cover image The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox

The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox

Nina Burleigh. Broadway, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-58858-6

The 2007 murder of 22-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, captured the world's attention because of the woman eventually convicted of killing her: 20-year-old Seattle native and fellow student Amanda Knox. Burleigh (Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt) examines the intertwined lives of the students and the media circus surrounding the trial in this powerful example of narrative nonfiction. In July 2007, Knox moved into a house shared with Kercher and two older Italian women. On November 2, Kercher was found with her throat slit in her bedroom, and Knox and Raffaele Sollecito%E2%80%94whom she'd started seeing only a few days earlier%E2%80%94were first on the scene. Giuliano Mignini, the notoriously tough Perugian prosecutor, charged them with murder, adding their acquaintance Rudy Guede when evidence placed him at the crime scene. The protracted trial was awash with what Burleigh describes as faulty forensic evidence and testimony that was more rumor than substantiated fact, but Knox was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison; she is appealing her conviction. Burleigh, who parses how the Knox trial was perhaps tainted, still presents a fair and unbiased portrait of a girl adrift in a foreign legal system and a culture rife with preconceptions about young American women, 15 b&w photos; 2 maps. (Aug.)