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Fatal Vision

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  17,489 Ratings  ·  315 Reviews
Fatal Vision is the electrifying true story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children, murders he vehemently denies committing. Bestselling author Joe McGinnis chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and intricate crime, and probes the life and psyche of the magnetic, ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 684 pages
Published August 1st 1984 by Signet (first published 1983)
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Richp I have not read Fatal Vision. I have read an excellent book that contains a rebuttal to the prosecution case, and the court for handicapping the…moreI have not read Fatal Vision. I have read an excellent book that contains a rebuttal to the prosecution case, and the court for handicapping the defense by not revealing the bulk of the evidence prior to trial. Tainting Evidence: Inside the Scandals at the FBI Lab by Kelly and Wearne claims a post-trial review revealed the hair and fiber testimony was perjury; the evidence actually supported McDonald's claim of an assailant in a wig. I do not remember the details, but the book should not be hard to find via library.(less)
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10th out of 596 books — 1,031 voters
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Community Reviews

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A friend told me "Green Beret" murderer, Jeffrey MacDonald, convicted in 1979 of killing his pregnant wife, Colette and their two young daughters, Kimberley, five, and Kristen, two at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina on February 17, 1970 now has a motion for a new trial being considered before the Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond, Virginia.

This is not the place for an in-depth discussion of Jeffrey MacDonald’s guilt or lack of guilt or even his chances of getting a new trial. However, the discussion di
Feb 20, 2008 Flora rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
A true-crime classic. Definitely read it in tandem with Janet Malcolm's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant "The Journalist and the Murderer," which analyzes the lawsuit of prisoner Jeffrey MacDonald (convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two children in 1970) against author Joe McGinniss, whom he claimed libelled and defamed him in this book. "How can you slander a convicted killer?" you ask. That's what Janet Malcolm wanted to know, too, and her answer -- her book -- is ingenious. And whate ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Shaun rated it it was amazing
I thought this was phenomenal from a "true crime" perspective.

Though long, I felt the overall organization of the book worked quite well. I also appreciated the sections told in Jeffrey's MacDonald's own words. Having first heard about these murders via the very popular mini-series while growing up, I had a tendency to lean toward his guilt. However, reading this, I found my opinions vacillating continuously between "of course he did it" and "maybe he didn't do it."

The case itself is sensational
Tanja Berg
Apr 24, 2014 Tanja Berg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating 5* out of 5. I have read 952 pages with attention, with horror, with fascination and not once been bored. That is a pretty incredible achievement, on the part of the author. This is the most engrossing read I've read in a long time and by far the best book I have read so far this year.

On February 17th, 1970 pregnant Colette MacDonald and her two young children, Kimberly and Kirsten, were brutally murdered. All of them had been stabbed multiple times, far more than needed to actually kill
Nov 03, 2007 Jim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any one
Great use of how different people see the same thing differently. Convinced me the good doctor killed his wife and kids
Justin Mitchell
Nov 10, 2010 Justin Mitchell rated it it was ok
After reading The Journalist and the Murderer a few years ago, the name of Joe McGinniss first caught my attention. I discovered he was a pretty well-known nonfiction writer with a tidy little shelf of bestsellers. I told myself I ought to read him someday. After his recent spate of media attention for moving next door to the Palin family (which, though I loathe the Palins and everything they stand for, does strike me as a little creepy), I finally got to this one, the writing of which formed th ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Meredith rated it really liked it
This is my second time reading this book. Why read it twice, you may ask. Because I recently found a book contradicting the guilty verdict of Jeffrey MacDonald. Alright, settle in, this will be a long review. These murders occurred before I was born. The eventual actual trial occurred before I can remember. The book and the eventual two part mini-series that came out afterwards (back in the day of the popularity of the mini-series) had huge ratings were before I would have been allowed to know o ...more
Sara Nelson
One of the best true crime books of all time. I should re-read it, along with A Shot in the Heart, the Executioner's Song and The People Who Eat Darkness. Also, all great true crime.
Mary Ronan Drew
Feb 08, 2012 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
Jeffrey MacDonald used to be a household word in the US in the 1970s. He was an MD, an army captain whose wife and two children were murdered. He was in the house when the murders took place and he had minor injuries whereas the attacks on the others were brutal. This is about all that everybody involved can agree on.

MacDonald claimed three hippies did the murder; the initial US Army investigation concluded that MacDonald had killed his own family. He was found not guilty in an army hearing but
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 28, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
The book about Jeffrey MacDonald and the murder of his family is not without controversy and detractors. Janet Malcolm's 1990 book, The Journalist and the Murderer," accused McGinniss of acting like a confidence man, pretending friendship to gain MacDonald's trust long after McGinnis had been convinced of his guilt. As she herself posits in her book, this is part of journalism's stock and trade. I've seen it in action myself. I found myself misquoted once in a national, very famous magazine--and ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Caroline rated it did not like it
I had to stop reading this halfway through, which is still an achievement since it is a 600 page behemoth of crap. I have no idea how this book gets such glowing reviews!

McGinniss is not only highly biased and fails to present a convincing case against Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a doctor accused (and later convicted) of killing his family in 1970. First, the book is poorly written and lacking in editing. It seems that McGinniss includes anything anyone ever said about anything related to this case a
Jan 02, 2012 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Very insightful, revealing, and horrifying portrait of a murderous psychopath and how he attempts to manipulate others to his own advantage. I read this book with an open mind about the case, unsure if I believed MacDonald had killed his wife and two young daughters. It lays everything out there clearly for the reader...from the physical evidence, the circumstantial, the hard to believe story MacDonald told...and perhaps most disturbing, transcripts of the author's interviews with MacDonald show ...more
Rebecca McNutt
May 15, 2015 Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it
Fatal Vision was easily one of the creepiest true crime novels I've ever read. When a trusted man with a high reputation decides to snap, it's his family who suffers, and this well-written book covers the entire case. It's a disturbing story but a detailed crime novel.
Aug 23, 2015 Tree rated it it was amazing
One of the best "true crime" books I've read. I watched the mini series when I was a young child (yes, I know...) and found the book to be much better. I find it especially compelling that McGinniss went into the book thinking Jeff wasn't guilty, but was then convinced of it, as I am too. McDonald has been up for parole several times, but will hopefully continued to have it denied.
Apr 22, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-in-library
I've read this book several times, and I'm always impressed by the blood evidence. There were certainly serious errors made, but there was also a lot of lying by McDonald and some untrustworthy "witnesses." I'm convinced that McDonald is guilty, and find this a fascinating story.
Oct 08, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: completed
I read this one a long time ago, but I remember how tragic and moving an experience it was. I read it before seeing the mini-series on television--

This one details Dr. Gregory McDonald, who is now imprisoned for killing his wife and children. At first, the investigation looks for outsiders, but eventually, turns towards the good doctor, whose story begins to develop holes and doesn't match the forensic evidence.

At first, there are only hints that the doctor is the killer-- but later on-- about
This was my true crime book of the summer - I've been trying to get through the classics of the genre, but you really can't read more than one of these at a time. Last summer I read Helter Skelter, and a few years ago I read In Cold Blood. I tried to read The Executioner's Song, but couldn't get through more than 100 pages or something. For another time, maybe.

But ANYWAY. Fatal Vision is an incredible book. It's exhaustively detailed and clocks in at 684 pages, but I read it pretty fast, even ju
May 14, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
This book opened up the door to my love for true crime stories. I read it when I was 17 years old. A friend heading to college for a degree in criminal justice let me borrow it to read, stating I would not be able to put it down and he was correct. I spent 20 years trying to aquire this book for my collection. One sunny Saturday at a sale in our town park to raise funds for a new playground, there perched on top of stacks and stacks of books, was my prized book! I bought it and have read it two ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
" Ok well I'm in like year five of being obsessed with true crime and seemingly normal people who murder people. And this book HITS DA SPOT if you're into that sorta stuff. The cover looks so trashy, whatEVER edition you have, there's no way around that-- but it's very thorough (maybe a little too thorough for some people, its super long) and also,I thought,quite well written. Really absorbing. The only reason I'm taking off a star is for the LAME part at the end where the author talks for pages ...more
Dec 17, 2008 Joann rated it it was amazing
What a book. I couldn't put this one down. I read it when it first came out in the early 1980's. What a monster Jeffrey MacDonald is.
Winter Sophia Rose
Mar 14, 2016 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Dark, Chilling, Riveting, Fascinating & Intriguing! An Unforgettable Read! I Loved It!
♥ Marlene♥
Apr 01, 2008 ♥ Marlene♥ rated it it was amazing
great classic
Jan 30, 2016 Jennie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, american
Based on this book, MacDonald comes off like the guy that compliments your outfit and you never wear it again. Icky. And his version of events is pretty complicated and odd. I do not understand how anybody could like this guy. But, is he a murderer?

The investigation seems very flawed and this makes it impossible for me to accept the prosecution's story of events too. Although, they do have a theory of the crime with interesting and solid explanations. I'm still concerned about the crime scene ge
Dec 10, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing
I have only recently discovered this book though it has been available since 1983. I read a fair amount of true crime books, and this one deserves to be right up there with the very best in the genre.
In the early hours of February 17th, 1970 police were called to a house on the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina, USA. There they found Green Beret Captain Jeffery MacDonald slightly injured and his wife and two young daughters brutally and horrifically murdered. MacDonald claimed that intr
Apr 06, 2013 Dina rated it really liked it
I'm a tad addicted to true crime books right now. Especially those by Joe McGinniss.

I knew nothing about this well-known crime that took place in the early seventies, and that has gone on to endure decades of legal battles. The really unique thing about this story was the author's perspective. He got up close and personal with the accused for years, and spent decades of his own life engrossed in this heinous crime. It's a crime that's really hard to comprehend given all the facts.

My only issue w
Dennis Littrell
Apr 29, 2010 Dennis Littrell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
McGinniss Joe. Fatal Vision (1983) *****
One of the classics of the true crime genre

This is one of the most chilling of true crime tales, and one of the most intriguing. Former Green Beret officer Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald (still in prison last time I checked) called the police early one morning to report that his pregnant wife and two young daughters had been murdered by a marauding gang of hippies shouting "Kill the pigs, acid is groovy" while he received some superficial wounds trying to fight the
Sep 26, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
I have to say, if I was on the jury for the McDonald trial, I don’t know if I would have been able to convict him. There is just that nagging shadow of a doubt within me.

To start with, there is a lot of circumstantial and physical evidence that definitely points to McDonald as the murderer of his family. Some of the “evidence” provided I found myself thinking, “well that really doesn’t prove anything”. For example under initial CID questioning McDonald states he removed “Knife A” from his wife’s
Karen Stinneford
Nov 04, 2012 Karen Stinneford rated it really liked it
I first read this book shortly after it came out, and remember being absolutely riveted by it. I just re-read it, having recently completed Errol Morris' "A Wilderness of Error" promoting MacDonald's innocence.

On second reading, Fatal Vision is not particularly well written. Basically, it is court proceeding transcripts interspersed with MacDonald's musings into a tape recorder. It is boring and one feels like one is wading through a marsh to get to e other side.

That being said, there is also no
Suzy Blazak
Aug 15, 2013 Suzy Blazak rated it it was amazing
I was on a trip to Hawaii in about 1983, and I remember seeing about 1/2 the passengers totally engrossed in it. Well, I succumbed and thourolly enjoyed this books as it gave you facts. Shortly after coming home from my trip, I picked the book up. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital in Ling Beach in which he had worked. Note to readers- if you even THINK u're getting a mild cold, do not get on plane until cleared by a Doctor. During my stay of 5 days, I got quite a bit of feedback about ...more
Dawnelle Wilkie
Jan 11, 2013 Dawnelle Wilkie rated it it was ok
Maybe I'm setting myself for disappointment but ever since reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood I've been looking for its modern-day equal. Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil came close but slightly missed the mark. I was cautiously optimistic when I read a description of Fatal Vision describing it as "a true-crime classic." It became clear very quickly that I was in for another disappointment.

The journalistic ideal of remaining objective and keeping the writer out of the story is necessa
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Narcissism 2 22 Jan 27, 2015 08:42PM  
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Joe McGinniss (born 1942) is an American author of nonfiction and novels. He first came to prominence with the best-selling The Selling of the President 1968 which described the marketing of then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and has authored 11 works since that time. His latest book is The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.
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