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Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder Hardcover – February, 1999

3.4 out of 5 stars 161 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey on Christmas night in 1996 inspired sensational headlines throughout the nation--and plunged idyllic Boulder, Colorado's justice system into an ongoing nightmare. In Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, bestselling author Lawrence Schiller explores both the child's mysterious death and the exhaustive, yet often mishandled, investigation that has, in the two years since the crime, failed to produce either a plausible scenario or a killer. The more that was discovered about the crime, the less likelihood there seemed of tying all the evidence into a single theory that fit the murder scene. Meanwhile, conflicting agendas and personalities within the Boulder police department, the district attorney's office, and the sheriff's office escalated a war that has all but eroded the picture-postcard image of liberal, laid-back Boulder.

Schiller has a knack for distilling context and meaning from violent crime. He partnered with Norman Mailer on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Executioner's Song and was O.J. Simpson's choice of confidante for I Want to Tell You. (From there, he went on to write the definitive story of the Simpson defense, American Tragedy.) For Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, Schiller and researcher Charles Brennan conducted more than 500 interviews, examining the exculpatory evidence from every conceivable point of view to create a fascinating portrait of what happens when tragedy strikes in paradise. There are no easy answers, no simple outs; the murder of JonBenét Ramsey remains unsolved. --Patrizia DiLucchio

From the Inside Flap

Nothing written about the death of JonBenét Ramsey can possibly prepare the reader for the revelations in this book. Here, acclaimed writer Lawrence Schiller reveals for the first time the uncensored true story of the events that unfolded on Christmas night of 1996 and the unthinkable damage suffered by a community in the aftermath. This gripping, definitive account finally answers the question: What happened in the town of Boulder, Colorado?

Perfect Murder, Perfect Town tells the story of a city at war with itself: the bitter struggle between John and Patsy Ramsey and local law enforcement; the clash between the District Attorney and the Boulder police; and the tabloid media that has taken upon itself the responsibility of issuing blame. The reader is drawn into the maelstrom of the heated arguments and rapid-fire events surrounding the investigation--the anguish, the blunders, the rivalries, the jealousies, and the peripheral victims on every side.

As he did in American Tragedy, Lawrence Schiller thoroughly re-creates every aspect of this complex case in a powerful, spellbinding story drawn from recorded interviews with investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement members and their confidants, and members of the Ramsey family themselves. He uncovers the mysteries that have bewildered the nation for more than two years. Why were the Ramseys, the target of the investigation, able to obtain knowledge of critical evidence in the case and control the direction of a police inquiry? Can the answer to the murder be found in the pen and writing pad used for the ransom note? Was it possible for an intruder to have killed JonBenét that night? And what did the Ramseys tell the police and the District Attorney in more than twenty hours of questioning?

Beyond these revelations and hundreds more, Perfect Murder, Perfect Town is a brilliant portrait of an inscrutable family thrust under the spotlight of public suspicion and an affluent, tranquil city torn apart by a crime it was not prepared to deal with. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, this is a tour de force that will be read for years to come.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 621 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (February 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060191538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060191535
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,218,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a book about three distinct, yet intimately interrelated stories, told as one. First, there is the story of the murder of JonBenét Ramsey; second, the story of the investigation of that murder and the antagonism between the Boulder Police Department and the District Attorney's office; and third, the media coverage of these events.

I think Schiller does a workman-like job on all three, but for readers primarily interested in the story of the murder of JonBenét, this book, at about 800 pages, is a bit too much. For those interested in the politics and pecking order of the judicial system as practiced in Boulder, Colorado, this is probably a fascinating read from cover to cover. The story of the media is also interesting, but too narrowly focused on the tabloid coverage, especially the material about Jeff Shaprio, then working for the Globe. Stories from the local (Colorado) media are quoted liberally throughout the text, but the day-to-day inner workings of the local press is not detailed. Some of this material seems pasted in as though Schiller began to weary of his subject. The detail about the Colorado judicial system, often presented in footnotes at the bottom of pages, was legalistic and not really illuminating. Additionally the text is marred by typos of the kind not caught by spell checkers, including the wrong "their" near the bottom of page 385, an extraneous article on line 11, page 501, and most significantly, an "isn't" for an "is" on page 227. (Actually the sentence in that footnote doesn't make sense with either an "isn't" as written, or an "is" as seems indicated.
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Comment 54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lawrence Schiller's "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town" dispassionately presents the evidence in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case and lets the reader decide. Most of the criticism of this voluminous book are that Schiller does not tell us who killed JonBenet-it does not end like some great detective novel with the killer finally revealed on the last page. Schiller, rightly I think, takes us through the contradictions and twists and turns of the case without imposing his point of view. He also shows us why it is so difficult to solve this complicated case. The author also reveals, sadly, how an indictment of the killer will probably never occur. This is illustrated by the conclusions of two different detectives-both with access to the same evidence. One firmly believes that the Ramseys are the culprits while the other passionately argues not only that the murderer was an intruder but that the Ramseys are innocent. While certainly there is a cloud of suspicion over the Ramseys, because some compelling evidence points to them, there is equally compelling evidence that points away from them.
I gave this book four stars because, while the book is exhaustive in its presentation of the evidence, I believe that too much time was spent on the politics of the investigation and the disputes between the District Attorney and the police-this part of the story is just not that interesting. Schiller would have had a tighter and more engrossing book if he had just focused on the evidence. Nonetheless, even at 814 pages, this is a compelling read. [Note: Schiller does the reader a great service by providing a "Character List" with the name and a brief description of each participant in the case. Consequently, if one person shows up several times, but separated by several hundred pages, you can immediately jog your memory as to who that person is.]
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town" when the hardback came out. When the grand jury reached its no-prosecution decision, my reaction was, sadly, "What took you so long?" The JonBenet case was a mess from the git-go and probably few people believe justice will ever be done, at least not the people who take the trouble to read Schiller's well researched and accurate book.
The crime scene was messed up before the little girl's body was even found and things just went spinning out of control. The Boulder police weren't flat-out incompetent, they were just out of their league dealing with this type of murder. Part of the trouble with this case--for us spectators, anyway--was that it was made for trash journalism more than for serious print. The Ramseys are an attractive couple who lived in a nice house in a wealthy neighborhood in a photogenic city and had an adorable little girl who left a legacy of charming videos--grist for TV and tabs. Tragically, children from less privileged backgrounds are killed everyday and we don't hear about it.
But Schiller, a serious journalist, had to contend with an overwhelming mass of details and confusing, often contradictory evidence, not to mention some real prima donna-type egos in the Boulder law-enforcement and legal community. I think he did a very good job in presenting all those details--but I don't deny that at times "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town" is rough going. It just doesn't have that neat, three-act structure of most true-crime accounts, and it probably never will. But you can read this book for an account of how well the system DOESN'T work and draw your own conclusions as to what might have happened that fateful holiday night in 1996.
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