Monday, 11 January 2010

Book Review Jan: Murder in the Heartland

My new year’s resolution was to read more books based on true events. I plan to read one a month and review them. I’m kicking the year off with Murder in The Heartland by M. William Phelps.

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The book brought to life the story of how a small town girl, Bobby Jo Stinnett, was brutally murdered when she was 8months pregnant with her first child. What makes this story even more heart churning is that the murderer, Lisa Montgomery, stole the unborn child from her dieing victim’s abdomen.

Straight off the bat; I was a tad disappointed by this book as it wasn’t what I was expecting. The book is less about the crime at hand and those directly involved but rather about Lisa Montgomery’s relatives and their opinions.

Reading the news articles around the story and hearing there was a true crime story written, I was itching to get inside the mind of someone who could commit such a heinous crime. I wanted to know what would drive a woman who has four children of her own to kill an expecting mother and kidnap her baby. It truly is the stuff of nightmares. However the author hasn’t touched on any of this and rather has delivered a story told through Lisa Montgomery’s ex-husbands eyes. The story rarely touches on the victims and the impact the crime had on them. Only the first third of the book is dedicated to the criminal act itself. I found most of the book to be filled with information about Lisa’s past. Several chapters are dedicated to retelling how she moved to several towns over the years and ripped her children from state to state. I’m guessing the author wanted to shares with us Lisa’s troubled past and give us incite into her mental state, I feel he missed the target of his objectives.

The book is written is a past/present layout. I usually don’t like this form of writing and I find it a cheap attempt at cliff hanging but the style seemed to work for this story. I feel the writer did this due to the lack of information that could be reported. At the time of writing, the case had not yet gone to trial.

I don’t feel the book adequately represented several key players. The views of the victims were void and the author admits that the family of Bobby Jo didn’t wish to speak with him. Lisa’s second husband, the one she was married too at the time of the events, didn’t wish to speak with the author either. I think the book would have come across a lot softer and sensitive to the victims if he had pursed some more lines of contact. It seems that only one Police office involved in the case came forward with information. He claims that he solved the case on his own and gave very little credit to other officers involved. I find it hard to believe that a small town sheriff had the power to rule over the FBI. I found his retelling to be very ‘Hollywood.’ At one point he goes into great detail about how he met the president.

Reading the book and knowing that the story is real and did happen, it makes you stop and think. It’s the type of book that you will put down after each chapter and really ponder about how the crime has impacted so many people. One point I would like to make about true crime stories; don’t be a nosey parker and start googling the story before you have finished the story. Let the author give his views before you do any research of your own. I made this mistake and found out the result of the trial before I finished the book, thus making the last few chapters very slow for me.

I would recommend this book to people who are interested in crime and policing. The book touches on details about how the killer was caught and the various techniques used. I don’t recommend this book to anyone expecting a child as it does play on your heart strings. With only one or two rough descriptions of the crime scene, the book is suitable for even the most weak bellied. All in all, I found the story interesting and an easy read.

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