A relevant true-crime cautionary tale as well as an urgent plea for mental health awareness.

SLENDERMAN

ONLINE OBSESSION, MENTAL ILLNESS, AND THE VIOLENT CRIME OF TWO MIDWESTERN GIRLS

An unsettling chronicle of the “Slenderman” stabbing and its subsequent courtroom debacle.

In 2014, two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin, planned the murder of their friend. They believed her death would appease Slenderman, a fictional character popularized by the website Creepypasta, an aggregator of user-submitted ghost stories. On May 31, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser lured Payton Leutner into the woods and stabbed her 19 times. The girls left her for dead, although miraculously, Leutner survived. Quickly apprehended, Weier and Geyser entered the inconceivably slow stream of Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. Hale breathlessly recounts this unspeakable tragedy but holds her focus on the courtroom and society’s failures in treating the mentally ill. Her message is resonant: We must do better for those in need. However, Leutner’s trauma often feels sidelined while Hale tries to promote awareness and dismantle the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Much of the book is Geyser’s story. She was dealing with schizophrenia with little understanding that her illness was something treatable. “They said I was trying to get attention,” she explained years after the incident. Her parents were in denial, and her “teachers had neither the time nor the training” to be supportive. Complicating things further, Wisconsin law allows children to be tried as adults in certain circumstances, a legal gray area that stuck Weier and Geyser in a dangerous three-year limbo between jail and a mental health institute before their judgment. The power of online media remains chillingly present throughout the narrative. During a “livestream of the trial on Facebook,” Hale writes, “internet commenters were offering their opinion of [Geyser’s] character,” some even calling her an “evil creature” that should be killed. Beyond the horrific incident at its center, the book expands into a searing criticism of how society treats (and mistreats) the mentally ill.

A relevant true-crime cautionary tale as well as an urgent plea for mental health awareness.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5980-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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