January Magazine: Bringing Adam Home

From my review of Les Standiford’s and Det. Sgt. Joe Matthews’ Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America: 

Now, I’m pretty sure we can all get behind the idea of child abduction and murder as, you know, bad. But what about investigating sexual harassment? Standiford, or maybe Matthews, seems to put that in the “bad” camp as well. Here’s a passage describing Matthews’ reaction to his discovery of a camera trained on the desk of a harassed female detective:

You couldn’t have someone recording what went on there, willy-nilly, no matter how many times you found your turtle statuettes humping each other.

In my notes next to this paragraph, I wrote, “Oh, come on!” It is not the first time, by the way, that such a note appears in my copy of Bringing Adam Home.

In case you couldn’t tell from the above selections, Standiford likes to pretty up his language and give it that creative non-fiction flourish we all know and love. The worst passages in Bringing Adam Home read like a less-talented Norman Mailer writing an even less-creative book report on In Cold Blood.

Children went off to corner stores, or out in backyards to play, and they simply never came back. Or sometimes were brought back in body bags …

Her words spoke to the core of his reason for being …

The bombshells would have to take their places in the long chain of evidence, items both great and small. This wasn’t a movie, this was life … and death.

It’s clear that Standiford and Matthews want this book to mean something, and there are sections where they go a long way toward accomplishing that. But it’s not through hyping the material. The best portions of Bringing Adam Home tell parts of the Walsh tale that are not already familiar.

I was not a fan. You can read my full review here.


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