29 April 2013

Monday's review: The Orchid Murder Untangling a Web of Unsolved Murders and Legal Malpractice by Christine Hunt

This book was provided by the publisher in return for my review

Recommended for: People familiar with the crime and those that are curious about it
Genre: True Crime
My score: 3 out of 5 stars

Published by Right Line Publishing 
Format: Paperback
Price:  Paperback $17.95
               eBook $9.99

When I was in high school (many years ago) I read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, which started a life long love of true crime stories. The thing is, finding really good true crime books is a bit of a challenge. Christine Hunt's The Orchid Murder: Untangling a Web of Unsolved Murders and Legal Malpracticewas an interesting entry into this genre. It is really almost a tale of two books, with very different feels for each part. 

Ms. Hunt devotes the first half of the book to describing the 1973 murder of Bob Nachtsheim, referred to as The Orchid Murder because he was found in his flower shop, lying in a pool of blood, with a flat of orchids by his side. I was not familiar with this crime or it's outcome, so I found this part of the book fascinating. In addition, Ms. Hunt's description of the outcome of the investigation, the performance of Philip Gainsley, the defendant's lawyer, and it's effect on the life of Norm Wartnick, the defendant was fascinating. Ms. Hunt's background as an investigative journalist really shined through here as her descriptions and explanations were well done. 

Once the focus switched to the malpractice trial brought by Joe Frieberh and Jerry Snider, though, the book fell apart for me. At first I was mesmerized by the legal maneuverings and backroom deals that seemed to be stacked against the plaintiff's and their lawyers. As the time line unfolded, though, the book began to read like a trial transcript. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it began to get quite repetitive and I found myself skimming large sections. I would have liked to see a little less of the trial transcripts and a bit more analysis and explanation. 

I will say, though, while reading the book, you were never quite sure which way the final outcome was going to go. In that respect, the author did a great job. In fact, my inability to tell exactly how it would end was the main thing that kept me reading. I also appreciated the follow up that was included in the end, and the numerous explanatory footnotes throughout the book. 

In the end, the book left me with a lot of questions regarding the actual unsolved murder (By the way, the title says Unsolved murders, but in fact only one murder was really addressed). I find myself wanting to research the actual murder more to see if there is any addition analysis out there anywhere. In addition, I thought the Legal Malpractice part could have been better handled. I would class this book as a recommended read, but not a highly recommended read.

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