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A Beautiful Child

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  946 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Sharon Marshall was a brilliant and beautiful student whose future was filled with promise. But her murderous, fugitive father had drawn her into a lifetime of deception that became one of the most baffling cases in the annals of American crime.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 2nd 2005 by Berkley (first published 2004)
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Oct 16, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
I find true crime books interesting to read once in awhile. The same way that I found my "social deviance" psychology class in college very interesting. To see how the brain can go so horribly wrong as a result of genetic anomaly (or more often as a result of abusive upbringing) is fascinating (while still sad and tragic.) Any way, true crime isn't a category of book that I would buy new or keep for my bookcase, but once and awhile I see one at a 2nd hand store or a thrift store and pick it up. ...more
Mar 23, 2010 Angela rated it really liked it
This book is hard to rate for me! Michael Anthony Hughes was my foster brother!! I named my first child after him! Seeing his story unfold in print was a difficult thing to read. I knew he had been through a lot and I knew a little about how he came to be a foster child but to read about the things that I didn't know was heartbreaking.

For years I would look into the eyes of little boys wondering if they could be my Michael. 15 years later I still think about him often and I hope he knows how m
Nov 20, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: true crime readers

Say your best friend is beautiful, smart and popular. But then you find out that her dad is crazy (like he bursts in the room during your sleepover brandishing a gun). You stay friends, but you know something's very wrong with her home life.
Imagine years later, you find out you didn't have an inkling of how bad it really was.
A Beautiful Child presents a true case of deception, murder and abuse that proves the adage truth is stranger than fiction.
It starts with the death of a young woman an
Feb 01, 2015 Shaun rated it really liked it

Pretty good as far as "true-crime" books go. Concise yet does a decent job of presenting the case in an interesting way that humanizes the victim(s).

The story itself is a "best-seller" if only for the many unexpected twists and turns it takes. Absolutely harrowing and bizarre. (view spoiler)
Anne Hawn Smith
This is the story off a young girl who was abducted by a man (or she was given to him by her father) when she was about four to six years old. She was a beautiful child even then, but she managed to be an exceptional student who received a scholarship to Georgia Tech and a stunningly beautiful young woman. She wanted to be an astronaut and it appears as if she would have achieved that goal had she been allowed to. Instead, her father put her in stripper bars and basically became her pimp. Eventu ...more
♥ Marlene♥
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 30, 2015 dawna rated it really liked it
absolutely harrowing.
Sabrina Rutter
Oct 03, 2014 Sabrina Rutter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, favorites is one of the best written true crime books I have ever read! Birkbeck didn't just sit at his computer and let information flow to him, he went out and did his own research and interviews. Given the quality of writing and detail I would say Sharon Marshall's story effected him the way it effected all those involved with the Floyd investigation. It's a heartbreaking mystery that's impossible to not leave a lasting impression.
Sharon's story leaves so many a
Jan 16, 2009 Indra rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
This was one of the most twisted true crime books I've ever read, and one of the saddest. It wasn't that the writing was so fantastic on its own--though it was just fine--in my opinion, it was the combination of the writing, the facts of the case, and the people who shared their recollections with the author. I thought the extra background material was important since this cold case had to reconstruct everything from the memory of others. I want to believe nothing like this could happen today, b ...more
Dec 28, 2008 Mia rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I have read many, many TC stories that brutal in the telling but this story was heart-breaking. It left me breathless because it was so sad. I salute those dedicated detectives Bob Shock, Mark Deasaro, FBI Special Agent Joe Fitzpatrick and all the police agencies involved for their endless search to try and find Sharon's birth place, her beginnings and why it ended so horribly.
Ron Day
Feb 19, 2008 Ron Day rated it it was amazing
I read this book two weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it. It's the true story of a young woman who doesn't appeare to be what she says she is. That's all I can say without giving it away. It's an incredible story and a very, very good read. It's the kind of book that you won't put down. The author: Matt Birkbeck, is an investigative journalist and he does a remarkable job sorting out all the twists and turns and putting it into one cohesive storyline. It's a very disturbing story, but unfo ...more
Feb 21, 2011 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leigh Podgorski
May 21, 2016 Leigh Podgorski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Book Will Break Your Heart

As you read Matt Birkbeck's stunningly powerful book A BEAUTIFUL CHILD, you will soon realize that though he is razor focused on the disturbing and gut-wrenching case of Sharon Marshall, he is writing a tome to the millions of the lost, battered, and abused children of America.
His research is impeccable; his story-telling captivating. You will not be able to put this book down until you know....
Within its story, Mr Birkbeck also relates the shameful history of mis
Nov 23, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it
Horrible story of a brutally ruined life. And it could have been a beautiful life for Sharon aka Tonya. If only she had told someone about the hell she was living. It describes the diabolical people who are out there endangering all of our children. The really awful part is the US government couldn't be bothered to investigate lost and mistreated children before 1982. Etan Pates, the Atlanta killings of boys and John Walsh's fight for his son's rights was the only reason the government finally w ...more
Heather Murphy
Sep 13, 2010 Heather Murphy rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to Heather by: Carissa
A terrible occurance. Do Not Read for fun! Only if you have to 'cause you're going through something similar and get some kind of therapy from realizing you are the only victum out there. I finished it in hopes to find some resolution. But all I came away with from reading this book is fear and sadness. It describes in much detail the actions and effects of a man that did horrific things to children. I would rather live my life in complete ignorance that people like that even exist.
Dale Stonehouse
Dec 06, 2013 Dale Stonehouse rated it it was amazing
This is the heartbreaking story of a young girl/woman with one of the most difficult soul missions I have ever seen. Universally liked and admired despite being a lifelong sexual and emotional abuse survivor, her spirit was damaged but never broken. Her death became an obsession of investigators in several states, but ultimately her identity was not known by book's conclusion. The story of Suzanne/Sharon/Tonya is unlike any other.
Jul 02, 2008 Erika rated it it was amazing
this was probably the saddest book i have read in a very long time it was well written and it made this very complicated long story easy to follow and i have reccomended it to alot of people i dont know how anybody could live this way at all and i dont know why this story hasnt been on television considering its really riveting and unsolved
Linda Brunner
Feb 07, 2014 Linda Brunner rated it it was amazing
A compelling book and an absolutely horrifying story of how damaged human beings go out into the world and inflect their pain on others. In this case as in stories much like it, a long list of human beings.

Sep 15, 2011 Manisha rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating, impossible to put down, and very sad account of a kidnapper and his relationship with a missing child. Thanks to Dana Yelen for the recommendation. It was a very enjoyable read!
Elizabeth Atwood
Oct 23, 2010 Elizabeth Atwood rated it it was amazing
I love true crime books and this one did not disappoint. Very well written and researched, this story is incredibly astounding and heartbreaking.
Dec 02, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: oooya
Recommended to Michelle by: true crime fans
I have read it three times, and would read it again if people would give it back. The true crime book I ever read!!!!!!
~♡ Unsolved Mystery ♡~
Feb 26, 2016 ~♡ Unsolved Mystery ♡~ rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: True crime lovers

I had a review posted but Goodreads ate it.
Oct 19, 2012 Yoake rated it liked it
Conociendo mi afición por la serie de televisión Crímenes imperfectos, y en concreto por su narrador en español, un amigo me recomendó esta lectura. “No hay traducción”, me advirtió, “pero si lo lees pensando en la voz que tanto te gusta seguro que lo disfrutas”. Por si a alguien no le suena, es esa voz que empieza todos los capítulos con algo parecido a esto: “Anchorage, 1985. Mientras todos en la pequeña comunidad celebran el día de la Marmota, el coche de Mary Brunheimer, dependiente de un su ...more
Tiff Gibbo
Nov 26, 2014 Tiff Gibbo rated it really liked it
This case is one of the most haunting and bizarre mysteries of my lifetime. I first saw the case on a rerun of Unsolved Mysteries when I was 7 and was instantly captivated. There is very little at this point that I would not give to not know intricately the ins and outs of their lives together, including "Sharon's" true identity and the location of her son. This book is incredibly well researched and respectfully tackled. Kudos to the author.
Savanah Rae
Nov 01, 2015 Savanah Rae rated it really liked it
Good book but seriously messed up. I can't even believe that they never really found out who Sharon Marshall really was.. or is I should say. How do you go your whole life with a creepy guy like that? I'll never understand. This book was very confusing on some parts, very sad on others and other parts I was like oh my god. Good book, I'm glad I read it. I'd recommend reading it if you like non fiction mystery books.
Aug 03, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book is a true-crime, mystery, history lesson and "novel" (story) ..all in one. The graphic parts weren't awful to get through, and by reading it, you'll become more informed. Highly recommend if this is your "thing." I like a variety of non-fiction myself. This is one of the best books I've ever read.
Rosie Pudsey
Jun 09, 2016 Rosie Pudsey rated it really liked it
This book was a sad tale about a girl who was controlled all her life by one man.Without giving anything away it has a twist at the end that noone would suspect.The girl in question was beautiful and intelligent and if it wasnt for this one person her life could have so much better.
CJ Kamm
Jan 19, 2016 CJ Kamm rated it really liked it
Author Matt Birkbeck, reveals the tragic life of Sharon Marshall. A young girl who lived a life of terror at the hands of her manipulative, fugitive "step father." It wasn't until she had her son, Michael, that she found the courage to try to escape. An unforgetable true story.
Sep 18, 2016 Jen rated it did not like it
I was engulfed in this book from the beginning. But it seemed to bounce endlessly from this year, to that year. I read TC books for the resolution. this one left me hanging. It had too many unanswered questions for me.
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Matt Birkbeck is an award-winning investigative journalist and critically acclaimed author. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Reader's Digest, Boston Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is the author of "The Quiet Don," the best-selling book on Mafia boss Russell Bufalino. He also authored
"Deconstructing Sammy," the 2008 page-turner on the life and death of Sammy
More about Matt Birkbeck...

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