cover image Who Named the Knife: A Book of Murder and Memory

Who Named the Knife: A Book of Murder and Memory

Linda Spalding, . . Pantheon, $23.95 (258pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42476-2

In June 1978, Larry Hasker was murdered in Hawaii. Maryann Acker was convicted of the crime in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison. In this sparkling account, noted Canadian novelist Spalding creates a nuanced, deeply felt tale of her own involvement in the story and how it led her along a path of self-discovery. Chosen for the jury, Spalding was dismissed from the case after showing up five minutes late one day. Acker was convicted and their lives spun off in different directions until, 18 years later, Spalding unearthed the diary she had kept during the trial, contacted Acker and became entwined in an attempt to get Acker a new trial (the main witness against her has since confessed to the murder). Spalding’s strong, elegant prose carries the story along effortlessly. With her own life full of tragedy—a failed marriage, the accidental death of a brother and sister-in-law—Spalding both relates to Acker and suffers from guilt, knowing her vote might have spared Acker a life behind bars. Along the way, Spalding weaves a beautiful story about coming to terms with her mother’s imminent death and her unresolved relationship with her often violent-tempered father. This delicate yet powerful work should find a wide readership.