity may be questionable. This is true of John Douglas, who follows up his Mindhunter with another assortment of his observations and opinions from his ex-job as the FBI's top expert on constructing behavioral profiles of criminals. This book contains several passages of interest: a detailed discussion of the modus operandi vs. the "signature" of a murder, and each relates to motive; thoughts on how the press and the public can be used to flush out a killer; a taxonomy of pedophiles, with a chapter on how to protect children from them; a detailed analysis of the savage sex-murder of a female Marine; a profile of the Simpson/Goldman killer; and a report on how the courts are handling behavioral testimony. Always biased, often egotistical, but uniquely experienced--that's Douglas.

[All reviews copyright ©, Inc. 1997-8]

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