A Next Big Idea Club Must-Read Book for May 2023
The multigenerational tale of three families whose paths collide one summer night in 1960 with the murder of a police officer.
Independence Day weekend, 1960: a young cop is murdered, shocking his close-knit community in Stamford, Connecticut. The killer remains at large, his identity still unknown. But on a beach not far away, a young Army doctor, on vacation from his post at a research lab in a maximum-security prison, faces a chilling realization. He knows who the shooter is. In fact, the man—a prisoner out on parole—had called him only days before. By helping his former charge and trainee, the doctor, a believer in second chances, may have inadvertently helped set the murder into motion. And with that one phone call, may have sealed a policeman’s fate.
Alvin Tarlov, David Troy, and Joseph DeSalvo were all born of the Great Depression, all with grandparents who’d left different homelands for the same American Dream. How did one become a doctor, one a cop, and one a convict? In Genealogy of a Murder, journalist Lisa Belkin traces the paths of each of these three men—one of them her stepfather. Her canvas is large, spanning the first half of the 20th century: immigration, the struggles of the working class, prison reform, medical experiments, politics and war, the nature/nurture debate, epigenetics, the infamous Leopold and Loeb case, and the history of motorcycle racing. It is also intimate: a look into the workings of the mind and heart.
Following these threads to their tragic outcome in July 1960, and beyond, Belkin examines the coincidences and choices that led to one fateful night. The result is a brilliantly researched, narratively ingenious story, which illuminates how we shape history even as we are shaped by it.