Sunday, September 25, 2011

Best American Crime Reporting 2007

Linda Fairstein is the editor of this volume—a former Manhattan prosecutor who has gone on to writing crime fiction. I haven't read any of her novels but I do remember her appearance on "Murder by the Book," the old Court TV (now the lamentable TruTV) show, which featured crime-fiction authors as guest hosts. Canceled too soon, it was actually one of the better true-crime shows in recent years, because the cases were often so interesting. Fairstein focused her prosecutorial career on crimes of violence against women and children, but unfortunately wound up on the wrong side of things in the Central Park jogger case, winning the wrongful convictions, later overturned, of a handful of teenage African-Americans. There's a cautionary tale there. But her collection nevertheless stands up to all the others in this excellent series, many pieces coming from a global point of view with evident interest in issues related to terrorism and public safety, not surprising for a New York official. Mark Fass contributes a fascinating mystery story for "New York" magazine about a person who disappeared in New York City on September 10, 2001, and the byzantine efforts to determine her fate. The difficulties of it lend perspective to the scope of 9/11. Then there's the harrowing story by Tom Junod for "Esquire," now done up on true-crime TV, of Katrina and a pair of nursing home operators who stayed behind in the storm and attempted to do the right thing, and found themselves in a lot of trouble for their pains. There's a clinically precise and chilling account by C.J. Chivers, also for "Esquire," of the incident in September 2004 in which Chechen terrorists took control for three days of a school in Beslan, Russia. And there are the usual round-up of quotidian incidents, with their horrors and charms alike: a master thief of rare books ... grown women seduced by 14-year-olds online ... quiet roommates who turn out to be international jewel thieves ... priests who kill. The most interesting for me this time around was "The Monster of Florence," a bizarre and twisting tale of the investigation into a serial killer who operated in Italy in the '70s and '80s. The case remained open for years and incidentally almost devours professional true-crime writer Douglas Preston, author of the "Atlantic" piece that appears here, and Italian journalist Mario Spezi, with whom Preston collaborated on a private investigation and later a book about the case. At the time of this article the case was still open, but this reminds me, I still want to track down the book that came of it.

In case it's not at the library.

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