Title: Murder Beyond the Grave
Author: James Patterson
Book Length: 295 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Read Start Date: December 28, 2022
Read Finish Date: January 4, 2023
Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Two true-crime thrillers as seen on Discovery’s Murder is Forever TV series
MURDER BEYOND THE GRAVE: Stephen Small has it all – a Ferrari, fancy house, loving wife, and three boys. But the only thing he needs right now is enough air to breathe. Kidnapped, buried in a box, and held for ransom, Stephen has forty-eight hours of oxygen. The clock is ticking . . .
MURDER IN PARADISE: High in the Sierra Nevada mountains, developers Jim and Bonnie Hood excitedly tour Camp Nelson Lodge. They intend to buy and modernise this beautiful rustic property, but the locals don’t like rich outsiders changing their way of life. After a grisly shooting, everybody will discover just how you can make a killing in real estate . . .
My Review: I purchased this book at the library near my parents house in South Carolina for $1. I thought it was a pretty good deal, as James Patterson books are usually entertaining. Although this book was nonfiction / true crime, it had all the classic hallmarks of what make a James Patterson book a JP book. The prose was easy to read and the were stories engaging.
Murder Beyond the Grave tells the story of Danny, a “reformed” drug dealer, who can’t handle the straight life. Where once he had cash to burn, he now has piles of bills with no way to pay them. One day he drives past the house of a rich man, Stephan Smalls. Stephan is living the good life. Family. Career. Nice house. Even a Ferrari in the driveway.
Danny is jealous. Worst of all, Danny sees the opportunity to make some cash. He hatches a plan to kidnap Stephan for ransom money.
Danny has a girlfriend. She knows he’s up to no good — but she stays quiet. She sees him building a wooden coffin. Still, she says nothing. Not to friends, family, the police. She never says anything when she picks up Danny in a remote location in the middle of the night. When Danny continues to act strangely for the following few days.
When Stephan is found dead, both Danny and his girlfriend are convicted of murder. This didn’t sit well with me.
Although this book read like fiction, this is a true story. I found it not only incredulous but absurd that Danny’s girlfriend was found guilty of murder simply for not telling the police Danny was “up to no good”. Put it simply, the jury did not believe that she didn’t know. Personally, I believe she had nothing to do with it. Yes she’s dating an ex-con, but that doesn’t make her a murderer. She seemed like a nice woman with a small child to care for. If her known drug dealer boyfriend was acting cagey, she probably thought he was dealing again. Why would she think he was kidnapping someone? And even if he was dealing again, did she have a legal OBLIGATION to turn him in? No. Does that make her an accomplice? I would argue also not.
I was really pissed off by her conviction and would have liked to hear more about why she was found guilty. For example, what persuaded the jury that she knew, and not only knew but PARTICIPATED? Isn’t it more likely that she just didn’t want to know what he was doing, so she didn’t ask questions? Is ignorance a crime? I guess, in her case, it was.
Murder in Paradise is the second story in the book about a woman who is shot and killed. Bonnie Hood is the owner of a lodge in the Sierra Nevada mountains. While renovating the place, she starts an affair with an employee. He was also shot but lived. The two had been sleeping together the night of the crime.
Speculation swirled — was it the husband? Did someone have a vendetta against Bonnie? Eventually, a suspect surfaced: Bruce Beauchamp, a construction worker of Bonnie’s husband, Jim. Without solid evidence, Bruce is acquitted but is later shot to death by Jim Hood. Jim claimed it was “self-defense,” but after a mistrial, Jim was convicted and sent to prison for 27 years.
This Jim guy sounds like a real “winner.” Not. Is it nice to be cheated on? Of course not, but that doesn’t make it all right to kill your wife and attempt to kill her lover. It also doesn’t make it okay to kill the guy you hired to do it…because, let’s be honest, that’s what he was doing, right? Jim was afraid that Bruce would implicate Jim in Bonnie’s murder, so he had to get rid of him. And that self-defense BS almost worked — there was a mistrial the first time around. He almost got away with it. Almost. I read online that this guy got out of jail in 2017. This totally blows my mind.
The woman in the first story goes to jail for life because of ignorance, and this guy killed 2 people and wounded another and gets out after 27 years? Ugh.
This is, of course, all speculation and my own opinion based on the limited facts presented in the book. I think, in general, I would have liked more facts and more details.
In conclusion: 1) this book is entertaining and at points, even thought provoking; 2) reads like a fiction book, although a nonfiction / true crime story; and 3) could use some extra facts and more about the trials.
Verdict: Fans of James Patterson will enjoy it.