Book review: Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee — by Casey Cep

(Knopf Publishing Group)
It’s no secret that Harper Lee was instrumental in the research behind Truman Capote’s groundbreaking non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, but what may be less well known is she was working on one of her own, a true-crime book she intended to title “The Reverend.” Seventeen years after “In Cold Blood” was published, Harper Lee was taking notes in the gallery at the trial of Willie Maxwell, the reverend from Alabama who held life insurance policies on his family members who then turned up dead. Uncannily, in almost every case, the deaths were ruled not suspicious and Maxwell was awarded payouts. At his final acquittal trial in 1977, he was murdered, after delivering the eulogy, right in the courtroom by a relative of his latest victim. Faced with certain conviction, Robert Burns hired respected attorney Tom Radney, the self-same attorney who defended Willie Maxwell himself against the very allegations which motivated Burns to kill him — a most intricate plot and Harper Lee recognized the potential. She never finished her book, but Casey Cep deftly sets the scene, in time and place, concisely characterizes the players, and perhaps most astonishingly, gives the reader a glimpse into Harper Lee after “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
10 True-Crime Tales
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara
Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson
Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
The Queen, by Josh Levin
The Last Job, by Dan Bilefsky
The Trial of Lizzie Borden, by Cara Robertson
Columbine, by Dave Cullen
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Love and Death in the Sunshine State, by Cutter Wood
Good Kids, Bad City, by Kyle Swenson

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