Monday, May 23, 2011

A Rip in Heaven by Jeanine Cummins

Somewhere I read about this 2004 nonfiction book and decided to give it a try. Written by a family member, the book details the 1991 brutal assault of 3 teens on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

True-crime books always have a bit of a rubber-neck appeal - they're horrifying, yet we want to know all the sickening details. Here, the author tries to stand apart from the action and report the events as if she's not involved - showing varying points of view to give a multi-faceted look at the crime, investigation, trials, and media frenzy.

Unfortunately, that approach isn't as strong as it could be. I think it might have been a better narrative if she'd picked one angle and stayed with it; by creating that distance away from her own involvement, she loses a lot of the heart of the tale. Additionally, in trying to bring a scholarly angle to the reportage she sometimes throws in a paragraph or two about psychology or police investigative theory that just throw the brakes on the whole flow.

I stuck it out til the end, but I'm not sure I would recommend it.

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