The Case of the Vanishing Blonde: And Other True Crime Stories

Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780802128447. $26. CRIME
Though Bowden (The Last Stone) notes that crime stories serve to titillate, he proves that the genre is more than voyeuristic thrills. The six pieces found here, taken from over the course of the author’s career as a crime reporter, are uncomfortably thrilling—as good crime writing should be—but they contain insights into our often sexist and racist society, the criminal justice system, and who gets the privilege of having their stories told and believed. In “The Incident at Alpha Tau Omega,” Bowden cites sociological accounts of group mentality as he tells the story of a gang rape that took place in 1983 at a fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania. Examining a Delaware County, PA, case where local police and FBI agents posed as children online to find potential child molesters, Bowden raises difficult questions as to what constitutes entrapment. The other tales are equally compelling, such as a look at a police department that protects one of its own, as well as a seemingly routine death that turns out to be anything but.
VERDICT This true crime master expands the limits of the genre, digging to find answers and revealing that even the most horrific crimes are often linked to a larger story about America.
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