Lord of the Flies on Long Island

At the heart of Against Her Will is an appalling, gruesome crime - the murder and mutilation of a 13-year-old Kelly Tinyes. This sort of crime brings out the exploitation writers of the true crime genre. Fortunately, Ronald J. Watkins devotes these pages to the investigation and impact on the community, not on salacious details of the crime.

This book was written outside in. It does not appear that Watkins interviewed either family involved. That leaves readers observing the Tinyes and Golubs (family of the accused) from a distance. We see them in pain, we hear their anguished cries, angry outbursts and words crafted for public consumption. Watkins gets us closer to the investigating officers but only in the context of their work. There are no fashion tips from the men and women in blue.

In some ways the distance is appropriate to this case. The Tinyes and Golub families turned on each other in a manner reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. The ghastly murder of Kelly became quickly subsumed in the outrageous, petty, hateful, hate-filled, frightening acts they perpetrated against each other. While some of the neighbors join in, others watch in disbelief as their quiet little street turns into first a scene of horror and then a scene of daily emotional savagery. The war between these two families ends up being just as shocking as the crime that inspired it.

This book surprised me. I was expecting run-of-the-mill decent true crime. Watkins keeps the pace going without shorting on the emotional impact of the crime. He doesn't indulge in homilies to the victim's utter perfection, he shows us an average 13-year-old girl through the eyes of her friends.  Watkins has an eye for the perversely amusing detail, the phrase "former nun turned police officer" will stay with me. Even the chapters devoted to the trial aren't the usual slog although I'd guess that the author wasn't in attendance. Watkins manages to paraphrase testimony in a way that illuminates and moves the narrative along.

All together this earns Against Her Will four stars. Solid, readable true crime the reminds us that crime itself is often the beginning of the story.

Kindle note: Human copy editing is apparently a thing of the past so readers are treated to a few typos. Also, there are no photos in the Kindle version.

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