Iphigenia in Forest Hills Anatomy of a Murder Trial Janet Malcolm
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- Publication date:
- 27 Nov 2012
- 224 pages: 210 x 140 x 13mm
"She couldn't have done it and she must have done it." This is the enigma at the heart of Janet Malcolm's riveting new book about a murder trial in the insular Bukharan-Jewish community of Forest Hills, Queens, that captured national attention. The defendant, Mozoltuv Barukhova, a beautiful young physician, is accused of hiring an assassin to kill her estranged husband, Daniel Malakov, a respected orthodontist, in the presence of their four-year old child. The prosecutor calls it an act of vengeance: just weeks before Malakov was killed in cold blood, Michelle was taken from her mother's home, and for inexplicable reasons, custody was given to her father. It is Borukhova's tragic fate, and the "Dickensian ordeal" of her innocent child, that drives Malcolm's inquiry. With the intellectual and emotional precision for which she is known, Malcolm looks at the trial - "a contest between competing narratives" - from every conceivable angle. As she writes, "An attorney who bores and irritates the jury during his opening statement, no matter what evidence he may later produce, has put his case at fatal risk". But it is the chasm between our ideals of justice and the human factors that influence every trial - from divergent lawyering abilities, to the nature of jury selection, the malleability of evidence, the bias of the judge, and a child welfare system that can be indifferent or even perverse - that is perhaps most striking.
Janet Malcolm is the author of Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, which won the PEN Biography Award, The Journalist and the Murderer, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Reading Chekhov, Burdock, and other distinguished books. Malcolm writes frequently for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, and lives in New York City.
"'In Iphigenia in Forest Hills, Janet Malcolm turns her excellence in first-person reportage to the American justice system... A gripping read.' Marcel Berlins, The Times 'Malcolm is an excellent observer, with a good eye for detail.' (Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times) 'This new book does for the courtroom what Malcolm's previous books did for biography, journalism and psychoanalysis. It shows that in a high-stakes trial nobody, least of all the judge, is an entirely disinterested player.' (Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph) 'As soon as I read this bizarre murder story, I felt impelled to read it again. It is impossible to put down.' (Julia Pascal, The Independent) 'Malcolm's interpretation is astonishing... Under her brilliant gaze, a seemingly incidental detail shines suddenly with meaning.'" (Elizabeth Gumport, The Guardian) 'If you have never read Malcolm, you are in for a treat. All her books are short and sharp and fiercely intelligent: as one of her colleagues put it, her 'blade gleams with a razor edge" (Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday) 'Malcolm has written a fascinating story her essay's after effect is entirely disproportionate to its brevity. The disquiet stays with you. It's there in the pit of your stomach.' (Rachel Cooke, The Observer)"