True Crime for Mystery Fans

True Crime for Mystery Fans
If you read or participate in Mercer County Library’s Wednesday evening Facebook book discussion posts, you will know that I am a big fan of mysteries. I read a lot of mysteries and I watch a lot of mystery TV—it started with the original (and subsequent variations of) Law & Order television show up to Criminal Minds and many, many British series. Recently, I have been interested in true crime documentaries, specifically ones where you are not really sure whodunit, even if someone has been found guilty. It is fascinating, and often disturbing, to watch how the crime is investigated and tried. You learn about procedures followed by the police and lawyers and quickly sees the difference between fictional television shows and real life. You also learn that the film-makers’ bias needs to be remembered when deciding for yourself what the evidence shows. Most are available at the Mercer County Library System or are free online. Without giving anything away—some that I have found to be interesting are:
Avery: The Case Against Steven Avery and What Making a Murderer Gets Wrong
Making a Murderer—“Filmed over 10 years, this real-life thriller follows a DNA exoneree [Steven Avery] who, while exposing police corruption, becomes a suspect in a grisly new crime” – Netflix. I was engrossed by this story. I could not get through the episodes fast enough. I found a lot to think about concerning the treatment of Steven Avery’s nephew and came away at the end not sure what to think happened. Ken Kratz, the lead prosecutor, writes his side of the story in Avery: The Case Against Steven Avery and What Making a Murderer Gets Wrong.

The Jinx—Emmy award-winning series detailing Robert Durst’s involvement (or non-involvement?) in three killings. “From Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling (the Oscar® nominees behind Capturing the Friedmans), comes The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst [catalog link], a six-part examination of the reclusive millionaire at the heart of three killings spanning four decades. Robert Durst, the scion of a New York real estate empire, has long been a suspect in the notorious 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie. Further suspicion was raised with the unsolved killing of his confidante, Susan Berman, thought to be a key witness in the investigation into Kathie's disappearance in 2000, as well as the subsequent killing and dismemberment of a neighbor in Galveston, Texas. Durst has consistently maintained his innocence and remains a free man today.”—HBO.

The Staircase—About ten years before Making a Murderer, Oscar-winner Jean-Xavier de Lestrade followed the case of Michael Peterson. Peterson was accused of killing his wife in 2001. “This unrestricted docu-series follows the entire case from the first few days after Kathleen’s death to its unbelievable conclusion in court. Get unprecedented access to the defendant and his team of lawyers, investigators and forensics experts as they react to every surprise revelation and astonishing accusation. And see the controversial events through the eyes of the unusual family battling for their father’s life.”—SundanceTV. There were so many odd pieces in Peterson’s life and in the evidence, I finished the series not really being sure what to believe. [Catalog link.]
The Thin Blue Line
The Thin Blue Line—Often credited with pioneering the type of crime-scene reenactments we are now used to seeing, The Thin Blue Line [catalog link] tells the story of Randall Adams, accused of killing Robert Wood, a Dallas police officer.

Season 1 of Serial, a very popular podcast, follows the same line. I was late in listening to this and purposely did not read much so I would not know the story until I was able to hear it. You meet Adnan Syed, charged and convicted in the murder of Hae Min Lee. The host, Sarah Koenig tries to track down all the evidence to get a definitive answer as to who killed Lee. Luckily, because I waited so long to start the podcast, I was able to binge-listen instead of having to wait for the next episode! If you are not sure how to listen to a podcast, take a look at Serial’s brief how-to. After you are done with Adnan’s story, try S-Town by Serial Productions.
The Night OfCriminal Justice
One more for the list, although fictional, is The Night Of, an HBO series based on the British television series Criminal Justice. The part I enjoyed (if that word can be used) the most is seeing how the main character, Nasir Khan, changes as the series unfolds. Criminal Justice was good but The Night Of takes the story to another level.

—Andrea at the Hopewell Branch

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