By Patrick Radden Keefe
Doubleday, New York
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Another Tour de Force by Patrick Radden Keefe
In his latest book Rogues… True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks which is a compilation of twelve of his New Yorker investigative pieces Patrick Radden Keefe weaves a riveting tale of a Dutch family drama in ‘Crime Family’ featuring a sister who testifies against her brother and is forced to live in safe houses and drive in bulletproof cars; in ‘The Avenger’ he interviews a brother consumed by his search for the culprits behind his brother’s death in the 1998 Pan Am Lockerbie bombing; and in ‘ The Hunt for El Chapo’ he takes us on a wild manhunt for Joaquin Guzman Loera, the notorious drug lord better known as El Chapo that ends with a surprising, startling, hilarious and potentially lethal request with Keefe being asked to write El Chapo’s memoir and in ‘The Jefferson Bottles’ he uncovers the fake vintage counterfeit wine scam – a cautionary tale for wine collectors everywhere –all true real life dramas.
But the story that I found most chilling, ‘A Loaded Gun’ was the story about Amy Bishop the university professor who shot her brother dead in the kitchen of her family home when she was a teenager. The crime, unfortunately, was covered up and years later Bishop, a Harvard educated neurobiologist at the University of Alabama-- when denied tenure, went on a shooting rampage committing another horrific crime.
Keefe seems particularly fascinated by the underlying questions involving the death of Amy Bishop’s brother, Seth. He seems intent on unravelling what drove Amy Bishop to do what she did by probing into her family background and suggesting a link between the murder of her brother although described as ‘accidental’ and the murder of her colleagues at the University of Alabama. He develops a strong rapport with her parents while examining their feelings and understanding their loyalty to their disturbed daughter while questioning their initial version of the timeline on the day their son died and the circumstances surrounding Seth Bishop’s death.
Keefe’s exploration of story and character do not always come to a conclusion. He lets questions linger such as was Bishop’s killing of her brother really an accident or was it intentional? His intuitive grasp of human nature and compassion for his subjects make his characters so much more compelling and prompt him to go deeper asking the provocative question about what may have caused Amy Bishop to murder a second time and discovers that the local police chief who ruled Seth Bishop’s murder “accidental” was also a family friend of the Bishop’s.
He digs deeper and discovers that after shooting her brother, Amy Bishop had no counseling or psychiatric evaluation. The question lingers—could the second murder rampage been avoided—that is something to ponder. Unfortunately, Keefe was not there to cover the first murder or perhaps Seth Bishop would have had justice served sooner.
Keefe’s research is meticulous; his reporting exhaustive. His grasp of his subjects is intuitive, critical, objective and always compassionate. He leaves no stone unturned. His storytelling resonates on so many levels.
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By Patrick Radden Keefe