Waiting to Be Heard
By Amanda Knox. (Harper, 480 pages, $28.99)
When I first heard of the Italian charges against Amanda Knox, I thought, “How strange; I’ve never heard of a woman killing her college roommate.” The case fascinated me — I wanted to know the truth. Now Knox, whose murder conviction was reversed by a higher Italian court in 2011 after she spent four years in prison, has written her memoir, passionately arguing her innocence and positing her theories of why she and her Italian boyfriend were convicted of killing British student Meredith Kercher.
She theorizes that once the two were arrested and the sensational story became unlimited tabloid fodder, Italian authorities could not admit their error to the world.
The American from Seattle readily acknowledges that some of her behavior after the killing may have seemed strange to the Italians. And then she signed a statement that put her at the murder scene. To explain her signature, she recounts being relentlessly and brutally interrogated through the night, deprived of food and slapped by one of the officers. The language difference became critical.
Just as I can’t imagine the prosecution’s far-fetched and bizarre theory of how Meredith was murdered — by a threesome fueled by drugs in some sort of sex game gone terribly wrong — I can’t imagine of anyone writing with such clarity, passion and detail if she were guilty.
The kicker: The Italians want her back for a retrial.
By Dan Brown. (Doubleday, 463 pages, $29.95.)
It is tempting to trash this overpriced brick of a novel by Dan Brown, author of that famous head-spinner “The Da Vinci Code” and other bestsellers that are wild mashups of history, mystery, adventure, theology and completely made-up, bizarre stuff. In this one, dashing, wonkish Harvard professor of symbols Robert Langdon returns, waking up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, one day with a bloody head, amnesia and a bizarre item sewed into his jacket that he’s never seen before that a lot of nasty people want in the worst way.
Soon he’s dashing through alleys with a lovely, mysterious doctor named Sienna Brooks, pursued by menacing, perhaps supernatural ninja-like beings. Mysteries and clues pop up on every page, most of them improbably steeped in the “Inferno” portion of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” The story is breathless, punchy and entirely ridiculous, not to mention almost impossible to keep track of.
Critics will hate it, and rightly so, but it’ll still be read on thousands of airplanes and beaches. And truth is I rather enjoyed it as a mindless distraction over three rainy evenings, though it took some brain work to keep track of all those clues, symbols and characters. As with all Brown’s books, it completely mangles real history, theology and literature — it’s not just fiction, it’s science fiction. As long as you keep that in mind, it’s not too bad.