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Echoes in the Darkness Paperback – September 1, 1987


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition (September 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553269321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553269321
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The bizarre, seven-year-long case of an Upper Merion, Pa., high school teacher, Susan Reinert, found murdered in 1979, and her two missing children receives masterful treatment from police novelist Wambaugh, who is now building a reputation as a true-crime writer. He shows the dead teacher's lover, colleague and beneficiary of her insurance policiesamounting to about $750,000to have been a superficial intellectual, able to dazzle impressionable high school students and to gather around himself a coterie of naive and trusting neurotics. There is no doubt in the author's mind that William Bradfielda Pied Piper of the chronologically adult but psychically underdevelopedcommitted the crime in concert with the former principal of the school, Jay Smith, whom he portrays as a sociopath. The skein of murder is highly complex, but Wambaugh unravels it superbly. 150,000 first printing.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Wambaugh's latest is a true murder story in an unlikely setting: an upper middle-class suburban Philadelphia high school. English teacher Susan Reinert and her two children were the victims of a bizarre conspiracy hatched by her colleague William Bradfield and her former principal Jay Smith. Both men were convicted after a seven-year investigation. The case is also the subject of Loretta Schwartz-Nobel's Engaged to Murder ( LJ 2/1/86). However, Wambaugh's account is preferable. Where Schwartz-Nobel seems perplexed by Bradfield's character, Wambaugh convincingly identifies the guilty men's motives as sociopathic. Also, Wambaugh is a master of the crime genre and he deftly handles the twists and turns of the intricate plot. Recommended. Gregor A . Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I read a lot of true-crime books.
Anthony Bruno
Being a true crime fan I have read Phelps, Rule, Wambaugh and many others but Echoes in the Darkness is the best true crime book I have read thus far.
Amazon Customer
Very boring and hard to follow the story.
kay Reeves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By "lisadiva" on May 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
The tale of Susan Reinert is one of the most riveting true crime books I have ever read. Certainly the story -- details about Bill Bradfield, Dr. Jay Smith, Vince Valaitis, Sue Myers, etc. -- was convoluted . . . and difficult to follow at best. But it just proves Bradfield's manipulation of everyone around him. The story becomes difficult to follow and almost unbelievable because the story itself is practically unbelievable. Bradfield told so many tales and lied to so many people that even he had trouble keeping up with it and remembering what he told and who he told it to. Dr. Smith proves to be a pretty sinister character himself -- someone who did a lot of terrible things (and was possibly involved in the disappearance of his own daughter and her husband! Frightening!). It is hard to believe that these people are real -- that they live(d) and breathe(d) and exist(ed) in Upper Merion -- it certainly makes for an entertaining and unbelievable cast of characters. But they are not just characters in a book -- they are REAL PEOPLE -- and that is the scary thing. It makes you stop and think and look around at your friends and neighbors and coworkers and wonder what is going on in their heads. Creepy!
What is most disturbing is the fact that Reinert's young children were unfortunately involved in this horrible situation, and that their bodies have never been found. Even more frightening is that Susan Reinert's body may have disappeared in much the same way -- except that there was life insurance money to be gained (by Bradfield) and therefore a body had to be found. The sad thing is that everyone seemed to be under someone else's "spell" -- for the most part, all these seemingly intelligent teachers (molding the minds of Upper Merion's youth, no less!
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Richard H. Romig Jr. on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a graduate of Upper Merion--with Jay Smith's signature on my diploma and Bill Bradfield's loopy enthusiasm whenever I successfully translated Catullus still ringing in my head--this book was a "must-read." I CAN say that Wambaugh does his usual good job of capturing certain facets of the main characters and presenting the case, particularly from the viewpoint of the investigators, whom he lionizes. (Unfortunately, the intervening years have led to revelations about their mishandling of evidence and own character failings...which tarnishes their victory somewhat.) He also succeeds in pointing out the inverse relationship between intelligence and common sense that often exists among academics, and definitely existed here. I found his description of sociopathic behavior and how it forged the bizarro bond between these two men especially illuminating. However, it's what I usually like best about Wambaugh's books that forms the basis for my only criticism: there's no mistaking the fact he's an ex-cop. That means he forms his judgments about the perpetrators, followers, and even the victim early on and sticks to them. These people weren't quite so black and white. That being said, it's a good read that captures the gothic feel it strives for, and makes me extremely sad for the mother and children who were lost...and angry at people I respected who had so much potential.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By B Ardell Young on May 20, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot be too critical of Mr. Wambaugh's book because the movie based on the book drew my attention to the murder mystery. The case is interesting because so many questions are still unanswered and there is no clearcut version of what really happened to Reinert and her children.

The book has two major problems. The first is a good portion of the story occurs after the book was published. The entire premise of this book is Bradfield and Smith murdered the Reinerts. Five years after the book is published evidence is discovered that Mr. Wambaugh paid Jack Holt,the lead detective, on the case, $ 50,000.00 to ensure Jay Smith was convicted of the murders. Another discovery was the DA withheld evidence that would probably resulted in Smith being acquitted. Both of those facts led to Smith's murder conviction being overturned by the Penn. State Supreme Court.

If you become interested in the story, read Echoes, watch the TV-movie which appears on Lifetime several times a year. Finally, you must read the final chapter of the story: Principal Suspect, which provides the conclusion of the legal proceedings but leaves one major question of the case unanswered.

Both books and the movie are worth the time spent on them.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Yes, I've read those other customer comments, but trust me, this is the best true crime book ever. First of all, Wambaugh has incredible access to all of the participants, which I believe is the most important ingredient of great true crime. (Haven't you ever read any of those cheapie true crime paperbacks and had the feeling that the author relied soley on the newspaper accounts and the trial transcript--there is a complete dearth of detail and character development? This book is the polar opposite--it's teeming with detail and fully realized characters.) Wambaugh tells you exactly what the characters were thinking and feeling, which allows you to understand how such educated people could get involved in such a horrific crime. Instead of feeling scorn for their gullibility you end up having great empathy for them. Secondly, the villians are FABULOUS--Dr. Smith in particular is so fiendishly sardonic I almost found myself cheering him on, despite the fact that he's (probably) done so many evil things. It's almost a Hannibal Lecter-ish effect--you know he's bad, yet there's something almost charming about his combination of intelligence and darkness. Finally, and most importantly, this book is laugh-out-loud funny. The author's metaphors comparing Dr. Smith to the Prince of Darkness make me howl, and his use of irony is truly sublime. I know it's incongruous to find such humour in a book about a terrible murder; please read it, and you'll understand.
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