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Echoes in the Darkness Paperback – September 1, 1987

3.6 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition (September 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553269321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553269321
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #499,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
I can't really evaluate the topic since it's all true, but I found the author to be a bit too wordy for my personal tastes and I did find the book slow (due to his writing style, not the topic). This surprised me because apparently he is a best selling author. Also, I was a bit put off by the author's sarcasm, I didn't feel it was appropriate given the weight of the story and it felt disrespectful to the deceased. As a forensics buff I enjoy true crime. The story itself was downright bizarre, but it just goes to show you anything can happen in this world; there is so much evil out there.
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Format: Paperback
Having read a number of true crime books, I was very disappointed in Echoes In The Darkness.
It is about the murder of Ardmore, Pennsylvania high school teacher Susan Reinert and her two
children in 1979; also known as "the Main Line murders". Bill Bradfield and Jay C.Smith, two
co-workers of Susan Reinert, went to trial for the murders and were convicted.
The book's account of the crimes and the two trials was poorly written and disorganized.
I got the feeling early on that the author was offering "facts" that didn't quite meet the smell test for accuracy. There was a little too much hyperbole in describing the women as dormice or harpies, a little too much focus on the police's barroom desperation to prove the case no matter what and far too much emphatic posturing that Jay C.Smith must have been the actual killer based on a flimsy motive and a weird persona. It made me wonder what the author was not revealing, that he had to protest so much about Smith's guilt. Smith may have been guilty but I couldn't see enough proof in the disorganized dribbles and dabs of clues that were scattered through out the book. Such basic information as what witnesses said about the timeline for the alibi of the man who had the best motive (Bill Bradfield), how far away the various locations important to the crime were from each other, a thorough explanation of the forensic evidence and even just a straightforward synopsis of the trial transcripts were all lacking. Instead there was long diversions about jailhouse informants that, in the end didn't seem to have much bearing on the crimes, and long diatribes about the "foolishness" or "creepiness" of various players. More conjecture than actual facts.
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