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Comment: Hardcover, facsimile reprint of 1838 original. Bound in rich green tooled leather with gilt edges and decorative designs. An excellent copy in new condition. A part of The Notable Trials Library. 350 pp.
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The Poison Tree: A True Story of Family Violence and Revenge. Hardcover – 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Gryphon Editions (2004)
  • ASIN: B001AHI4X2
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,080,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. G. Fortosis on January 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have no explanation for why this book has only three reviews on Amazon. Maybe it was written before Amazon reviews became popular and it simply slid by without adequate notice. I hope interest will revive because, as another reviewer stated, this is one of the most well written true crime stories I've read. Richard Jahnke was the kind of father who would scare the daylights out of any family. He was not only cruel and sadistic but so hardened that no glimmer of mercy ever peeked through the hard-bitten exterior.

In my opinion, this is as skillfully researched as anything written by Olsen, Rule, McGinnis or Bledsoe. If you're captivated by the evil that men do and how they are brought to justice, this is a book you must add to your library.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. Swearingen on August 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is very well done! No one deserves to be murdered but, on the other hand, no child deserves to be abused by the child's parent--ever. When the system let the children down, the children took matters into their own hands. The two teens murdered their father, a murder that shocked Wyoming 20 years ago and has not since been forgotten.

Prendergast accurately describes the 2 teen's trial and appeal court proceedings for the murder of their father, while providing insight into the family's dysfunctional dynamics not available in the court records. Through the mother and children, the reader learns how Richard Jahnke had routinely inflicted physical, emotional and sexual abuse in varying degrees on his wife, daughter and son.

Much of the author's information came from the family, sources which are not reliable depending on how and what each one chose to recall. Each one's recollection was clearly skewed by that person's age, grief, anger, abuse, shame, and family position. However, the author never loses objectivity in telling the story through their eyes and their insights.

I knew how the story ended, but I couldn't put the book down--it IS that well written! Highly recommend to anyone from Wyoming or interested in the state of mind which exists behind patricide.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dan Bogaty on September 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In 1982 after a lifetime of his physically, verbally, and emotionally abusing his family, IRS agent, Richard C. Jahnke, was shot to death by his son Richie in Cheyenne, Wy. Author Alan Pendergast's THE POISON TREE is the study of the case and of the Jahnke family which also included mother/wife, Maria, and daughter/sister, Deborah.
I found the book to be a fast and interesting read about an interesting case and also about the concept of murder as self-defense as it relates to years of ongoing abuse rather than to a specific and immediate incident. There are many positive and one - to me - glaring negative.

Pendergast's research is outstanding and provides an in depth sturdy of a family gone all wrong. The book contains no filler or repetition and, as in all good true crime, the trial is discussed judiciously providing new and relevant information and eschewing tedium.
The author has clearly made the effort to write a good book here and has to a great extent succeeded.

But there is one major complaint I have with this book. Pendergast can be, and usually is, a talented professional writing for adults. But he repeatedly makes use of two devices, commonly found in lesser true crime and lesser writing that I found highly off-putting.
The first is omniscience. Pendergast was apparently privy to the thoughts of numerous of the participants and rather than describe their attitudes or feelings, he presents it with a stream of consciousness rendering of those thoughts:
At the police station, "(Maria) was starting to spend the rest of her life answering questions. Then the two officers stepped out of the room to confer in private. She wondered if they would let her go now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anne Salazar on September 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have had this book for years and years, and just now read it. It is one of the BEST true crime books I have ever read, and I have read hundreds! This is such a sad story about child abuse and it's terrible consequences, but I found the two children, Richard and Deborah, very sympathetic and very likeable. The terrible tale rings true for the times, with a naive and frightened (to death) mother and an extremely cruel father. The children are the epitome of what we call survivors. The author is a fabulous writer who lets his story unfold in its own time with no high drama, although the dramatics are certainly there! Since this book was published in the late 1980s I am now wondering what has become of Richard and Deborah. I checked Google, but so far can find no information about them since those trying days. In any case, if you read true crime, do not miss this one! Like I said, it was written before the days of high drama and sensationalism and is a great story we can learn from. And we can root for the children here, who are now adults and hopefully are having productive and enjoyable lives.
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