cover image Boys on the Tracks

Boys on the Tracks

Mara Leveritt. Thomas Dunne Books, $25.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19841-1

If this Arkansas murder tale weren't a true-crime thriller by an established investigative journalist, it would be too crazy, complicated and bizarre to believe. The action grips readers from the beginning, with the death of two teenagers, Don Henry and Kevin Ives, told from the perspective of the train engineers who accidentally ran over the boys' bodies. The 1987 case was originally ruled a double suicide, then an accident--the boys supposedly smoked too much marijuana and passed out. But their bodies were suspiciously neatly arranged on the train tracks. The parents, rejecting the official explanations, pushed for a murder investigation. Leveritt tells most of the story through the eyes of Linda Ives, Keith's mother, who pursues the medical examiner, the sheriff, then-governor Bill Clinton, the CIA and everyone else she thinks is blocking or slowing the progress of the investigation. The case remains unsolved, and Leveritt draws no conclusions. She merely fleshes out the context and explores all the leads in all their various directions. Yet the further away from the murder she gets, the less compelling her story becomes. Leveritt brings up every wild conspiracy theory in Arkansas and ties each to the boys' death; some of the theories are wacky right-wing fantasies, others are simply small-town oddities. The result is that what should be chilling ends up seeming merely fantastical. (Nov.)