Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Polly Klaas: The Murder of America's Child by Barry Bortnick

Released: 1995

Polly Klaas: The Murder of America's Child is a true story about the abduction, murder, and aftermath of the book's namesake. The book begins on October 1, 1993, a night Polly hosts a sleepover for some friends and is later kidnapped. Following the scary and disturbing events of that night, we are made privy to the criminal background of murderer Richard Allen Davis and given detailed steps taken by the small town of Petaluma to support the Klaas family and help bring awareness.

Polly Klaas reads like an extended newspaper spread, providing us the basics surrounding the abduction and murder but going into minute detail about the search efforts, memorial, and effects Polly's murder had on America at the time. A large portion of the book is based on interviews mainly with Polly's father Marc and grandfather Joe.

Polly Klaas: The Murder of America's Child has a very bipolar style with an inconsistent tone. To put it simply, its feel like we are spared the most interesting details about the crime but over-informed on unexciting details such as what specific people end up wearing to the trial, or what items are left for Polly at her memorial.

I understand that many true crime books are more profitable when they are released while the crime is still fresh in the public's eye; however I believe this book would have made a much deeper impact after time had passed and more facts could be gathered about the crime. When reading a true crime novel, I am more interested in the whys and hows as opposed to the reactions of the town and media.

With respect to Polly Klaas and her family, we can indeed acknowledge the horror of this story, but the book could be more effective in bringing awareness if we understand the aforementioned whys and hows.

Barry Bortnick has also written Deadly Urges (1997), a portrait of rapist and murderer Phillip Jablonski.


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