Because They're Dead

There are many ways to tell a true crime story. Police procedural, inside the mind of the killer, the victims'/survivors POV, the reporter's vantage point, etc. Good true crime requires good reporting. The writer needs to speak to as many people in the case as are willing to talk, read every available document and, if possible, attend the trial. When this is done, the author can present a complete picture of what happened and why.

What the author can't do is tell you what the murder victim was thinking and saying to another murder victim five minutes before his/her death unless video or audio recording is involved. That doesn't stop Ken Englade from filling a whole chapter of "conversation" between Derek and Nancy Haysom in the hours before they were murdered by the nutjob boyfriend of their nutjob daughter. I have a problem with this because the Haysoms weren't recording their own thoughts and movements so the documentation is thin to say the least. Interviews after the fact are out of the question too, because they're dead. This is a questionable choice and it gets worse because this clearly imagined conversation between Derek and Nancy does absolutely nothing to advance the story or to help the reader understand who they were. Unless you count the fact that Englade presents them as lushes.

This book is filled with similarly bad narrative choices. Try another one: you have the choice of choosing nutjob Elizabeth Haysom as the backbone of your story or the plodding police investigation following the Haysoms' murders. Let's see, would readers be more entertained and informed by getting inside the head of lying, drug-addicted, sorta-bisexual, self-perceived martyr Elizabeth or hearing run of the mill exchanges between cops who have "hunches" and make questionable fashion choices. That's right, Englade goes with the cops.

I do have to thank Mr Englade for providing me with the much-needed inspiration to clean my closet, sort through receipts for tax season and finally reorganize my sock drawer. It was like magic, a few pages of "Beyond Reason" and I was suddenly compelled to do something around the house. If only this book had been longer I might finally have gotten around to re-grouting the tile in the guest bathroom. It takes real commitment to turn a story of madness, murder and an international manhunt into a snooze-fest but Ken Englade looked that challenge in the face and stared it down. I sought out this book because it was, amazingly, nominated for an Edgar Award. The only explanation I have for this is that only five "Fact Crime" book were published in 1991 because it defies imagination that there could be a book out there that wasn't good enough to knock this gem off the list.

If you have a deep interest in police fashion or a need to get a head start on your spring cleaning, this is the book for you. Otherwise, keep moving, there's nothing here to see, folks.

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