THE COUNT AND THE CONFESSION: A True Mystery

John Taylor, Author . Random $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-375-50538-6

Seasoned journalist Taylor explored financial wheelings and dealings in Circus of Ambition and earned praise for Falling, an eloquent memoir of his doomed marriage. A similar intimacy and flair for intrigue pervade this account of the trial and conviction of Beverly Monroe for the shooting death of her boyfriend, an ersatz Polish count. Monroe made an unlikely murder suspect—a gracious and loving mother of three, she was a patents analyst at Philip Morris—but when tobacco research chemist Roger Zygmunt de la Burde was found dead on his 220-acre Virginia estate, police didn't think it was a suicide. Grief-stricken over her lover's death and unaware she was a suspect, Monroe, Taylor writes, was subjected to manipulative police procedures and eventually "persuaded to produce a false memory because she'd been convinced she had a repressed memory." But besides her confession (later retracted), other evidence incriminated her: there was another woman pregnant with Burde's child; the woman wanted Burde to leave Monroe; and the woman's ex-husband had reported Burde to the FBI for trafficking in fraudulent art. Monroe's daughter Katie, a lawyer, has dedicated years to ongoing appeals, and Taylor has spent considerable time unraveling complex entanglements: he interviewed Monroe and others extensively, reviewed 15,000 pages of legal documents and attended court proceedings. The result is a searing portrait of lives altered and destroyed, of violated rights and a labyrinthine and inflexible legal system—and, ultimately, a story that remains an "irreducible mystery." Photos not seen by PW. (On sale May 21)

Forecast: Dateline NBC will present a segment about this story. Further media attention and widespread reviews (based on Taylor's reputation) could break this out of the true-crime ghetto.

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-375-72583-8
Open Ebook - 276 pages - 978-0-307-42833-2
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