One-Minute Book Reviews

October 10, 2007

Ann Rule on Edna Buchanan’s Memorable Collection of True-Crime Stories, ‘The Corpse Had a Familiar Face’

Filed under: Memoirs,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:33 am
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My favorite series of short reviews is the “Five Best” column that appears weekly in the weekend edition of Wall Street Journal. Each Saturday a different well-known writer gives a one-paragraph review of some of the best books in his or her specialty.

A recent example: In the issue dated May 19-20, 2007, the true-crime writer Ann Rule chose the books on murder that she most enjoys. One of them, Edna Buchanan’s The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (Random House, 1987), is also among my favorites the category. Rule said in part:

“Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Buchanan spent 15 years as crime reporter for the Miami Herald after going to work for the paper in 1970; this is an intriguing memoir of her days and nights at crime scenes trying to unravel the truth. Along the way she memorably evokes the witnesses, families and cops that she encounters. Some of the crimes are comic — a jilted octogenarian tosses a Molotov cocktail into his girlfriend’s house but is nabbed by police after she recognizes the label on the container he used: his favorite brand of prune juice. Other crimes are horrific and will haunt you for weeks.”

Most true-crime books focus on a single case, and The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is unusual partly for the range of macabre events that it covers. And Buchanan was one of the first — and is still one of the best-known — women to earn a national reputation for her work on the historically macho police beat on newspapers. She now writes mysteries. But her most famous line remains her lead for a story about a man shot to death while waiting in line at a fast-food place: “He died hungry.”

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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