Sunday, August 11, 2019

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (Casey Cep)

The title of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee is a little misleading. Ms. Lee doesn't make an appearance until the last third of the book or so. However, what leads up to her part is fascinating in and of itself. Author Casey Cep is a master researcher.

This is the story of Reverend Maxwell, who was accused of killing five of his family members for life insurance money. Even through mounting evidence, he did not pay for any of his crimes due mostly to the work of his lawyer, Tom Radney. At the funeral for his stepdaughter he was accused of killing, Reverend Maxwell was shot dead in front of hundreds of witnesses, and in a twist of fate, Radney then represented the man who shot him, Robert Burns. Harper Lee enters the picture because she wants to write her own In Cold Blood true-crime novel, which she helped her friend, Truman Capote, with without much recognition.

Each part of this book is definitely fascinating, so it's getting a high rating from me. However, I will say that it felt disjointed with all its separate parts -- the story of Reverend Maxwell and his victims, the story of Tom Radney, the story of Burns's trial, and finally the story from Harper Lee from the very beginning of her life in Alabama. I wish Cep chose a different route by connecting the parts a bit more, but I still enjoyed Furious Hours very much.