If love has no limits, neither does evil.
Through 15 nonfiction stories from different authors, this year's "Best American Crime Reporting" (Ecco, 313 pages, $14.99 paperbound) explores various crimes and efforts to stop them. Edited by New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin, the selection ranges from horrifying and heartbreaking to intellectually fascinating.
Not one to delay gratification or trust an editor, I intended to read the stories out of order, starting with Michael J. Mooney's "The Day Kennedy Died." The story, originally published in D magazine, describes the scene in the emergency room at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy lay mortally wounded on the table. A surgeon who was there tells the story to awed medical students. It would seem there are few mysteries left about the Kennedy assassination, but there were incredible details here.
But I ended up reading that story in its proper order toward the middle of the book. The first story, "The Color of Blood" grabbed me with Calvin Trillin's opening line: "What happened at the foot of the driveway at 40 Independence Way that hot August night in 2006 took less than three minutes." The last sentence of the story, which was originally published in the New Yorker, is as powerful as the first.
Trillin's true-crime tale explores the effect of race and class in our lives with a story that isn't easily let go. These are issues that hit me hard every day I step into the Hennepin County Courthouse as a Star Tribune beat reporter.
In "American Murder Mystery," first published in the Atlantic, Hanna Rosin writes about attempts to track how social services have affected crime patterns in Memphis and its suburbs.
It's easy to dislike violent criminals from a distance, but poverty and crime go together, and if you're born poor, it is mighty hard to escape crime. "Truly escaping poverty seems to require a will as strong as a spy's: you have to disappear to a strange land, forget where you came from, and ignore the suspicions of everyone around you. Otherwise, you can easily find yourself back where you started," Rosin wrote.
I've seen a lot in the nearly three years I have covered the courthouse, but one story in this collection told of a crime so brazen that even I was appalled. Called the "Body Snatchers," written by Dan P. Lee and originally published in Philadelphia magazine, it tells of an efficient, ruthless group of "cutters" who trafficked in body parts stolen from the newly dead. This story has a chilling Minnesotan connection, but I won't reveal it.
Two other stories also have Minnesota ties. "Stop, Thief!" from the New Yorker details the elaborate efforts of retailers to stop shoplifting. Writer John Colapinto gets as deep as he can into Minneapolis-based Target Corporation's highly secretive operation. "Tribal Wars," by Matt McAllester from Details magazine, investigates how problems with Somali gangs have connections to Minnesota.
Minneapolis police officer Jeanine Brudenell tells McAllester the problem must be addressed or "it will grow into a more organized crime syndicate."
Some of the stories meandered more than I prefer, but most of them kept me reading and awake.
Rochelle Olson covers Hennepin County courts for the Star Tribune.