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The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox Hardcover – August 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"The most thorough account of the case. Better than anyone else, Burleigh captures the parallels between Italy and America.” —New York Times Book Review

"THE FATAL GIFT OF BEAUTY is the real, the true, and the complete story of the Amanda Knox case. It will draw you into a nightmare world of murder, conspiracy, corruption, false accusations, police incompetence, abuse, lies, and manipulations. Nina Burleigh is a first-rate journalist who presents a meticulously researched and reported account, with every fact documented and sourced. It is an essential read for anyone interested in this case. More than a murder story, is a look into the dark and complex soul of Italy itself."--Douglas Preston, co-author of The Monster of Florence

"Finally, the twisted tale of Amanda Knox, the all-American college girl convicted of murder in Italy, gets the telling this extraordinary story deserves. Nina Burleigh's immersion in Italian cultural history provides a context that allows us--first the first time--to understand how this international miscarriage of justice could have occurred. Stirring, compelling, and in the end a tragic tale worthy of Italian opera." --Joe McGinniss, author of Fatal Vision, The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro and The Rogue

"The global media, in its frenzied coverage of the sensational Amanda Knox murder trial, overlooked what Nina Burleigh has skillfully unearthed and analyzed--a compelling chain of evidence, subtle levels of significance.  Her telling of the tale is clearly the only one that gets it right."--John Berendt, author of The City of Falling Angels and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

“A fascinating book about a beautiful American girl in Italy and how she was prosecuted for a murder she may not have committed. It is also a study in sexism and criminal law--especially in Italy. Horrifyingly readable.”-- Erica Jong

"Nina Burleigh has cut through the confusion of conflicting and often inaccurate news accounts of the Amanda Knox murder case and given us a lucid, fair-minded account of the case. She shows, quite convincingly, that Knox and her co-defendant have been victims of a serious miscarriage of justice. Perhaps more importantly, she explains why, showing the case to be the product of cultural misunderstanding between Italy and the U.S."--Alexander Stille, author of The Sack of Rome

"[In] this powerful example of narrative non-fiction...Burleigh, who parses how the Knox trial was perhaps tainted, still presents a fair and unbiased portrait of a girl adrift in a foreign legal system and a culture rife with preconceptions about young American women." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Burleigh’s propulsive narrative and the many unsettling aspects of the case make this a standout among recent true-crime titles."—Kirkus Reviews

“Journalist/author Burleigh (e.g., Unholy Business) reconstructs a murder case that has proved to be about much more than murder.”—Library Journal

"A fascinating book about a beautiful American girl in Italy and how she was prosecuted for a murder she may not have committed.  It is also a study in sexism and criminal law--especially in Italy. Horrifyingly readable." --Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying

“Savvy true-crime reporting combined with a headline-hogging murder trial.”—Booklist

About the Author

Nina Burleigh is the author of Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed, and Forgery in the Holy Land, A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer, and two other books. She has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time and is a contributing editor at Elle. She has resided in France, Italy, and the Middle East and now lives in New York.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307588580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307588586
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,163,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nina Burleigh is the author of five books including the New York Times bestseller, The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox. To research the definitive story of the Amanda Knox trial, Burleigh lived in Perugia, corresponded with the three defendants, interviewed Italian authorities and dozens of close friends and families of the accused. She and her husband photographer Erik Freeland enrolled their two children in the town school, and had many adventures.
Her other books include Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land; Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt; The Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams and the Making of America's Greatest Museum, the Smithsonian; and A Very Private Woman: The Life and Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer.
Mirage, published in 2008 by Harper Collins, was selected by the New York Times as an editors' choice and won the Society of Women Educators' Award in 2008.
Burleigh was born and educated in the Midwest, has traveled throughout the United States and extensively in the Middle East and lived in Italy and France. As a journalist, she has covered American politics, the White House and Congress for Time and reported and wrote human interest stories at People Magazine from New York. She is an adjunct professor at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
She writes a column for the New York Observer and her feature articles on a wide variety of topics have been published in the New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, New York and Bloomberg's Businessweek, Elle, and many other journals. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, CBS 48 Hours, various programs on CNN, C-Span, as well as NPR and countless radio outlets.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 145 people found the following review helpful By Jim From Chicago on September 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased Nina Burleigh's fine book having only limited knowledge of the facts and circumstances surrounding the the tragic, horrific murder of Meredith Kercher, an English exchange student studying in Perugia, Italy, on a prestigious ERASMUS scholarship.

I can tell you unequivocally that I'm glad I bought and read this book. It is an outstanding piece of investigative writing containing a thorough, credible analysis of a most troubling series of events. It is also a damn fine page-turner of a read.

With only limited exposure to media coverage of the murder, ensuing investigation and trials, I was very puzzled and troubled by the case. I wanted to know more about what could possibly have driven two or three persons to commit such an unspeakable act. Was it drugs, sex, ritualistic pagan deeds, or something else? The murder, and ensuing police investigation and trials, were portrayed in a made-for-TV movie I saw recently and which upset me greatly. I was at first very angry about Amanda Knox and her boy friend, especially as they were portrayed in the TV movie. They struck me as trivial, hash-addled bone-heads, possibly murderers to boot. The movie, however, was low-grade in quality and lacking in credible analysis. I could not put my finger on it, but something about the entire case didn't feel "right" to me. Unsatisfied, and in after a restless a night or two following the TV movie on the case, I bought Nina Burleigh's book.
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70 of 83 people found the following review helpful By M.A. on October 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I get the feeling that Nina Burleigh doesn't much like Amanda Knox. In an interview with Red Room, she was asked to list five words describing the girl. Burleigh chose "Childlike. Naïve. Passive. Callous. Oblivious." Not a redeeming adjective in the bunch. In "The Fatal Gift of Beauty," Burleigh describes Amanda as narcissistic, loud, jealous of the more sophisticated Meredith Kercher, and someone with "father issues." Not especially even or balanced (though to her credit, the author does dispel myths that Amanda's sexual history was over-the-top and occasionally almost sympathizes with the girl). However, despite the fact that Burleigh seems as annoyed by Amanda as Meredith's British friends were, she presents a compelling, logical, measured case for the young woman's innocence. And she does it in a well-written, well researched, interesting narrative. For that, Burleigh should be commended.

I went back and forth, trying to decide if this was a three- or four-star book. (I wish 3.5 were a choice.) On the one hand, it's interesting, a really good read, and includes some fantastic research. On the other, it's sensationalist in parts and no more unbiased than the Foxy Knoxy articles in the Daily Mail, the Knox/Mellas family's glowing portrayals (which, for the record, don't actually bother me; your mom and dad should always think you're wonderful), or the British girls' slams. As much as I've read about this case and its central figure, I'm still baffled by the fact that Amanda Knox seems to provoke such extreme reactions in people. Maybe it's simply because the situation she found herself in was so extreme. Maybe it really is because she was so "outside the norm," and since I live in the liberal, hippie West myself, she doesn't seem strange to me at all.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Joan C. James on October 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I found Ms Burleigh's depiction of how traditional misogyny and the mysterious faith-shrouded history of Perugia, including references to ancient paganism, conservative religious dogma, interrogation techniques of the Inquisition, conspiracy theories and even the mafia all could have played into the psychology of this tragic crime absolutely fascinating. Her description of this picturesque, Umbrian hilltop city with its medieval palaces, winding streets and eerie maze of alleys gives a strong gothic flavor to this story.

Amanda Knox, a naive, scholarly, slightly "hippy-flavored" young woman went to Perugia to steep herself in Italian culture and to become proficient in the language. Sadly for her and just two short months after she arrived in Perugia, she got caught in a Kafkaesque web spun by the Perugian authorities, specifically the pathological prosecutor, Guiliano Mignini who controlled her journey through the perilous labyrinth that is the Perugian justice system.

Ms Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito became the second and third victims in a burglary that turned into the brutal, bloody rape and murder of Meredith Kercher, a beautiful British Erasmus Scholar and Amanda's friend and roommate. Despite the fact that all evidence pointed to Rudy Guede, a knife wielding transient with a history of break-ins and burglary as the sole perpetrator, Amanda and Raffaele were tried, convicted and imprisoned along with Guede. Their conviction was based on the sexual fantasies and satanic cult obsessions of prosecutor Mignini as well as the false forensic evidence of Patrizia Stefanoni and the collaboration of the trial judge and the Perugian police.

I do disagree with Ms Burleigh's take on the Knox family.
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