Fair disclosure, I was provided this book by Wild Blue Press for review. Richard and I both write for the same publisher. This review is my own with no influence from the publisher. I wanted to read his latest book.
I first read Richard Cahill’s work in Hauptmann’s Ladder: A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping and gave it a strong review…Review . Tackling one of the most publicized kidnapping and murder cases in US history was a massive undertaking. I wondered where Mr. Cahill could go from the top of the proverbial heap. With Sidetracked, we learn that he went to his roots with a bizarre story that has something for everyone – racism, necrophilia, brutal murder and strange if not twisted characters.
I often tell people that every murder is a tragedy but not every tragedy is worthy of a book. Cahill chose wisely in his subject matter. This is a 1980’s murder, one of stark brutality and senselessness. He masterfully weave in the backdrop of this crime – the Tawana Brawley case and Reverend Al Sharpton’s insertion into the murder of Anna Kithcart. It was a tightrope act to address Mr. Sharpton’s claims and the reality of the case, and the author does so quite masterfully without miring the book in political climate of the time. I have never heard of the murder of Ana Kithcart before this book, but now I feel I know it well.
Mr. Cahill twists the knot of this crime tightly with secret wiretappings, half-confessions, and a questionable parade of characters tied to this crime. Having consulted in Kingston in my career, I was familiar with the area and Cahill does a great job of putting the reader there, in that small city in the era. Every city has its dark side and Mr. Cahill takes us there, despite our reservations.
The book leverages the court transcripts heavily and Cahill does an admirable job of getting us through a tale where we are not entirely sure, even by the end of the book, of what exactly happened to the victim. As a writer, I know how hard it can be to mesh conflicting accounts and contradictory versions of events. Mr. Cahill took the high road and we are all better for it.
Sidetracked is a welcome addition to any true crime reading list and I strongly encourage you to pick it up. My only regret is that my daughter and I write about crimes in the 1980’s, and now it appears we will have some stiff competition. Damn!