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After Etan: The Missing Child Case that Held America Captive Hardcover – May 7, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Emmy-winning TV newsmagazine producer Cohen examines one of the most publicized missing child cases in America. On May 25, 1979, Etan Patz left his family's SoHo loft to walk two blocks to catch his school bus, the first time his parents let him make the trip alone. He was never seen again. Early in the investigation, police interviewed Jose Antonio Ramos, whose interest in little blond boys had become known to police, yet they dismissed Ramos as a suspect in the Patz case. But over the years, Ramos repeatedly intimated that he molested and murdered Patz and hid the body. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart GraBois doggedly and shrewdly pursued Ramos, hoping prison informants could coax a confession. Cohen details GraBois's efforts and the pain Stan and Julie Patz endured as years passed and Etan's fate remained a mystery. Perhaps most heart-wrenching is Stan's twice-yearly ritual of mailing Etan's missing poster to Ramos in prison, always with the same message: What did you do to my little boy? As true crime, this tragic tale is a standout, and Cohen, though no prose stylist, does a creditable job telling it. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"In the first-ever book on this celebrated case, Lisa Cohen finally gives us the answers behind the most vexing child kidnapping since the Lindbergh Baby. It's a harrowing portrait of a family's grief and an engrossing detective story. A powerful lesson in humanity tested and triumphant." (Nicholas Pileggi)

"Lisa Cohen has done remarkable reporting in this thorough account of a family's terrible loss and the epic pursuit of justice that followed. "After Etan" has the gripping realism of "Law and Order," intensified by the knowledge that this harrowing case study is true." (Julie Salamon, author of Facing the Wind and Hospital)

"The story of the disappearance of Etan Patz is a story that almost everyone remembers the beginning of and only a handful of people know the end of. For the first time, Lisa Cohen finally unravels a complex and tangled mystery while seamlessly telling the heart wrenching story of a family trying to cope with every parent's worst nightmare. The vivid descriptions and the incredible detail make you feel like you are there every step of the way. The book pulls you in. It can be painful at times and still, you can't put the book down." (John Miller, former co-anchor of 20/20)

Cohen covers the story from all angles and keeps the main thread of the investigation clear, even while sharing some of its most intriguing left turns and red herrings, including a series of child molestations by a former boyfriend of one of the boy's caretakers, and a trip, prompted by a psychic's vision, to Hell's Gate in the East River in search of Patz's body.
A masterful combination of deep human interest and detailed criminal investigation into a parent's worst nightmare. (Kirkus Review (starred))

"As true crime, this tragic tale is a standout." (Publishers Weekly)

"Lisa Cohen is an outstanding writer with a compelling story that effectively educates the reader about the kidnapping death of Etan Patz in NYC. The book gives a better understanding of how the Patz case resulted in the creation of many law enforcement child safety programs, such as the Center for Exploited Children, Megan's law, Amber Alerts, among others. As in all good books, we need a "hero" and clearly that person is former Federal Prosecutor Stuart GraBois, whose dedication to duty and humanitarian concern for the Patz family has been a true inspiration to the entire law enforcement community." (Joe Occhipinti, Founder & Executive Director of the National Police Defense Foundation)

"This powerful work plunged me back in time to a moment that haunts me to this day. Then step by compelling step it walked me thirty years forward, filling in the mysterious gaps of this celebrated case. Finally the book left me, in the present, cheering on its heroes.
For those who will never forget Etan's smiling face, the book answers many questions. For the rest of you, welcome to an ongoing page-turner so full of plot twists, it often reads like a fictional thriller. Except it's all true. This is former "60 Minutes" producer Lisa Cohen's first book, but hopefully not her last."

(Liz Smith)

"May 25th, National Missing Children's Day, recognizes thousands of children. Yet in reality, May 25th celebrates the life of one little boy, 6-year-old Etan Patz of New York, taken on May 25, 1979. "After Etan" is a powerful, extraordinary, true story about Etan, his courageous family, the drifter who changed their lives forever, and one tireless, tenacious prosecutor who never gave up in his quest for justice.
"After Etan" takes one back to the beginnings of a movement. It is the story of one child, whose photo taken by his photographer father became a symbol for millions and helped change the way America responded to missing child cases. It is the story of a heart-broken family who lived through the anger and anguish that too many families must endure, and whose courage and grace helped change the world. And it is the story of a re markable prosecutor for whom one case, one child became his life's work."

(Ernie Allen, President & CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

"When our son, Adam, was abducted in 1981, my wife, Revé, and I felt no one could really understand what we were going through. Then we met Julie and Stan Patz and found that we were members of a horrible but exclusive club. Their courage inspired us then and inspires us now. The worst thing for searching parents is the not knowing. Reading 'After Etan,' I relived that terrible time and it increased my admiration for Julie and Stan even more. And it made me even more grateful for dedicated public servants like the incredible prosecutor who ultimately produced some measure of justice for Etan. Every American needs to know Etan's story."
(John Walsh)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (May 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446582514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446582513
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,008,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I don't have a connection to the missing child movement, a part from the fears that every parent has about their children's safety. But even without such a connection, I was drawn to "After Etan", and literally could not put the book down. It's a biography of a winsome boy, an evil drifter, a heroic family and an important movement in our nation's history. It's also a thrilling detective story, written in a style that not only engages, but invites the reader in as a sort of "Watson", accompanying author Lisa "Sherlock" Cohen on an investigation whose outcome is anything but predictable.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading Lisa Cohen's powerful reporting is truly cinematic. As you turn page after page--and I promise you, reading this book will glue you to your chair--you will wonder, how did this writer EVER get to all these sources, and knit together such an emotionally charged yet shatteringly objective rendering of the historic Etan Patz case. If you are a parent, you will run to your child and hold him close, all the while wondering how Etan's parents ever lived through this horror with their sanity intact. You will ask questions of the American legal system that you never asked before. I urge you to read this book, even if you imagine that crime reporting is not your thing. This book proves once again that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
As the mother of two sons, it's painful to think about the Etan Patz story. But Lisa Cohen has done a fabulous job of telling this story, and bringing all of the characters to life -- from his parents and siblings, to the detectives who spent their lives looking for his killer, and the prosecutors who would not rest until the family had some closure. Cohen's portrait of Jose Ramos, a convicted child molestor and the prime suspect in the case, is both horrifying and fascinating, and extremely well done. I could not put the book down -- and I am left anxious to know more.
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Format: Hardcover
AFTER ETAN, Lisa R. Cohen's mesmerizing account of the tragic and complex circumstances surrounding the Etan Patz abduction, is one of the most engrossing books I've read in a long time. I was only 5 years old when the Etan Patz case became a media event, but being from the NY area, it permeated my world for years to come and likely added a sense of paranoia to every parent from my generation. Periodically, the story of Etan Patz would come to mind, and I failed to believe that after so much time this was still an unsolved case. No longer is that true, thanks to this remarkable and multi-faceted triumph. Cohen weaves together incisive factual reporting on every twist and turn of this enigmatic case with the suspenseful, page-turning instincts of a seasoned mystery writer.

Cohen delves into the morass of this well documented case and sifts through some of the truly choice details that made it so nagging and painful. Cranks and crazies, psychic visions, hippie communities, jailhouse snitches and one pesky typewriter ribbon- they all coalesce to make AFTER ETAN a nerve jangling ride. Cohen seamlessly weaves together three concurrent and equally captivating stories throughout the book: the suffering of the Patz family and their ability to rise above their grief; the eerie and lurid life of Jose Ramos, the primary suspect in the case who eluded prosecution for years; and finally, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Stuart GraBois' valiant and dogged pursuit of justice. Cohen takes the reader from one unexpected event to the next, flouting the urge to sensationalize the story when it could have been so easy to succumb.

As a result, AFTER ETAN stands as a salient piece of non-fiction and a riveting human interest piece.
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Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put it down...I swear I had tears in my eyes at the end (of a non-fiction book!). While I learned a lot about the case, it also told the amazing story of the parents who somehow found the inner strength to persevere. As a parent, I felt so many emotions while reading and I hope the book raises awareness to keep the case going and molesters off the streets! Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Etan Patz was the first missing child who became nationally known, and thirty years after his disappearance his case still remains one of the great mysteries. Author Lisa Cohen has written a book whose narrative crackles and whose superb reporting keeps this story fresh in our memory... for those of us old enough to recall that day in May, 1979.

"After Etan" works on so many levels...first and foremost, Etan's disappearance and the emotional level in which it left his parents. But for much of the middle of the book, the Patzes largely vanish themselves, replaced by an introduction and follow-up to the hard work of attorney Stuart GraBois, who took a special interest in the Patz case and whose emotional battles with suspect Jose Antonio Ramos make the book stand out. Along the way there are the "Rainbows", a hippiesque group that was instrumental in having Ramos arrested...their addition relieves some of the necessary tension that author Cohen presents.

This is one of the best books of the year and Lisa Cohen has written a tour de force. I highly recommend it for its supercharged story and Cohen's depth in reporting.
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