LAW & CRIME

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

Knopf. May 2019. 336p. ISBN 9781101947869. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101947876. CRIME
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In the late 1970s, while still struggling to write a follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird, novelist Harper Lee went to Alexander City, AL, to learn everything she could about the mysterious life and public death of Willie Maxwell, Jr. Maxwell, a local preacher, rumored voodoo priest, and suspect in multiple murders, was shot and killed in front of a room full of witnesses at the funeral of one of his alleged victims. This debut by Cep is the fascinating account of Maxwell, his lawyer Tom Radney, and Lee’s determination to tell their story in a book called The Reverend. However, this is not a work specifically about Lee; the compelling stories of Maxwell and his lawyer comprise nearly half of the text. There are no major secrets revealed here, as Lee’s work on the Maxwell story was discussed in Charles Shields’s Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, and it’s still uncertain how much of The Reverend Lee ever wrote. Yet, Cep masterfully builds the suspense throughout this thoroughly researched and enjoyable account.
VERDICT Recommended for all who enjoy true crime and legal dramas and essential for those hoping to learn more about Lee’s enigmatic life

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