Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘In the Middle of the Night’

When I first picked up the controversial book about the July 2007 murders in Cheshire, I was hoping to learn more details of the actual case. I wanted to read about what had happened that morning as Dr. William Petit became the only survivor in his family of a brutal home invasion that ended with a beautiful New England home going up in flames.

As I started reading “In the Middle of the Night,” however, I quickly realized that Brian McDonald’s book is more a disguised love store with one of the suspects arrested in the case, Joshua Komisarjevsky; it is the story about a homeschooled child raised in a Christian home, who had overcome so much, but still turned to crime at an early age.

I really didn’t want to read about Komisarjevsky’s grandfather renovating his barn in the 1980s, nor did I want to read about his family and what they have accomplished – it is simply irrelevant to this case and I quickly skipped over several pages when his family history came up.

Two men committed this crime and are currently awaiting trial for it, and it is clear that one person is featured in a favorable light (as if the author is saying "I understand why you did this, it's OK") and the other is blamed for most of what happened ("he was a fat, clumsy, not so bright guy from Winsted" - my interpretation of what the author wrote, not actual quotes from the book).

This deadly home invasion happened on a quiet street not more than 15 minutes from where I’ve spent most of my years in Connecticut. It was in a safe neighborhood, where nobody locked their doors, and it happened to an average family, who had no connection to the brutal criminals who broke into their house as they lay safely in their beds.

I want to read THEIR story – the story that Dr. Petit will one day tell, and may have already shared with some of his close friends. I want to know what gave him the courage to keep going after everyone he loved was gone.

What I definitely do not want to read is a glorified version of events from the viewpoint of one of the two criminals currently on trial for the tree deaths, a man who was not supposed to have any contact with anyone on the outside except his lawyer, but someone managed to write pages worth of letters to a mediocre author who wanted to make some money. And, it should be said, the author also managed to lie his way into prison to visit Komisarjevsky, by pretending to be an attorney.

In the town where the crimes happened, many protested as the library was set to buy copies of the book. The library said it is part of the town’s history; residents said nobody should support this book because of the horrible events it portrays and how McDonald went about writing it.

I say, let the library have it – that way, nobody needs to waste any of their money on buying it, and McDonald won’t sell anymore books.

In December, only a little over 21,000 copies of the book had sold on, something a local judge pointed out as he denied an attorney's request to have the triple-murder trial moved to a different court. The defense attorney for Stephen Hayes claims the book blames his client for setting fire to the house and says this is taining the jury pool so it will be impossible for Hayes to get a fair trial. The judge did not agree, and the trial is set to start in New Haven later this year.

I'm glad a review copy of the book landed on my desk - I certainly would have never paid to read it. If anyone else is interested in it, I'll be glad to pass along my copy so you can put your money to a better use.

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