When Christian Longo [Google search] was arrested in Mexico on suspicion of having murdered his wife Mary Jane and their three children in Oregon in 2002 he was going by an alias. He'd adopted the name and profession of one Michael Finkel, a writer for New York Times Magazine.
Oddly, Finkel himself had just recently been fired from the magazine, a job he'd "coveted all his life," for fabricating portions of a story he'd written about slave labor on cocoa farms in Africa.
This strange confluence of events ultimately led to Finkel's writing True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, an account of the odd and intense relationship Finkel developed with Longo following Longo's arrest.
The relationship began with a letter from the writer to the accused killer about Longo's decision to masquerade as Finkel, and eventually led to phone calls and several thousand pages of correspondence.
True Story is, quite simply, one of the best books of its kind to come down the pike in quite a while. It is a murder mystery, a suspenseful psychodrama, and a self-searching memoir—a finely paced journey of self-discovery for the author.
Michael Finkel writes of his own faults with unflinching honesty, fully explaining the combination of events and personal traits that led to his deception of Times readers, his firing and the subsequent brutal treatment he received in the press. He moves his two-pronged narrative along with clear and straightforward prose, eventually braiding his and Christian Longo's stories into a whole that reveals an unsettling amount of insight on the author's part into the hollow soul of the man who was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of his family. The reader feels, along with Finkel, the startling moment where the writer realizes how much of himself he is actually able to see in the man accused of the most brutal and cold-hearted of crimes.