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Echoes in the Darkness

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3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  969 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
On June 25, 1989, the naked corpse of schoolteacher Susan Reinert was found wedged into her hatchback car in a hotel parking lot near Philadelphia's "Main Line."  Her two children had vanished.  The Main Line Murder Case burst upon the headlines--and wasn't resolved for seven years.  Now, master crime writer Joseph Wambaugh reconstructs the case from its roots, recounting ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 1st 1987 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1987)
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In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonThe Manson File by Nikolas Schreck
True Crime
107th out of 484 books — 494 voters
In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleColumbine by Dave Cullen
Best True Crime
320th out of 673 books — 999 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Larry
Jan 29, 2011 Larry rated it did not like it
I don't think I've ever worked so hard to finish a book, for so little reason. Don't get me wrong, I like Wambaugh, his Hollywood cop novels are entertaining and full of the dark humor that makes me giggle at other people's problems.

But here, his smart-assiness seems to be out of place and really forced a lot of the time. A couple of things probably don't help him here.

1) The characters he is dealing with are complete idiots. I kept wondering to myself how stupid I'd have to be to listen to some
...more
Kelly
Apr 01, 2010 Kelly marked it as didnt-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I read to page 148 before putting this book aside and finding no motivation for picking it back up. It wasn't bad, really - the case itself was interesting enough, and the book was at least semi-enjoyable; however, the writing style was very odd IMO. The author's constant use of italicized words was distracting and made it hard to take this account of a true-crime murder case seriously. Examples:
p.63: "And to all of little faith, he said there might be a possibility of opening yet another store
...more
Skye Skye
Aug 21, 2014 Skye Skye rated it liked it
Wambaugh's novel about the real-life murder of Susan Reinert, an English teacher in the Upper Merion school district of PA is intriquing to read. The case was current, as I followd it in the newspapers,and far too-close-for comfort. I found it to be somewhat compelling, with many,inexplicable loose ends, several bizzare characters, and stranger motives To this day, I am uncertain whether or not the facts were revealed and if the real perpetrators had been arrested; in fact, there are many ...more
James
A sad story, well told... too bizarre for fiction - I found myself, over and over, wishing I (or anyone) could have grabbed various people and shaken them, tried to get them to see the dark craziness they got sucked into for what it was, in this nonfiction account of a multiple murder followed by a long and harrowing investigation.
K.A. Krisko
Sep 29, 2014 K.A. Krisko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
This guy just has a way with words that I like - slightly sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, too clever by half. 'The Onion Field' was probably the first true-crime book I read, and it launched me on a lifetime of true-crime reading. Although this book is somewhat out of date, it's worth reading for the details about each person's life and activities - sometimes unbelievable. The chronicle of Bradfield's downhill spiral and the credulous people he took with him is amazing. It's discomfiting to see ...more
Jtfreeman
Dec 28, 2011 Jtfreeman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
A nearly unbelievable account of a series of horrific crimes. Unforgettable. My dad was in the same army reserve unit as the character nicknamed "The Prince of Darkness". He remembers the combs they handed out as recruiting tools....one of those combs proved to be a key piece of evidence in the trial that ultimately led to the conviction of that monster. The TV mini-series starring Peter Coyote and Robert Loggia is outstanding.
Horace Derwent
Jun 09, 2016 Horace Derwent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
now i know that i prefer him to mr. block
Leslie
Oct 30, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: true crime lovers
I really enjoy this book for reasons that are purely self-indulgent. I am aware that subsequent information has come out regarding the author and the police and improprieties.

The crime behind Echoes occurred immediately after I graduated high school in the Philadelphia area. The newspapers reported on the missing children, the strange happenings and the mystery.

I worked at a company near to the Sears in Saint David's, later I one of my customers was an important witness in the trial. Eventually
...more
Dave Klaboe
Oct 03, 2012 Dave Klaboe rated it it was amazing
The famous mainline murders told by Wambaugh. Having learned that after retrial, smith was set free and died soon after, I now wonder about the real facts of this true story. Even in the first reading, there were many confusing characters, motives, and hard evidence. Nevertheless I think Wambaugh got the story right. It is one of the best crime stories I have read. A very compelling and creepy book, that I would put on the same shelf as In Cold blood.
Kent
Apr 30, 2011 Kent rated it did not like it
Done with this stinker. This was not a fun experience for me but I persevered. I'm not proud of the fact that I stayed with a bad book to the end. Wondering if anybody else found it such a chore and waste of time? I felt it was mostly monotonous babble. This was a fascinating true life crime story that I thought was written just plain badly. I like a lot of Wambaugh but not this bad-boy.
Juli
Nov 12, 2007 Juli rated it really liked it
I don't think anyone could have invented this story - the characters are so shallow, yet there are so many layers to them. Many times while reading this book I wanted to dope-slap some of the characters for their stupidity, gullibility and complicity. Makes one wonder ... what secrets would you keep for a friend or lover?
Sheri
Nov 06, 2014 Sheri rated it did not like it
Excruciating. The story is incredibly interesting, twisted, dark and outrageous. It's really hard to believe that the writer could take such rich source material and turn it into complete trash. I am forced to assume that English is not his first language OR that he never went past the third grade.

I think this might have been the most poorly written book I have ever read.
Scott
Dec 06, 2011 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The novel that hooked me as a Wambaugh fan. About the Main Line murders from a few decades ago in the Philly area. Psychologically accurate and very disturbing, this is a scary portrayal of a true sociopath that you feel more than read. Emotionally intense, amazing stuff.
Kim Grosser
Feb 28, 2012 Kim Grosser rated it really liked it
Good synopsis of a local mystery. I have always wanted to dig deeper and press harder. There is so much more to this story! I will gather the facts from personal connections before everyone expires!
Jayne
Feb 27, 2008 Jayne rated it really liked it
My husband went to this high school and knew some of those involved, which made it and especially scarey read for me.
Naomi
Feb 27, 2011 Naomi rated it it was amazing
This book absolutely broke my heart. Not Wambaugh's best but up there. He is such a talent for true crime books that if the ratings could go up to 10, he would be up there!
Becky Clark
Dec 18, 2011 Becky Clark rated it did not like it
Slowest book ever.
Melissa
Aug 29, 2012 Melissa rated it it was ok
So, yeah, I went to Upper Merion, the high school where the murder victim and one of the murderers taught and the other murderer was the principal. Lots of people did, and we all talked about reading this book, but really, barely anyone did. Mostly, we'd pass around video cassettes of the TV movie that was made from the book, and we thought we knew enough from that. We probably did know enough from it. I mean, I'm 29 at the time of this writing, and the murders had taken place three years before ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Aug 16, 2015 Jill Hutchinson rated it liked it
Fiction could not be stranger than this true crime tale of the "Main Line Murders". It is so convoluted that it will have you shaking your head when you are finished.....it is the naivete and basic stupidity of the persons involved that is so hard to believe. The story can't be summarized in a review but basically it involved Jay Smith, a high school principal and one of his teachers, Bill Bradfield. Smith is an odd character and gets arrested for theft at a local Sears store and Bradfield gets ...more
Kathy Fimognari
Well it's time to revisit a book from my past. I've been thinking a lot about high school lately since a new co-worker and I went to the same school. I attended the school that this book is about and knew the teachers and principal involved. I was in 9th grade (Jr. High) when the murders took place and in high school when the investigation and trial were in progress. My siblings were in high school before all this happened and they could tell you some wild stories about the main characters. One ...more
Kathy Gonzalez
Jul 06, 2015 Kathy Gonzalez rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chad
Jul 14, 2012 Chad rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Well, even though the case is a little older and some of the references are dated, I found this an interesting look at the inner workings of the sociopath. The entire time I was reading this book I found it hard to believe that it was not a work of pure fiction. I simply could not believe the stories that Bradfield was weaving nor the fact that his "disciples" (and that is truly the only way to describe them) would believe them without question.

The old line that "truth is stranger than fiction"
...more
Laurie
May 18, 2015 Laurie rated it really liked it
Echoes In The Darkness is a compelling read, with many twists and turns, unexplained issues, and many bizarre characters that leave you not only turning the pages, but also scratching your head. Probably the most surprising of all is the outcome of the criminal trials: one received life (x3), with plenty of evidence, albeit, circumstantial. The other defendant, charged later, with weaker evidence, and was sentenced to death. The toughest part was the loose ends and questions that are never going ...more
Christian
Aug 24, 2016 Christian rated it really liked it
I will say this. I absolutely do not like that True Crime is meant as entertainment. Morally, I am against it. I don't think that people should take delight or morbid fascination in the suffering of others as entertainment. That said...I am always willing to fight against my moral compass for the sake of an interesting story. This book is filled with horrible people, horrible crimes, and has continued to play out over the years. The author of this book even became part of the story and ...more
Edward Weiss
Aug 14, 2016 Edward Weiss rated it liked it
A True-Crime report written by an acclaimed novelist provided this reader with a pretty god read.

I am sure it was difficult to describe so many educated people stupid enough to do the things, illegal or legal, unethical or ethical, that they did.

Even after I finished my read, I never ceased to be flabbergasted at what these people of academe, high school though it was, could accomplish without even trying.

To be sure, I'm not at all convinced that the prosecution got it right, or at least a good
...more
J. Ewbank
Oct 13, 2015 J. Ewbank rated it liked it
Wambaugh covers a very complex situation between two men and a murder of a woman and her two children. He handles the evidence and the search for evidence very well, but I was left with the thought that I was really unsure of anything other than the fact the two men were off the charts. As of the writing the mother was found but neither of the two children so there are some spots that could not be clarified. Anyway, old the book is but it is interesting.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natu
...more
Jim
Nov 23, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, non-fiction
I wanted to maintain some reading momentum to keep my interest up, so I chose this oldy but goody. Wambaugh is the best chronicler of true crime with a laconic world-weariness seeping through the prose that comes from a cop’s bemused “seen it all before” career. Despite the outrageous tale of murdering con-men detailed here, you feel the author has even worse ones still to tell, if he has the heart to do it. Easy and interesting reading.
J.L. Whitaker
Apr 07, 2015 J.L. Whitaker rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book for several reasons:
- writing style: the right mix of dialog and description
- the puzzle exposure: Wambaugh exposed information about the characters over time in such a way that I felt I knew them well, their personalities, their faults, and their dangers
- an insight into how unquestioning trust and manipulation go hand in hand

This story proves the line: truth is stranger than fiction.
Melissa
Oct 04, 2012 Melissa rated it did not like it
Reading this book proved to me how much I enjoy Ann Rule as a true-crime writer. Wambaugh creates sentences with 'tongue in cheek' humor and laced with expressions that, I believe, negated the serious subject matter. I went into this book thinking it would be a very atmospheric piece of non-fiction incorporating the 'culture' of Main Line Philadelphia into the book Instead it was simply written in a sensational style. An insult to the poor woman and her children who were murdered.
Michelle
Dec 06, 2010 Michelle marked it as books-i-couldn-t-finish
Shelves: nonfiction
I am usually a fan of Wambaugh but I just can't, can't, CAN'T keep reading this book. Yes, it is a true story. No, I really don't give a shit. Everyone in this book is an awful, self involved person, even the victim. And Wambaugh's slime-laden prose doesn't make it any better. It now resides in the Goodwill pile. Should you live in LA and find it it at a Goodwill, run, don't walk away from it. RUN!
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Joseph Wambaugh, a former LAPD detective sergeant (1960-1974), is the bestselling author of twenty-one prior works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Choirboys and The Onion Field. Wambaugh joined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1960. He served 14 years, rising to detective sergeant. He also attended California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned Bachelor of Arts and ...more
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“seemed constant, even as to old opinions. Shelly now held a master’s degree from Notre” 1 likes
“Bill Bradfield gave Jack Holtz the stare, but Jack Holtz stared back and said, “That bullshit only works on intelligent people.” 0 likes
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