cover image Early Graves

Early Graves

Thomas H. Cook. Dutton Books, $19.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24918-4

Novelist Cook ( Night Secrets ) here turns to nonfiction to tell of the murders of two teenage girls in the Alabama-Georgia border area in 1982 by 18-year-old Judith Neelley and her 29-year-old husband, Alvin. Both victims were kidnapped; at least one was tortured. Judith Neelley was reckoned a coldhearted sadist during her trial, though her defense attorney attempted to depict her as a battered child and wife. The strategy failed. The jury found her guilty and recommended a life sentence, overturned by the judge in favor of the death penalty. She is awaiting execution, the youngest woman to be condemned to death in this country; her spouse is serving two life terms. Strong writing, particularly in the portrait of the South's urban Tobacco Roads, enhances the book's grisly appeal. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)