Michael's Reviews > Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three

Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt
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's review
Oct 19, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, true-crime
Read in October, 2011

While Leveritt's books offers a mound of information concerning the case that was necessarily left out by the brief Paradise Lost documentaries of Sinofsky and Berlinger, and her comprehensive focus allows her work to exonerate Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley the way the films could not, the one flaw I see in Devil's Knot is its lack of revelation about the personal qualities of the teenagers, with the possible exception of Jason Baldwin, who is shown to be strong and loyal. Devil's Knot also lacks the heavy metal perspective Sinofsky and Berlinger employed when they soundtracked their films with early-mid Metallica. The result is something a bit more serious and less sensationalistic.


Leveritt's account immediately starts out more clear-headed and comprehensible than the films about the crime. Leveritt does not sensationalize the hickishness of the townspeople of West Memphis, though it would be easy to do so. It is immediately clear that Jesse Misskelley's confession is entirely coerced by the police. The police are cast as desperate and unreasonable in their determination to pin the crimes on the three teenagers.

Again and again, the police show themselves to be not only inept but insidious in their lack of interest in finding out the truth. Certain aspects of the case, mostly relating to the police and John Mark Byers are so gothic and grotesque they seem straight out of Flannery O'Connor. Jesse Misskelley is key to understanding this case. His second confession is almost believable, but in the end all it proves is his suggestibility.

The innocence and naivety of people who think owning 11 black t-shirts is qualification as a satanist and a murderer is shocking and unthinkable as a phenomenon of the 1990s. The more that's revealed the more horrifying the guilty verdict is. Leveritt's book is somewhat short on revelations about the character of anyone involved in the crime, though it offers much more information about the crime itself. It's odd to me that in the end Jason Baldwin looks to be more of an activist than Damien Echols.
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