Sunday, August 28, 2011

Best American Crime Reporting 2008

This edition was edited by Jonathan Kellerman, a reasonably prolific crime novelist I may have read one book by somewhere along the line (I fell way behind on crime fiction a long time ago, though I still poke away at it now and then). Kellerman is a psychologist by profession and there's some reflection of that here in some of his final choices. There's an essay by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) from "The New Yorker," for example, "Dangerous Minds," which sets out to debunk the whole notion of criminal profiling. It's convincing enough, but then so are its defenders. My thoughts on this are plainly not clear yet. There's an interesting piece by Mark Bowden from "The Atlantic" that makes a strong case, based on a concrete example, that torture is simply not effective. That's always something I like to hear. Another piece from "The New Yorker," this one by Tad Friend, offers a fascinating profile of a death-row prison administrator. In general, this collection seems to have a bit more of these types of articles—there's also an examination of a super-maximum prison and a harrowing story of what happens to a witness to a crime who stands up to do the right thing—but the strange wonders of human mayhem make their appearances too, as they must. In one, a con man fools people into thinking he was formerly a player with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he does so and gets away with it for awhile—in Pittsburgh. There's a kind of moral x-ray of a cold-case rape and murder finally solved when a serial killer is run to ground and happens to mention that he did that one too. It's sad, with issues of justice and victimology right at its heart. There's also the story of Eric Volz here, a popular figure on the true-crime TV shows. Volz, an American national living in Nicaragua in 2006, was arrested and imprisoned for the murder of his girlfriend, Doris Jiminez (there is some analogue in this case, perhaps only in terms of the terrors of overseas justice but I think a bit more than that, with the more recent Amanda Knox case in Italy); Volz was eventually released, as the story here and its coda details, when a Nicaraguan appeals court overturned the conviction. More fun treatments on the cover of the stories inside as well: "personal mythmaking," "vain terrorists," "criminal organ donors," "murder in the mountains," etc. Another good one.

In case it's not at the library.

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