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Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  462 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
"Astringent and absorbing. . . . Iphigenia in Forest Hills casts, from its first pages, a genuine spell — the kind of spell to which Ms. Malcolm’s admirers (and I am one) have become addicted."—Dwight Garner, New York Times

"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
Paperback, 168 pages
Published November 20th 2012 by Yale University Press (first published 2011)
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May 23, 2011 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Aug 24, 2011 Betsy rated it liked it  ·  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
Jun 13, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Martin Cerjan
Apr 11, 2011 Martin Cerjan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 14, 2012 Libby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2011 Christina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
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).
Nov 14, 2012 Simone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intelligent, engaging study of the modern American justice system that will educate and horrify and amaze.
Jan 22, 2015 Alix rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's possible mystery/detective fiction has ruined me, but I found this a bit flat compared with fictional courtroom drama.
Peter Landau
Jan 26, 2017 Peter Landau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janet Malcolm knows how to tell a story, and she knows that story is always fiction, even when it’s a true story. IPHIGENIA IN FOREST HILLS: ANATOMY OF A MURDER TRIAL is the best book on the mechanics of justice in America I’ve ever read, though honestly it may be one of the only ones I’ve ever read on the subject. Still, most of the “action” takes place in the Queens Supreme Courthouse and it’s riveting without being melodramatic like the courtroom scenes I’m used to from watching bad TV. But t ...more
Cristiano Carneiro
Desafio Lendo Mais Mulheres 2017: jornalismo literário.

Janet Malcolm é incrivelmente hábil em descrever todo o ambiente que cerca um julgamento. A visão da autora do julgamento como um confronto de narrativas, bem como o retrato da incapacidade dos operadores do direito de perceberem as nuances humanas das pessoas com que lidam é fascinante.

Desafio Lendo Mais Mulheres: 4/12
Jan 21, 2016 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janet Malcolm takes the title from “Iphigenia at Aulis” by Euripides in which King Agamemnon, leading the Greek army against Troy has been thwarted by the winds that refuse to blow, his men cooped up in ships that can’t leave the harbor. Agamemnon has been convinced that the only way that the wind will rise allowing his troopships to sail to Troy is to sacrifice is daughter, Iphigenia”. Iphigenia here is Michelle, the four-year old daughter of Daniel Malakov and Marina Borukhova who are in a fie ...more
Maryann MJS1228
Dec 10, 2015 Maryann MJS1228 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
This is not a true crime book and Janet Malcolm is not an author who seeks to entertain. Nor is she the sort of author who fades into the background of her writing. More often than not, a critique of any of her books becomes a critique of her. Fortunately Malcolm is as ready to rumble as any star of the WWE. To read any of Malcolm's work for a dispassionate recitation of events is to be disappointed and to, well, miss the point. She seeks to understand what the events reveal about us. She does n ...more
Apr 18, 2011 Marisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Nov 27, 2014 Crazy_smiler rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alison Hardtmann
Nov 21, 2016 Alison Hardtmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
...she couldn't have done it and she must have done it.

Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial tells the story of the trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova for the murder of her ex-husband Daniel Malakov, a trial that hit the newspapers because the couple were part of a small community of Bukharan Jews. Borukhova and Malakov had an acrimonious divorce, in which the point of contention was custody of their daughter. While Malakov was fine with Borukhova keeping primary custody, the law guardia
Jan 04, 2014 Caleb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Do I get extra points for finishing this book while on a train headed towards Forest Hills? No? Oh well.

I'd been meaning to read this for a long time and after it showed up on a list of things one might use for a quick true crime fix post-Serial I requested it from the library. It got bonus points for being set in Queens.

Janet Malcolm writes incisively and deliciously but I expected more out of this little book than it delivered. I remembered the meatiest parts from The New Yorker essay about th
Jan 19, 2016 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
kind of an odd book. I think I might read it again in 10 years and feel differently [better] about it. Not the usual true crime story in that she didn't apparently get to know any of the principals well and doesn't have anything novel to report about whether the conviction was warranted vs. miscarriage of justice.

Underlying allegation is sensational -- a woman physician hires a hit man to kill her physician husband in retaliation for his winning a custody dispute over their 4-yo daughter. Autho
Nov 21, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent-history
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
Dec 19, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2011 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 02, 2012 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 29, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
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
Feb 02, 2014 Adam rated it liked it  ·  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
Jan 27, 2013 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2016 Drew rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"He is the most sympathetic of the Malakovs. He is the most assimilated." With those two sentences, Janet Malcolm deftly reveals a great shortcoming in her reportage of an assassination within a community very much unlike her own. She appears unwilling to truly make the leap into another culture, even imaginatively. The players in the trial, despite all their "foreignness" (they're Russian), don't register as mystifyingly complicated to me. They're just not conventional middle-class white Americ ...more
Jul 10, 2013 T-bone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
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
Sep 29, 2013 Bern rated it really liked it
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.
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Janet Malcolm is a journalist, biographer, collagist, and staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of In the Freud Archives and The Crime of Sheila McGough , as well as biographies of Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath, and Anton Chekhov.

The Modern Library chose her controversial book The Journalist and the Murderer — with its infamous first line — as one of the 100 best non-fiction
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