Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America

Norton. Mar. 2014. 288p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393239287. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393242911. CRIME
Most people would cite the story of Kitty Genovese (a young woman who was fatally stabbed in 1964 in Kew Gardens, NY) as the most infamous example of the bystander effect, or the psychological phenomenon that explains that individuals are less likely to offer help to those in need when they perceive others to be present. However, on the 50th anniversary of the murder, Cook (Titanic Thompson; Tommy's Honor) reconsiders the case, concluding that erroneous reporting by the New York Times led to the accepted belief that 38 of Genovese's neighbors heard her cries and refused to respond, when in fact the truth was much more complex. The author successfully infuses new life into a case that many know primarily as a brief chapter from introductory psychology textbooks, fleshing out Genovese and relying upon historical details and heavy use of dialog to add further color. Though this is a well-researched account of a crime, more important, it's a nuanced examination of the cultural significance of Genovese's slaying and its legacy.
VERDICT True crime aficionados, sociology and psychology students, and anyone with an interest in untold stories will enjoy Cook's thought-provoking revelations.
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