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Journal of the Dead: A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert
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Journal of the Dead: A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  235 ratings  ·  37 reviews
I killed and buried my best friend today ...

When authorities found Raffi Kodikian -- barely alive -- four days after he and his friend David Coughlin became lost in Rattlesnake Canyon, they made a grim and shocking discovery. Kodikian freely admitted that he had stabbed Coughlin twice in the heart. Had there been a darker motive than mercy? And how could anyone, under any...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 363)
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GoodReadsAccount
This book was handed me in the last few weeks by the Medical Examiner directly involved in this case. Normally I don't read books people hand me, but I was curious as to what input she might have on the topic, so I read it in order to ask her about what wasn't in the book. First, what IS in the book... Is complete trash. The author was commissioned by the parents of the murderer in question to put an extremely positive slant on the story. He does that well. He excludes almost anything that would...more
Dennis Littrell
Kersten, Jason. Journal of the Dead: A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert (2003) ****
Haunting

I think a lot of us are fascinated with tales of treks across the desert, about what the desert can do to the unwary and unprepared. We can see those vultures circling and we can feel the chapped lips, the mouth so dry that we can hardly speak, and we can see the shimmer of the heat on the dry rocks and sand and hear the wind whispering, and we can be enveloped by the silence.

In this...more
Molly
super creepy...the whole story made me sick. it will be interesting to discuss and i'd like to hear other views on what happened...but as a book, the writing style was a little confusing...he jumped between one story to another to folk-lore and i kept wondering where he was going, what was fact and what was fiction, and when i finished the book i was left wondering what exactly has happened...i'm going to go throw up now.
Chantel
I found this book on a thrift store shelf and got it with some others three for a dollar. I thought it sounded like a fascinating true crime story and after finishing reading it I know I was right.

Two friends on a cross country road trip stop along the way to camp overnight in the desert. On their way out the next morning they get lost, become dehydrated, and eventually one friend supposedly begs the other to murder him as a way of mercy killing. They were only missing for a few days so its hard...more
Rebecca
So I gave it two stars because it was just "ok." I thought that the author took a long time to tell a story that was summed up at the beginning of the book. Some of the "off the topic" stories were interesting, but not the parts that descibed the scenery. I ended up just skimming over those parts.

With that being said, I thought that the author did a good job presenting the whole case. I went into the book having one opinion and then finishing the book with a slightly different opinion. I still t...more
Leta-Kaye
Perhaps it is the distancing effect of "It's just a story" that separated me from the disgust expressed by others for this book. "Journal of the Dead" is the author's version of the witnesses' reactions to Raffi's explanation of the journal's account of whatever actually happened to the main characters. And therein lies the fascination. The way we perceive an event occurring IS, for us, the reality of what occurred. Which is why I also had no issues with the author's tendency to drop facts and h...more
R_
We might have visited Carlsbad this past Summer if there had not been a raging fire there that actually closed the park. This book makes some reference to fires, but it wasn't really about the park itself. The landscape certainly factors into the story in a big way, however. I love the way the author incorporates the setting & history of this desert into the story of these two ill-fated friends. As a former prosecutor, I appreciate the way the author refrains from making "the State" out to b...more
♥ Marlene♥
Had to read this translated version which mostly does not make a book better.
I agree with other reviewers. We do not really get to know Raffi Kodikian. Secondly it was obvious the author believed him to be innocent.
What made me sick was that Raffi even all what happened still said he was not wrong killing his friend. That's crazy. If he had not killed him Dave would still be alive so that says enough to me.

I think it is a very fishy story and that Raffi was lucky that the prosecutor did not want...more
Clare
Kersten is a great author. I did enjoy "The Art of Money" more than this book, but in both, he is very good at building suspense, writing great descriptions and keeping us wondering - even after reading the end. Even after reading the outcome of the case, I wonder what Raffi is doing today.

This is an interesting story of friendship and desperation in the desert that will make your heart wonder what you would do in the same situation. I learned a lot about geography and the history of New Mexico...more
Kaijsa
I found this book disturbing. It was interesing in the same way we all stare out the window of our cars at auto accidents wanting to know what happened yet scared of what we might actually see. I think the author was unfair in his telling of the story--keeping back important details just to bring them out at opportune moments in order to manipulate his audience. I don't care to be manipulated like that. Should make a good discussion for book club!
Jill
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Connie
This is our book for bookclub and I probably wouldn't have read it without it being recommended. It was a sad read about two friends who get lost in the New Mexican desert and one ends up killing his friend to stop his suffering. I think I'm going to agree with Connie Chung who interviewed Raffi when she said, "I agreed with the sheriff until I heard Raffi's side of the story...now I don't know what to think."
Eyun
Feb 03, 2008 Eyun rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Outdoor Enthusiasts
A true story of two men head into the New Mexico desert for an overnight trip that turns disastrous. After being lost and suffering from severe dehydration, one of the men performs a mercy kill on his best friend. The book lays out the details and then follows the legal proceedings following the discovery of the survivor. It made me really think about ethics and where that line of wright and wrong lies.
Chrissie
Jul 19, 2007 Chrissie marked it as to-read
commenting about sylvia plath and her residing near my childhood home reminded me that i should read this book since it's also connected to my childhood neighborhood.

david coughlin, the friend in this book who ends up dead, used to babysit for me and my brothers quite a bit. he was the only babysitter my parents could find who was willing to play nintendo with my brothers. he was a really nice guy.
Abby
I thought this book was well written. I didn't feel like the author believed the story one way or the other, but that he presented the facts as he found them. I appreciated that he didn't seem to try to manipulate the audience into believing or not believing Kodikian's story. In the end, I am still not even sure what I believe. I did like it, however. Then again, I love an unsolved mystery.
Christoaugust
A fascinating story, but comes off as Jon Krakauer-lite. Kersten never penetrates beyond the trial record and available legal discovery nor does he bring any personal dimension into the book. An over-long extension of a decent magazine story but not a great book. The stars are for the compelling nature of the story and Kersten's clarity in presenting it.
Neida
A truly heart breaking story. It was tough to read about what these two friends went through. For anyone who has seen the movie Gerry, with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, it was surprisingly close to the real story in terms of the hardships the friends endured in real life.
Matt
I went to college with the protagonist, Raffi Kodikian. He's a nice kid who liked the outdoors and getting beers after our journalism classes. Reading this book about what happened to him in the desert made me much more sympathetic to his situation and his loss.
Jessica Roser
The subject matter of the story didn't disturb me but the story itself felt full of holes. I liked the history of the country but it felt like it was put in as a filler since there wasn't much to the actual story. The writing was choppy and repetitive.
Jay Koester
I loved this book. But I may be biased. I read after my daughter and I hiked down into Rattlesnake Canyon and camped for a night. When I found out two dudes had tried to do the same thing and got lost for four days, I had to read more. It was fascinating.
Janell
Interesting sad true story
Lauri
This book kicks ass. It's a really great non-fiction book that reads like fiction. The book is well written and is very thought-provoking. You must read it and make your own detemination: murder or mercy?
David
I really enjoyed this book. Kind of a Jon Krakauer "into the wild" feel to it as it is a true story that started as a magazine article with much more potential, so it became a book.
Cyndy
Very interesting story. I didn't love the writing and he definitely felt that Raffi was not guilty. I'm not sure I agree. I still think there's more to the story.
Jim
HArd bbok to digest. I think he was guilty. About two friends who get lost in the desert, allegedly, and one guy kills the other. He only did a short sentence.
Bethany Andrews
I'm not sure what drew me to this one...I guess the title...but it was decent. nothing earth shattering or life changing, but a good read nonetheless
David Quinn
A quick and very readable story. I thought it was very interesting but I can see where others may not care for the subject matter.
Chris
I had a hard time believing this story. Interesting, but thought the author wasn't totally objective in spots.
kelly
So interesting! Skimmed the less interesting parts to get to the murder case. A quick read.
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