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Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder Hardcover – February, 1999
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.)
On the plus side Schiller does an excellent job of making some of the players come to life including the very tricky Jeff Shapiro, the tabloid reporter who insinuated himself into the district attorney's offices, made friends with the Boulder police, joined Ramsey's church and even talked at length with John Ramsey on the phone (something Schiller was not able to do). The portrait of the sincere and tremendously dedicated Det. Steve Thomas was also good, as was that of retired detective Lou Smit, who befriended the Ramseys. Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter comes across primarily as a politician. I also appreciated the floor plan of the Ramsey house in Appendix A and the character list at the back of the book. The name index was also valuable, although I think there should have been a subject index as well.
Because I didn't know the details of the case before reading this book, for me, the most important parts are pages 497-499, where the FBI profilers present their extremely powerful arguments against the intruder theory, and pages 660-670 where there is a summation of the evidence gathered by the Boulder police.
Reading between the lines we can see that John Ramsey himself is a slightly "superior," somewhat cold and calculating man with some prejudice against the relatively liberal culture of Boulder, Colorado and against the poor (see page 690 where he argues that Bill McReynolds, who played "Santa Claus," should be a suspect partly because "he doesn't have two nickels to rub together"). Nonetheless one imagines that John Ramsey loved his daughter (and she loved him) so that it is untenable to think that he could have deliberately murdered her. Furthermore he has too much control of himself to have accidentally struck and killed her. On the other hand Patsy Ramsey comes across as someone with particularly shallow values predicated almost entirely on appearance who has a temper that she could very well lose. Her love for her daughter is less clear than her husband's, although her need for JonBenét to succeed and thereby reflect favorably upon herself is very strong. One imagines that she could punish her daughter very severely but outside of public scrutiny. One further imagines she would seek to cover up anything that would make her look bad. One very telling observation in the book (p. 13) is that the ransom note was the "War and Peace of ransom notes." The Patsy Ramsey seen in this book is a person who does everything in a flamboyant and overdone manner.
I don't think, however, that the evidence as presented here is strong enough to draw a definite conclusion about who killed JonBenét. One thing is clear: John and Patsy Ramsey are either monstrously unlucky, or they are monsters.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Dennis Littrell's True Crime Companion"
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.]
The one thing I want to tell you is something I cannot for it will spoil the ending of the book. DO NOT read the appendices nor the final pages. Go from page one to the end. I did 640 pages in two sittings because I could not put it down.
It is thought provoking. Many details, facts, scenarios, and the reader is as much a detective as anyone of those working in Boulder.
It is a fantastic journey. You will enjoy it if you enjoy suspense.
As for the murder: with publication in 2000, there are details about the case Schiller doesn't include, though there's enough that a reader can surmise the story behind the killing. Not necessarily rightly, but not necessarily wrongly, either. And Schiller thoughtfully includes a list of characters to check if you get lost. (This has also been useful for the tv documentaries.)