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Fatal Vision
Joe McGinniss
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Fatal Vision

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  18,813 Ratings  ·  362 Reviews
Published May 1st 1992 by Time Warner Paperbacks (first published 1983)
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Jlsimon Hi Beth,

This case began the year before I was born, so I cannot give any first hand information. My father was at Fort Bragg, but this incident was…more
Hi Beth,

This case began the year before I was born, so I cannot give any first hand information. My father was at Fort Bragg, but this incident was after his time there by a couple of years, so I can't even give you second hand direct knowledge. What I can say is that though there was, "A Wilderness of Errors" that I believe Joe McGinniss has been a thorough investigator in "Fatal Vision". He covers the facts of the case and much of this book is supposed to be verbatim discussion and transcription of conversation and legal proceedings.

That being said, the evidence presented, though not without error is still evidence. Circumstantial evidence is not without weight or consequences. Dr. MacDonald told a story that did not match the forensics available in his home. His story did not have a linear series of events that allowed his story to be plausible. Does that make him a murderer? No, but, it certainly does not leave much room for believing in his innocence either.

Hope you get some more answers to this question. I would be interested to read them myself.(less)
Eletta0925 Fouche I am re-reading this book. I read it when I was a preteen and didn't really grasp some aspects of the book. I remember watching the show as well and…moreI am re-reading this book. I read it when I was a preteen and didn't really grasp some aspects of the book. I remember watching the show as well and the read I remember was good. Will post more once I go back through it. He also wrote a followup 30 years later. Final Vision(less)
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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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 17, 2014 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
Justin Mitchell
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
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary Ronan Drew
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rebecca McNutt
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
♥ Marlene♥
great classic
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dennis Littrell
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dawnelle Wilkie
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 necess
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, it's 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 page ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Dark, Chilling, Riveting, Fascinating & Intriguing! An Unforgettable Read! I Loved It!
Dee Eisel
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, history
This book was so good. So incredibly well-written through most of its vast length, and McGinniss drew me in. I was familiar with the case because I moved to North Carolina in the early 80s, when everything about the triple homicide was still front-page news. So much of the narrative regarding Jeffrey MacDonald and his murdered family rang bells. I knew the area where the trial was held, although I didn't get down to Fayetteville very much.

This is not an enjoyable read. I deeply wish it had been.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina 1979
A Green Beret surgeon snaps and slaughters his entire family

1. Pregnant wife dead, bludgeoned to death, stabbed 56 times.
2. Five-year-old Kimberley dead, clubbed in head, stabbed 10 times
3. Two-year-old Kristen dead, stabbed 48 times

Jeffry MacDonald contacted author Joe McGinniss asking him to write a book to help prove his innocence. McGinniss was happy to help. He strongly believed MacDonald was innocent but as he got to know MacDonald better and sifted through
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 09, 2015 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
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was at least the sixth or seventh time I've read this book. I don't know what hold the story has on me but I reread all 900+ pages about every five years since Betsy loaned me her copy when I was 18. (Which I loaned to someone else and never got back). MAcDonald is in prison in Maryland now (in fact my MCPL copy is from the correctional facility!) and still proclaiming his innocence. I firmly believe he did it- and blame the amphetamines and the family history of psychosis.. The book is so ...more
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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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