Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Crime of Privilege

Set in Boston (the wealthy areas of Hyannis Port and Palm Beach) this book tells the story of the rich, powerful and politically connected Gregory's and the murder of a young local woman named Heidi Telford.

In 1996 George Becket is attending a party at the Palm Beach home of  Senator Gregory. A friend of a friend of the family, George soon realizes that he is in a whole different world and not just because he went to the wrong prep school and was headed to the wrong college. This was a world of money and privilege and doing what you want with little or no consequences, where loyalty to the family was paramount. This message was driven home to George when he witnessed the molestation of a drunk local socialite by 2 of the younger Gregorys. Breaking up the assault before it went even further, George realizes that there are major problems with these kids, drinking and debauchery not the least of them.

He never tells anyone about the assault he witnessed. This simple act will have consequences for George that will haunt him for the rest of his life. In 2008 George finds himself on Cape Cod working as a low level assistant district attorney prosecuting drunk driving cases. His job was made available through the machinations of the Gregorys. George becomes involved in the unsolved homicide case of Heidi Telford when her father corners him in a local watering hole. The case was supposedly investigated, but Heidi's father has been doing his own investigation, sending the information to District Attorney Mitch White. White owes his own position to the influence of the Gregorys.

Every person involved in the murder and assault is either connected or beholden to the Gregorys. Careers are made or destroyed, reputations protected or publicly shredded depending on whether you are in the good graces of the Gregory's. The more George looks into Heidi's death the more he realizes the Gregorys are always involved - in his job, protecting witnesses and most of all protecting themselves. George realizes he is being manipulated at every turn.

This book is a thinly veiled/fictionalized account of the Martha Moxley murder for which Michael Skakel was convicted. Skakel is a relative of the Kennedy's. The story line contains rich, powerful political families, a young local girl killed with a golf club, the real murderer protected by his family connections and the police. The book even contains a reference to a rape that one of the cousin's was thought to have committed in Palm Beach (remember William Kennedy Smith?) but never was formally charged with. Written by an experienced trial lawyer this book has a familiar feeling to it, like you have heard this story before.

Sometimes fictionalized accounts of true crimes work well and sometimes they don't. This one does and not just because it lays out a plausible path of clues. It works because it doesn't comes to a concrete final solution in the end.  Like the real stories behind this book.

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