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A Cold Case
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on March 2, 2014
The author is (incredibly) able turning a not so interesting story into a fast turning page book. It's so good that it's almost fiction.
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on November 9, 2014
Interesting story and very well written.
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on December 9, 2014
Thank you !!!
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on July 17, 2001
This book does not have near the impact of Philip Gourevitch's first book, which concerned the Rwanda massacres. The story, about a righteous cop's attempt to bring closure to an old murder case, follows relatively predictable lines. But Gourevitch brings these real people to life, with simple language and telling anecdotes.
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on August 1, 2001
This book is a joke. At best it is random notes. It has nothing going for it. There is no "repeat" no suspense. No emotion. No movement. This is a product of a very sloppy mind. Mr. G. should write about something he cares about. Obviously with this book he only cared about the money. He is a typical New Yorker writer--a lazy fraud.
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HALL OF FAMEon October 17, 2001
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." He says he believes in the system (which is one of the reasons he defends the accused), but his bottom line philosophy is "The truth is there is no truth." (p. 132).
There's a certain nostalgic gangster color to the characters in this book. Koehler is a particularly good study, a guy who first killed when he was fifteen years old, but a guy who somehow while on the lam for twenty-seven years, managed to become so beloved that he was thought of by some of the people in Benicia, California as "their unofficial mayor" and they supported him with t-shirts reading "free New York Frankie." (p. 161)
Rosenzweig is the hero, a guy who never gives up, an honest cop who works methodically, dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's until he gets his man, a born bloodhound, and the kind of guy we ought to have more of in law enforcement.
Much of this true crime story first appeared in The New Yorker where Gourevitch's crisp, clean prose was much ballyhooed. This book expands on what I read there. It's a attractive book and a quick read.
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on February 19, 2014
Philip Gourevitch’s A COLD CASE sort of tells the story of the 1960 New York City murder of two men by a man named Frank Koehler. Koehler vanished after the killings.
Andy Rosenzweig, a NYC cop, decided in 1997 to look into the case as he had been friends with one of the victims, and was dismayed to find it closed due to a detective’s feeling that Koehler was probably, if not demonstrably, dead.
Rosenzweig was offended by this conclusion and reopened the investigation shortly thereafter, finding Koehler living in California under an alias. Koehler was eventually arrested and brought to justice.

This is a well-written book of marginal interest, at least to me. The crime is run of the mill, and the book is mainly a biography of Rosenzweig as a dedicated professional cop and of Koehler as a narcissistic scumbag. This is accomplished through solely through interviews with both men. To quote another reviewer, the portrayal of Rosenzweig is hagiographic (Go ahead and look it up. I had to.), and Rosenzweig, Koehler, and lawyer Milton Richman are all presented shallowly.

This short and surfacey book is really more of a hardbound magazine article. As I said it is decently written. It is also boring.
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on February 12, 2012
I like Gourevietch's work. I have made his acquaintance in Cambodia and have found his journalism to have a story-teller's flavor- meaning its really seen through the lens of what he prefers to see as who he is (I am not naive to think that journalism can be purely objective). His coverage of things Cambodian has managed to bring the misshapen reality that sometimes skips our jaded notice.

Having read his work in the New Yorker and his book on the Rwanda Genocide, I was expecting another tunneled journey on this one. But alas, this book is a little narrower and limited in scope. It's not Philip's fault. It's the natural boundaries of the story that keeps us in a small pond. Police officers and crooks in this story all seem too human and fallible blurring the lines of whom the reader empathizes with.

It's the last chapters toward the ending at the lawyer's office where I get the other-worldy feel where I ask: is this real? I had to do a double take on those because it seemed like a Tarantino script saved away for a future movie.

I stand by my old statement: all things Gourevietch are good to read.
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on January 9, 2003
Philip Gourevitch's most recent book still has the theme of crime and justice, which were written in his previous work on the Rwandan genocide. This time, albeit on a lesser scale, his subject is Frank Koehler, who shot and killed two proprietors of a New York restaurant, Ritchie Glennon and Pete McGinn, in cold blood one night on 18 February 1970, after he had an argument with them. Koehler was never apprehended for his crimes until 1997. On the other side, there is Andy Rosenzweig, a homicide detective who, almost accidentally, was reminded of the murder of his friend Glennon and remembered that the case was still "cold," or unsolved. Determined to break the ice surrounding Koehler's disappearance - he was written off as dead by New York police - Rosenzweig reopened the file and ended up catching Koehler on 30 July 1997, as he was returning to New York from his exile in California.
This book is a quick read, but does answer some very disturbing questions, particularly about the psychology and mindset of a killer. Koehler's murder of Glennon and McGinn was not the first time he had killed someone: in mid-1945, when he was fifteen years old, he had killed his accomplice in theft for backstabbing him. On the side, he engaged in petty and grand theft, eventually landing himself Mob connections until he had to flee New York. Once captured, writes Gourevitch, Koehler never thought of why he was in prison, or why exactly he was being punished: "...he was sitting in prison, and the most striking thing about the tens of thousands of words he produced at Rikers [his prison] is that he never acknowledges why he is there. Glennon? McGinn? Murder? Not a word. Koehler simply glides from New York to California, as if one day he had decided for the sheer goodness of it to renounce a way of life that was hurting him with its falseness and futility. In his telling...he saves himself and gives himself a new life" (p. 147). The psychology of a low-life killer: unrepentant, unremorseful, and unsympathetic to what he did, instead blaming his family, Rosenzweig, and even God for his failings.
Andy Rosenzweig, the man who brought him to justice, is portrayed as a man who is incapable of sitting still as a bystander to any crime, even on the eve of his retirement (of course, even after). This is, of course, for the better; he is a model for others who wear a uniform and don a shining badge and loaded gun in holster. A stagnant case left unsolved for almost three decades suddenly is solved with an arrest; the end result of Rosenzweig's overcoming of obstacles and dead-end leads.
Gourevitch's book is also a wonderful cast of real-life characters from all walks of life, ranging from the people in Koehler's life, namely his wife and girlfriend; Murray Richman, the top-notch defense lawyer who wound up defending Koehler even though the case never went to trial, as a result of a plea bargaining process that landed him in jail, but eligible for parole in the summer of 2003. In reading this book, I kept being reminded of what Arts and Entertainment Network use as their motto for the "Biography" series: "Every life has a story." Gourevitch has picked an ordinary case from a plethora of New York crimes and has proven this motto. Indeed, there is much that one can learn and glean from the "ordinary."
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on August 24, 2001
This true crime story is a quick and breezy recounting of a New York murder case that took twenty-seven years to resolve. It weighs in at less than seven pages per year, though it does not pretend to be a thorough or chronological unraveling of this off-again-on-again investigation. There is no attempt to get inside the killer's brain. The killer, Frankie Koehler, was in fact known from the outset. And when all is said and done, this cold blooded killer from Hell's Kitchen comes across as the stable fulcrum between the plodding obsessiveness of the soon-to-retire detective Andy Rosenzweig and the killer's cynically manic defense attorney, "Don't Worry Murray" Richman. The disparity between these two men's personalities is surreal. If there was a story in how the detective and the lawyer interacted, Gourevitch doesn't tell it. The author gives his readers glimpses of the lives of many of the key players and victims, but does not provide us with any of the texture and depth of portraiture that a truly gifted storyteller might. If John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) is Rubens, Gourevitch is a cartoonist or quick sketch artist. He expects each gesture to speak volumes; few do. Where his brevity and superficiality pay off is in the creation of a sense of how given to chance and circumstance anyone's life is. However, to call this book an existential look at a criminal act would be more than generous. Even so, it makes you wonder how many crimes go unresolved due to lethargy, human indifference, and careerism that favors closing a case over admitting the inability to resolve it. Worth a read if you like the true crime genre and have an hour to kill.
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