cover image Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders

Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders

John Glatt. St. Martin’s, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-28348-1

Bestseller Glatt (The Doomsday Mother) tells the stranger-than-fiction saga of South Carolina’s Murdaugh family in this exemplary work of true crime. While many readers will be familiar with the allegations that attorney Alex Murdaugh killed his wife, Maggie, and 22-year-old son, Paul, in 2021—resulting in his 2023 conviction and double life sentence—Glatt deepens the story by placing those murders in the context of the family’s history. The Murdaughs “dominated a huge swath of South Carolina’s luscious Lowcountry, epitomizing power, justice, and big, big money” by serving as the equivalent of district attorneys at a time when state laws also permitted them to maintain a lucrative civil practice; they were well-known locally as both prosecutors and personal injury lawyers. Leading up to the murders, Maggie was beginning to consider filing for divorce, and Paul had been indicted for homicide after drunkenly crashing a boat and killing one of its passengers. All of this, Glatt explains, motivated Alex to act in desperate defense of the family legacy and their accumulated fortune, supporting this thesis by digging into the scope of both their influence and their wealth. Through his judicious use of police records, interviews with sources including local historians, and Alex’s own jailhouse phone calls (including one where he laughs off his crimes, saying “it is what it is”), Glatt has produced the equivalent of a juicy John Grisham novel, featuring a lead more “dark and totally devoid of conscience” than anyone he’s ever researched. This real-life Southern noir lingers. (Aug.)