cover image The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City

Laura Tillman. Scribner, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0425-1

When Tillman moved to Brownsville, Tex., in 2008 for a job at a local newspaper, she was assigned to write a story about the local debate over whether to demolish an apartment building where, in 2003, John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered and decapitated their three small children. Tillman becomes increasingly interested in the crime and how the proposed destruction of the building was the catalyst for the community to wrestle with it. In order to fully understand the family involved in the crime, she traces their place in their south Texas community and explores the violent history of the region. Did Rubio, who orchestrated the murders, truly believe his children were possessed by demons? Why did Camacho go along with it? Tillman's persistent, gritty journalism reveals that the case is more complicated and nuanced than the headlines would indicate. But still another question persists: how does a community cope with the long lasting effects of such a revolting crime? This thought-provoking portrait of a murder implicates the community at large and forces the reader to grapple with the death penalty, which Rubio is sentenced to. Tillman's book exemplifies provocative long-form journalism that does not settle for easy answers. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency.