cover image Poisoned Dreams: A True Story of Murder, Money and Family Secrets

Poisoned Dreams: A True Story of Murder, Money and Family Secrets

A. W. Gray, Author Dutton Books $23 (384p) ISBN 978-0-525-93710-4

Novelist Gray ( Killings ) makes his debut in true-crime writing with this story of the murder in 1991 of Nancy Dillard Lyon, daughter of a Dallas real estate tycoon and the wife of Richard Lyon, whom she met when both were graduate students at Harvard. As Nancy lay dying from a fatal dose of arsenic, her family, particularly her father and her brother Bill, a onetime playboy and ex-addict, became convinced that Richard had poisoned her. The case garnered headlines not only because of the family's prominence, but also because of revelations of teenage incest between Nancy and Bill and about Richard's adultery. As the author tells it, the evidence against the husband was entirely circumstantial and he suggests that the guilty verdict and the life sentence were unjust. Gray has done his research well, but his venture into writing nonfiction is less than successful. Cliches abound (``Trying to explain her appeal to men is very much like attempting to justify one's fascination with a beautiful song. The melody haunts and the lyrics tantalize.''); and transitions are awkward (``Sue crosses her fingers and says a silent prayer for her boy, and then turns her thoughts to her younger girl.'') Photos not seen by PW . (Dec.)