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A Cold Case Paperback – July 10, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420024
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,103,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Frank Koehler was only 15 when he shot a friend in the back for double-crossing him. That's the sort of guy he was--violent, Mob-connected, and remorse-free. In the same rough-and-tumble postwar neighborhood on Manhattan's West Side lived a very different young man: Andy Rosenzweig, rigorously straight and determined to become a policeman at a time when cops were more likely to be taking naps or bribes than nabbing criminals. Years later, in 1970, Koehler murdered two men after an argument in a restaurant. One of the victims was a friend of Rosenzweig's. It was a straightforward case, but in a typical show of the NYPD's ineptitude, the case was closed when someone decided to declare Koehler dead, allowing him to slip away.

Twenty-seven years after the murders, on the eve of Rosenzweig's retirement as chief of investigations, he reopened the case, determined not to leave without catching the murderer of his friend. Philip Gourevitch, who last examined murder in the award-winning We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, is more interested in the personalities of killers and those who pursue them than the drama of murder itself. As a result, A Cold Case is short on tension, but it is an excellent character study. Gourevitch immerses us in the "white hoodlum milieu of another time and from a city which no longer really exists," and he conjures up the particular moral universe of each character--Rosenzweig; murder victim Richie Glennon, an ex-prizefighter who walked the fence between the good guys and the bad guys; Murray Richman, the Mob-defending lawyer from the Bronx who likes murder cases because there's "one less witness to worry about"; and Koehler himself, now elderly but still unremorseful. Gourevitch's skillful handling raises intriguing contradictions and questions, not least this one Koehler asks about himself: "Why would people still think good of this asshole?" Now, that's a story. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1970, a New York criminal named Frankie Koehler killed two men in cold blood, then disappeared. Over the decades, he was all but given up for dead. Nothing haunts a cop like loose ends, however, and 30 years later lawman and fugitive at long last crossed paths. Basing this book on his article of the same title, New Yorker staff writer and NBCC and L.A. Times award-winning author Gourevitch revisits this case. Gourevitch's first book (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda) dealt with the Rwandan genocide and that region's judicial vacuum; the scope here is smaller but, as Gourevitch shows, murder is a seemingly inescapable aspect of the human condition. In clean prose, the author follows former NYPD officer Andy Rosenzweig (now an investigator with the Manhattan D.A.'s office), who, like Koehler, was raised on the streets of postwar New York, a city that has all but disappeared except in the hands of capable writers. And Gourevitch lets his near-perfect pitch dialogue do much of the work. "I wouldn't kill anybody for money under any conditions.... That's a scumbag does that," Koehler says. The only jarring moments in this otherwise elegant and restrained narrative are the sudden intrusions of the pronoun "I." This residue of New Yorker style reminds readers that the material is not entirely fresh. But that is a minor complaint, for as Rosenzweig says, quoting a fellow officer, "Who speaks for the dead? Nobody. As a rule, nobody speaks for the dead, unless we do." Gourevitch has secured a place next to Rosenzweig in that lonely and all-important choir. 12 b&w photos. (July 11) Forecast: Thanks to the reputation Gourevitch established with his first book, this will be widely reviewed. During July and August, he'll do promotion in New York City; after Labor Day, he will embark on a five-city tour. This will sell handsomely.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Gourevitch is a good writer and journalist, but this shouldn't have been a book.
smoothsoul
This book reminds me of another really good true crime book I just read: U.S. Customs, Badge of Dishonor.
allen peterson
The only part of the book that I felt was really intriuging was Frank's perspective on himself.
G. Kellner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A reader in Michigan on July 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Gourevitch's earlier book was such a fine piece of writing and journalism that I had high expectations for this one when I spotted it at a bookstore a couple of days ago. It should be noted, especially for those shopping on Amazon, that it is a very slim volume. That they were able to squeeze nearly 200 pages out of the original manuscript says more about the printers, triple spacing and wide fonts that it does about the author's legwork. I was able to finish it in slightly less than two hours, which makes it an expensive read for the time it takes up. It is perhaps no coincidence that the story itself seems better suited to a Reader's Digest than a full length book treatment (but then again this is hardly a full length book).
Gourevitch seems motivated to write a sort of hard boiled story about a kid on the wrong side of the law and the dedicated cop who brings him to justice. He keeps his sentences very short, and his descriptions are limited to characters who look like Bogart and bad guys with ruddy complexions and New York dialects. Perhaps he was aiming for a sort of genre story, but the format limits him considerably. The cop's story is hagiographic and the murderer's tale is told with a sympathy that Gourevitch feels compelled to deny. The capture is embarassingly easy (and points out rather awkwardly that police incompetence might be more responsible for the murderer's time on the lam than his genius) and the subsequent denouement couched in cliches rather than insight. (I cringed at the portrayal of the money grubbing Jewish lawyer who, apparently, performed most of his work in this case for free).
This is not to say that the book is racist, but hackneyed and while the story can hold your interest, it stays disappointingly close the surface. If you are a fan of the true crime genre, then this might make a quick and interesting read, but certainly Gourevitch is capable of something much deeper and challenging than this.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Very little new information is conveyed in this story beyond the original article in the New Yorker magazine. Could have been expanded to include additional information, perhaps more interviews with the deceased' families, pictures of the deceased when alive. It would be interesting to hear more about the detective Rosenzwieg's interest in these characters whom he seems fascinated with. Rosenzweig himself is an interesting character. Perhaps he could be tempted to write his own stories about crime and other unsolved cases.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. Kellner VINE VOICE on August 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I expected much more from this book. OK, Frank Koehler shoots two people and then flees to California (escapes isn't really the word--he just kind of walks off). Andy Roesenweig decides to catch him and after only several pages of looking for him, half way through this book, they find him. Well, so what? There's no real drama, no spectacular moment. The only part of the book that I felt was really intriuging was Frank's perspective on himself. Unfortunately, this was only a few pages long and while his own perspective is certainly a good start in exploring a criminal mind, I felt readers might benefit more from different views--perhaps from psychologists or criminal profilers or other relatives who knew him. I mean, if there's no action to speak of, why else would you read this? I felt the book didn't really go into ANY aspect of the case in any detail. Very disappointing!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By smoothsoul on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I read Gourevitch's original article in The New Yorker on which the book is based, I was intrigued. It was in interesting story, well told. But the book seems padded and is occasionally boring (I skipped bits which I almost never do on principle). Worse, it doesn't seem that difficult or profound a case, and you start to question the original story. Really, not a lot happens, though there is a little insight into detection methods and the hoodlum milieu. Gourevitch is a good writer and journalist, but this shouldn't have been a book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is about a small time hood, Frank G. Koehler, who got mad at a couple of guys and shot them both to death in cold blood while wounding a third party. That was in 1970. He escaped and was never brought to justice. Eventually the case was closed because somebody (Gourevitch doesn't tell us who) was of the "opinion" that Koehler had to be dead since (according to others) it was "virtually inconceivable that a man with such a violent disposition and criminal history could have remained alive and out of trouble" for so long. (p. 26) Then in 1997, 27 years after the crime, Andy Rosenzweig, chief investigator for Manhattan's district attorney, reopened the case.
But this really isn't about Rosenzweig's pursuit of Koehler. There wasn't much of a pursuit. They found him living in Benicia, California and picked him up when he arrived at Penn Station in New York on July 30, 1997, "a pathetic old man" 67-years-old. A photo taken that day makes him look like a rummy with a bad dye job.
So what's this book about, and why is it considered so good that Scott Turow and Elmore Leonard, among others, have touted it? Quite simply this is a textbook example of how to write a modest crime story with an underlying emphasis on our criminal justice system, how it works, and how it fails. Besides the two chief characters in the book, Koehler and Rosenzweig, there is a revealing portrait of defense attorney, "Don't Worry Murray" Murray Richman, a man who's made a nice living defending some of New York City's sleazier crooks. The aptly named Richman believes that there's a difference between the authorities and gangsters: "the gangsters are more compassionate." (p. 128) He adds (p. 132): "If I defended only innocent people, I'd go hungry.
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