A Murder

Greg Fallis, Author M. Evans and Company $19.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-87131-888-6
Plainly written but comprehensive, this is an informative guide to the legal and social responses to the crime of murder. Fallis, a former PI and coauthor of Be Your Own Detective, utilizes a strange yet successful narrative bifurcation: he alternates a dry, thorough tutorial on what actually occurs following a murder--the processes of finding and arresting a suspect, the judicial system, etc.--with a fictionalized homicide case (said to be based on a real one) that dramatically illustrates how the procedures work. This tale (of a seedy photographer who ""accidentally"" strangles a model he's drugged with Rophynol, the so-called ""date rape drug"") is quite compelling on its own, despite its blandly anecdotal nature. Yet the chapters on the crime, police investigatory techniques, defense measures, trial procedures, sentencing and the death penalty are even better, thanks to Fallis's clear organization and his zest for detail and for the subject's obscure ramifications (delineating, for example, the various kinds of murders and discussing such little-considered corners of criminal justice as prosecutorial misconduct). He uses thumbnail sketches of real cases and some statistical tables to good effect. The result of this odd amalgam of legal basics and hard-boiled TV-style dramatization is a helpful and gripping layperson's primer on the criminal justice system's response to murder, though it's ultimately a work of less gravitas than others on the subject, such as Robert Jackall's Wild Cowboys and David Simon's Homicide. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1999
Release date: 11/01/1999
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