Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial
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Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  252 ratings  ·  44 reviews
"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, Da...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published November 20th 2012 by Yale University Press (first published 2011)
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Aug 26, 2011 Betsy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: one and all, especially emma the young lawyer

An engrossing blow-by-blow account of a very strange crime and trial involving very strange people by a writer known for her piercing critiques of journalists. This time Janet Malcolm takes on the court system (although her critique extends to reporters covering the trials) - and family law, including the courts overseeing ex-spouses warring over child custody.

In this particular case, there is one clear-cut loser - the child, who witnesses her dad's death at age 4. (And the dad who was murdered...more

Agamemnon had angered the goddess, Artemis, by bragging that he was a better hunter. To punish him, she becalmed his fleet as he attempted to reach Troy and defeat that city in battle. Desperate for victory Agamemnon promised he would do what ever Artemis desired if his fleet could move on to Troy. Artemis agreed to send the wind to fill the sails of his fleet if Agamemnon killed his daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon sent a message to Clytemnestra, telling her to bring Iphigenia to him so that she...more
Cena 1: Uma mulher, vestida de saia longa e blazer claro, com os cabelos compridos e soltos, está sentada no banco de réus de um julgamento. Acusada de encomendar a morte do marido, a imigrante russa fala bem inglês, mas não expressa emoções durante o julgamento.

Cena 2: Usando uma saia longa e com os cabelos jogados nas costas, a imigrante russa e judia bucarana está sentada, imóvel, no banco de réus. Acusada de planejar o assassinato do ex-marido e pai de sua filha, não demonstra emoções durant...more
In this spare volume, Malcolm recaps the trial of a young internist, Mazoltuv Borukhova, a member of the insular Bukharan-Jewish community of Forest Hills, Queens, who stands accused of hiring an assassin to murder her husband, Daniel Malakov, an orthodontist. Malcolm attacks the criminal justice system and the "hollowness of the presumption of innocence." The evidence against Dr. Borukhova was thin (e.g., 91 cell phone calls between Dr. Borukhova and the alleged hitman preceding the murder), bu...more
I love this writer's work although this is not her best book. Like Helen Garner, she often writes about interesting real-life events. This is a book about a real-life American woman accused of murdering her husband because of a custody dispute. The title comes from Greek mythology - Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra who was ordered by the goddess Artemis to be sacrificed. What doesn't work about the story is the fact that it's hard to get a sense of the central character....more
Noted journalist Janet Malcolm writes about the trial of Dr. Mazoltov Borukhova, accused of using a hitman, Mikhail Malleyev, to kill her ex-husband, orthodontist Daniel Malakov, who had been awarded custody of their young daughter Michelle by a judge. She exposes a lot of the problems with the legal system that convicted both Borukhova and Malleyev (both serving life sentences without parole) as well as opening a curtain on the insular Bukharan-Jewish community of Forest Hills. It's a fascinati...more
Martin Cerjan
Quick, good read; very well written in a conversational style a la the New Yorker. This book was of particular interest to me since the murder in question happened about a block from my apartment. The author does a good job of criticizing the jury trial system--and many other aspects of the bureaucratic state--without going overboard. She manages to maintain the air of mystery throughout the book. The Bukharian Jewish community in Queens makes for interesting reading and I wish the author had sp...more
Malcolm is a true crime writer for the New Yorker. I had to read another one of her books (The Crimes of Sheila McGough) during law school and found it interesting. Here, she takes on an apparently famous murder trial in New York City within a small sect of Central Asian Jews by a wife against her estranged husband. Malcolm details the trial and talks with the parties afterward. She knows enough about trial lawyers to have interesting insights on the trial and the battle for narratives, all of w...more
Feb 06, 2014 Adam rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adam by: Joe Austin
An interesting glimpse into an apparently high profile murder case that extends beyond the realm of the criminal legal system. Iphigenia in Forest Hills is a journalistic look at the confluence between the child welfare system and criminal justice. When the gears of one begin turning, and the second soon follow, what is it that lies between? And if anything, why, how, or where does it come from?

Malcolm casts an illuminating inquiry over family court proceedings and the role of an attorney for th...more
Simone Lehmann
An intelligent, engaging study of the modern American justice system that will educate and horrify and amaze.
Janet Malcolm is hardly an objective reporter on the lurid murder trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova, a young Bukharan orthodox Jewish doctor from Uzbekistan who was found guilty of arranging the murder of her orthodontist husband. Borukhova got nowhere with the claim that her husband had beaten her and also sexually abused their infant daughter Michelle. Perhaps it was her personality that made everyone she encountered in the child services and judicial systems hate Borukhova. Malcolm's larger purpose...more
I won this through First Reads.

One question that came up for me while reading Iphigenia in Forest Hills is to what extent culture is considered in the courtroom. Are juries informed about certain traditions, rites, etc. that may come up in the course of a trial or would such information be deemed as leading information? Upon completion of my reading, I felt that any such information would most likely be used to whatever advantage each side could see to gain from it.

One thing Malcolm's book does...more
Janet Malcolm's account of the murder trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova relies too much on an elementary explanation of the basic mechanics of a criminal court and is rather scant on the human drama surrounding the case. However, when Malcolm visits the victim's family, the characters suddenly come to life and show the true, unfulfilled potential of this story.


Malcolm's story is riveting, but for such a brief book, she spends too much time on the general mechanics of the courtroom. Borukhova str...more
Iphigenia has all of the raw material of a classic courtroom drama: a grisly crime, eloquent attorneys, a bombastic judge, and an attractive, enigmatic defendant who seems both guilty and innocent. Mazoltuv Borukhova is a young doctor accused of paying a hit man $20,000 to kill her orthodontist husband after a judge gave him custody of their daughter. Perversely, the fatal shooting occurred in a playground in front of the four-year-old girl.

Like Dostoevsky, Truman Capote, Richard Wright, and Dav...more
This slim volume was a fascinating exploration of a murder trial the author covered as a newspaper reporter. A woman stood accused of hiring a man to kill her estranged husband to gain custody of her daughter. The author, without commenting directly on her belief of the guilt or innocence of the defendant, looks at many of the trial angles to discover why things turned out the way they did. She also researches some of the back story - how did this woman and the deceased find themselves at such a...more
As the tile indicates, Malcolm's true focus is not the murder trial of Mazoltov Borukhova for hiring a hit man to gun down her ex Daniel Malakov in a Forest Hills playground. Underlying all the descriptions of the testimony and characters involved in the trial is the reality that Michelle, their small daughter, is left parent-less by her father's murder and her mother's imprisonment. I found the description of the judge's insistence in sticking to a schedule so that he could end the trial and le...more
It is well established that I will read and reread anything Janet Malcolm writes, this is typically great. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it if you are new to her work but it's completely readable, horrible, enthralling.
Thank you Good Reads for selecting me to receive a free advance copy of this book!

This book was a really quick and easy read about a murder trial taking place in the Bukharan-Jewish community of Forest Hills, Queens. The author takes an impartial stance and presents the facts on both sides of this trial. Janet Malcolm does a wonderful job in highlighting issues in the trail including jury selection, interpretation of the evidence on both sides of the case, and judge rulings and how they impacted...more
I won this book on First Reads. Thank you!

Her writing style made it easy to get in to, and a quick read. I thought the parts about the jury selection, the strategies the lawyers used, and the rulings of the judge were fascinating.

I was hoping that she would get a chance to interview Borukhova, because I felt like I got a good sense of Malakov's family but less so of her. Perhaps because I was anticipating more about why Malcolm felt that she "couldn't have done it but must have done it", the e...more
Another day another Janet Malcolm book read. I don't just love her books because they are short, although that is a big plus for me, I love her books because her writing style and narrative structure carry me along so easily. I often anticipate some big revelation is just over the next page, though usually it turns out to be no more than: things are messy and complicated if you stare at them long enough from enough different angles. From anyone else I would probably find this a little wearisome,...more
Janet Malcolm seems a bit of a monomaniac whose continuing dissection of the American justice system in this oddly titled book -- well-written, sharply observed, skeptical, personal -- is enough to make one go straight and stay so. Her books are deceptively easy to read, if circumambulatory, as she frequently stops her narrative to make room for her own breathlessness and unease. The Yale paperback is terribly ugly but Malcolm's prose is not. And yet, her book is hard to like, like the wife who...more
On the grand scale of things a very good book.
PROS: account of a murder trial involving a doctor and an orthodontist, obscure central Asian Jewish sect, insights into some of the lawyers and judges on the family and criminal court sides.
CONS: Adds little to the New Yorker piece it's based on. Themes of narrative-construction and role of the press, always Janet Malcolm mainstays, done far far better in The Crime of Shiela McGough and The Journalist and the Murderer.
I enjoyed this book, even though it felt more like a long-form magazine article than a proper book. Like, I think, most readers, I was made uncomfortable by the parts where the author inserted herself into the story -- contacting a lawyer in the middle of the trial, for example. Mostly, though, I want to know what happened; the book ends abruptly, with no resolution to some of the competing allegations or who ended up with custody of Michelle.
A real page turner; really liked her writing, reads like a novel, but an incredible, tragically true story.
The fascinating story of the Bukharan Jewish physician who had her husband killed rather than permit him even temporary custody of their daughter. Malcolm concludes that this tragedy was set in motion by the prejudices of a paranoid law guardian for the child. That such an individual could have such power in our legal system came as no surprise to me, having seen a similar situation play out in a family guardianship case.
This book skewers the American legal system (especially the way it handles children) like The Journalist and the Murderer did journalism, showing that trials are decided less on fact and evidence than they are intuition and feelings; the prosecution and the defense don't present their best cases so much as they spin the best narratives and create the most convincing characters.
This is a difficult book to read. The author obviously likes the defendant, and basically says so in her writing, which is not the usual tack that nonfiction authors take. But she also makes it clear that there are no clearly-defined roles, no heroes and no villains. There are just people. I don't think this book would work for everyone, but I found it compelling.
Hank Stuever
I admire the precision and analysis and difficult (even unanswerable questions) Malcolm has always brought to her work, and she is still doing it in her mid-70s, which right there sets her apart from her peers. I think her book "The Crime of Sheila McGough" is a better deconstruct of competing (multiple) courtroom narratives, albeit in civil court rather than criminal.
I found this book kind of flat. It reads like someone's notes from the courtroom gallery, but doesn't seem to really formulate a story with an end.
In being nonpartisan, Janet Malcolm more or less offloads the facts she's gathered and ends the book without making any of the players involved sympathetic (with the exception of the little girl, Michelle).
Fascinating story. Another travesty of our so-called justice system. Malcolm herself is obviously bright and incisive and sharp...loved discovering new vocabulary. On the other hand, this was more the compilation of her New Yorker articles on the case....not fully developed as a book, but interesting nonetheless.
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