The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City

Scribner. Apr. 2016. 256p. ISBN 9781501104251. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501104305. CRIME
OrangeReviewStarThe best true crime can be gutting to read. Journalist Tillman's intense, well-written, and yet horrific account explores the lives of a young couple who murdered their three children. The author examines the building in which the family lived, the neighborhood, its residents, and the border town in which they all reside. Tillman goes beyond the question of "why" and delves into the geographic, racial, class, and cultural divides that shape poverty-stricken Brownsville, TX. Her correspondence and meetings with the children's father are at once heartbreaking and disturbing, and Tillman's explanation of her own feelings as she engages with him deepens the narrative rather than distracts. She follows the shockwaves of his actions through the community and local justice system, interviewing lawyers for both sides and documenting their philosophical and moral attitudes about crime, mental illness, the death penalty, and the nature of good and evil.
VERDICT For readers who prefer thoughtfulness to titillation. The murders may not have been widely known outside of Brownsville, but this book will be.
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