BOOK REVIEWS - ALASKANA

Brennan, Tom MURDER AT 40 BELOW: True Crime Stories From Alaska. Epicenter Press, Softbound 189 pages $14.95

There’s something soothing about reading true crime stories. They’re a morality play for one thing; the victim gets sympathy, the perp is caught, and justice is served.

However, these cases, most from the Anchorage area (another thing the city has the majority of in the state) almost completely multiple murders of entire families, or the eradicaton of most of Manley Hot Springs and McCarthy are unsettling. First, because longtime reporter and editor Tom Brennan can and does describe murder scenes in graphic detail. Since many involved ugly rapes and several have small children, the reader has to have much more taste for gore than this reviewer.

Next, most of the murders were committed by psychopaths. Aside from wondering why a minute fraction of the mentally ill turn violent, there is nothing to be gained by the reader. And the last complaint for the true crime lover is how little detective work is involved. Strange sick man starts killing his neighbors, young man kills three friendly hunters, stupid young girl talks boyfriend into robbery and murder; what’s worth recording here, other than the author’s apparent belief that psychiatric patients are not to be trusted. and his applause of the laws that now allow victims, even relatives, to say whatever they like at a trial with no questioning allowed by the defense, and the questionable victory of charging juveniles as adults.

The one relatively non-violent murder was that of the Birdman of Alacatraz, a famous killer from Juneau who was glorified years later in a book and movie.

Since simulated violence seems to be a big seller in movies and television, perhaps the editors felt this level of writing would be popular. This may well be correct, but this reviewer found it disgusting.

D. L

 

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