Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday Synopsis


Fatal VisionFatal Vision by Joe McGinniss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finally finished this book! It was almost 700 pages including the two afterwords/epilogues, and I really did want to find out what had transpired in the few years between the trial and publication.

You may have heard of Dr. Jeffery MacDonald, Princeton educated, Green Beret, wealthy, playboy, who was accused of the savage murder of his pregnant wife and two young daughters at Fort Bragg in February of 1970. The murders were unbelievably cruel and unusual. Both of Colette's arms (the wife) were broken and she was stabbed multiple times as well as being beaten with a club. The little girls were also beaten and stabbed.

MacDonald claimed four hippies had broken into his home and committed these awful acts including a blonde female with a candle who said, "Acid is groovy; kill the pigs." Words to that effect were also written on the headboard and walls in blood. The female who was possibly involved was found, high on acid, of course, but her three companions were never found. Military police concluded that MacDonald had committed the murders but they did not have enough evidence to make the charges stick. A few years later, the state rearrested him, and MacDonald went to trial.

This book is a COMPLETE account of all that happened, including recordings and journal entries in Jeffery MacDonald's own words as well as information from hearing and trial transcripts as well as the author's own observations. I will not spoil the outcome, but I gradually noticed a change in the author's attitude as the book progressed.

First, a couple of nit-picky things. On page 292, the author wrote (quoting someone else, I think) "You have another think coming." Shouldn't it be " another THING"? He also says pulses instead of pulse as in feeling for someone's pulses (a doctor calls it pulses?).

This book moved very slowly, and it did not need to be this long! There is so much repetitiveness and redundancy due to the actual quoting the author used rather than summarizing what a character said.  This includes all of the "ummms, wells, ahs, hmmms, every single utterance! I didn't see the need to quote word-for-word a person's testimony or personal observations. We all know how long trial transcripts are. They could easily have been condensed because the same things were said over and over. It wasn't necessary.

Are grand juries really treated the way the book described? I don't know for sure, but if they are, I don't ever want to serve on one. Testimony goes on and on and much of it was irrelevant to the case. Do I really care how the defendant's mother's friend felt when this person had no relevance to the case? So much of the story was repetitive. How many times does the author need to say there were 48 holes in the blue pajama top that lined up with the 21 stab wounds of MacDonald's wife? This is one of many repetitive examples.

I enjoyed reading about the  Jeffery MacDonald case, although he is an arrogant, narcissistic, attention-seeking, shell of a person. I had heard of this case before, but I did not know the outcome, and it didn't end the way I thought it would based on the first 1/3 of the book. It's a good read if you need or are interested in tedious details, but I feel like much of it could easily have been condensed rather than having the characters say the same things time and time again. It is an interesting case, though, and I found out there is a mini-series that was made in 1984.  There was also a movie in 2017 called Final Vision which I will eventually watch.  There was also an FX documentary about the case that came out last year (2020).  

The case itself is fascinating; however, I only liked the book, but didn't love it.

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