Among Murderers, review

LARB Review

This Memorial Day got even better: Today Jillian Steinhauer’s excellent essay about my book Among Murderers was published in the LA Review of Books, and I am jumping up and down with joy (literally). Here is my favorite excerpt from her insightful review (but you should really read the whole piece!):

“Murderers. One of the most crucial aspects of Heinlein’s book is its swift deconstruction of that eye-catching word used in its title. Who or what makes a murderer? The same term has been branded by the state onto Angel, Adam, and Bruce, but the natures of their crimes are vastly different. Angel fits the traditional definition best, having killed a friend with his bare hands. Adam, on the other hand, took part in a robbery gone wrong: one of his accomplices shot and killed two guards. Bruce got into a fight with a man who harassed his friend: he shot the aggressor, aiming for the shoulder but hitting the chest instead. To assume that because these men are all convicted murderers, they share certain qualities or DNA is a mistake. To assume that because they’ve all killed someone, they are horrible people, is too. What seems to unite them more than anything else is the fact that they’ve all spent decades in prison, an experience that’s changed their lives just as much as the crimes that brought them there.

“This is, in fact, the biggest triumph of Heinlein’s book: the ability to turn “murderers” — gregarious and attention-seeking Angel, contemplative and insecure Adam, reserved but resilient Bruce — into people. She doesn’t shy away from discussing the murders or her own feelings about them, including when she learns the unsettling truth about Angel’s crime, but she manages to do so while keeping us involved and, even more impressively, invested. By the end of the book, we know quite thoroughly what Angel, Adam, and Bruce have done and how they have or haven’t grappled with it, but by some combination of artful storytelling and the unstoppable human inclination toward happy endings, we still want them to succeed. We don’t want them to end up homeless, or commit crimes and land back in prison; we’re rooting for them, even though they’re murderers.”