Monday, January 2, 2012

52 Books in 52 Weeks - Book One: Love Gone Wrong

Love Gone Wrong: The Jean Harris Scarsdale Murder Case by Duncan Spencer

I started this book about a week before the New Year and had hoped to finish it before January 1, but wasn’t able to do so. I read the last 50 pages on New Year’s Day, so I’m going to give myself a “bonus” by counting it as my first book of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

As a fan of the true crime genre, when I saw this little paperback at a book sale this past summer, I picked it up for 50 cents. Turns out, that must be what they paid the proofreader because it was so full of typos that I found it hard to focus on the story. (Full disclosure: I am a proofreader/editor by trade, so it’s hard for me to shut that part off when reading just about anything.)

I vaguely remember this case being sensational headline news when I returned to New York following graduation from college. Jean Harris, the headmistress of a well-respected girls’ school in Maryland, had shot and killed her long-time lover, cardiologist Henry Tarnower, famous for popularizing the Scarsdale Diet. At the time I was far more interested in finding a lover than following the story of someone who killed hers. And besides, Jean Harris was OLD. Fast forward 30 years and I can now relate to how she must have felt as the spurned older woman.

I enjoyed the first part of this book, which dealt more with Jean’s background and possible motivations. Not so much a fan of the drawn-out description of the trial itself and its key players (prosecutor, defense attorney and judge). All told, I found this a fairly dry true-crime book. Since it was written in 1981, it did not give me any information about what happened to Jean Harris following her arrest. Fortunately, the previous reader had jotted a note on the last page that read: “She was released from prison in 1993. (Had heart attacks in prison.)”

A check of Wikipedia confirmed that her sentence was commuted in 1992 and that she now resides at a retirement home in Hamden, Connecticut – a mere 16 miles from my home. Perhaps I can arrange an interview … 

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