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A Season in Purgatory

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,854 ratings  ·  211 reviews
They were the family with everything. Money. Influence. Glamour. Power. The power to halt a police investigation in its tracks. The power to spin a story, concoct a lie, and believe it was the truth. The power to murder without guilt, without shame, and without ever paying the price. America's royalty, they called the Bradleys. But an outsider refuses to play his part. And ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 28th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1993)
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Petra-X has been locked down for one full year
He could really write, Dominick Dunne, couldn't he? I know this was a fictionalised account of the Skakel murder of Martha Moxley, I know the Bradleys were the Kennedys, but still it read, at least in the initial chapters like Waugh's Brideshead. The same shining scion and his shadow, poor but in love and literate. The same feeling of anything was possible, morality was unimportant compared to riches. All that and they were Catholic too.

I advertised for a part-time clerk today. The first person
Jean Marie Angelo
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book, as we all know, is a fictionalized version of the Martha Moxley murder. The fictional location of Scarborough Hill, Conn., is really meant to be the tony Belle Haven neighborhood of Greenwich. The murderer, Constant Bradley, is a composite character of Ted Kennedy, Will Smith (a Kennedy cousin accused of rape), and Michael Skakel (the Kennedy cousin who was eventually convicted of Martha's murder).

Martha was killed the night before Halloween in 1975. I was a young teen then and I liv
Apr 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is quite a good book in Dominick Dunne's style of taking a true crime and changing the names and a few of the facts so that you still know who it is based on. A Season in Purgatory is based on Kennedy nephew's Michael Skakel's murder of Martha Moxley in the wealthy town of Greenwich, Connecticutt in 1975. The story is told from the point of view of the killers boarding school buddy who was visiting that weekend. The story is about how power and privilege can prolong justice. Years after thi ...more
Aug 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book grabbed me from the beginning and sucked me into the Bradley's world. I loved the way that Dunne developed each of the characters so that you could see how and why each was unable to stand up to Gerald's tyranny or Grace's religious manipulation. I really wanted to like the Bradley family but they all were dispicable in their own way. The exception was Agnes who was shuttered away in an institution and never discussed by the famiy until Constant needed her for his defense. Everyone in ...more
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nobody does this as well as Dunne. Spectacular, absorbing trash. Loved it.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I decided to read this book because I had just finished watching a documentary about Ann Woodward and remembered that Dominick Dunne had written a fictionalized book based on her life called “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles”. (She, along with several others, makes an appearance in this book too.) Since I had thoroughly enjoyed it, I decided to try this one.

I was not disappointed!

Half the fun of this novel is trying to identify who all the real life players are in this fascinating roman à clef by Dominic
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You're different," said Constant.
"Oh, I hope so," replied Harrison.

"This is a tough guy...I don't mean tough, like in the boxing ring...I mean a tougher kind of tough, like integrity tough."

"If I had it to do over again, would I do what I did? I would like to say, "Oh, yes, yes, yes," but, in truth, I wonder."

"Purgatory is a place for contemplation of what is ahead, for atonement for what is behind, for purification, for expiation. It is a preparation for the sight of God."

"...truth will always
Jun 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heard this book is a fiction story based on the 1975 Martha Moxley murder in Greenwich. That story always fascinated and scared me because I was a teen during that time and realized it could of happened to someone I knew!

The book got off to a slow start, but then the character development and intertwining of the years and lives became very interesting and fascinating. Dunne portrayed the character relationships very well. You wanted to love the Bradleys for their money, power and outwardly perfe
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
I read this book a long time ago, but have followed the real-life Skakel murder it was based upon. I'm a faithful reader of Dunne's Vanity Fair dispatches and found the book to be a faithful representation of what allegedly happened in this upscale place. Using money and power the family in the book, and in real life, covered it up and Dunne identities well with the murdered girl's family since his own daughter was killed and her attacker received a slap on the wrist. Well-written, great charact ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Completely engrossing. Loved how it was from the perspective of the accomplice and the toll the crime took on him and all those affected. How easily we can get swept up with the wrong crowd albeit innocently, or so it seems at the beginning. With a mix of crime, wealth, vanity, religion and family, this book covered it all.
Had two copies of this book in two different bindings. Loved the story but donating now as clearing bookshelves for move.
Cindy Knoke
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is painful to read, like Jonathan Swift, but important nonetheless. He skewers rich capitalists so perfectly. I think he is under-rated.
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
Crimes of the rich. Dominick Dunne's novel documents the real crime of Micheal Skakel who was accused and convicted for killing Martha Marloxey. He was blamed for instigating his trial and conviction. And, in his book, Constant Bridely, the son of a wealthy investor, Gerald Bradley murders Winfred Utley in Scaborough Hill. After trying for years to cover up for his son's crimes, the law eventually catches up with him. Following Harrison Burns courageous break of the events that took place in the ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-it
Dunne is an old hand at this: scandals as fodder for bestsellers. Here he does a fictionalized re-telling of Ethel Kennedy's nephew Michael Skakel's murder of neighbor Martha Moxley. Like the rest of his books, of course this one's hard to put down.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I am ever tempted to forget that the rich really are different, I must remind myself to pick up a Dominick Dunne book. My, the things that unimaginable wealth can buy. Even so, I wonder if even Dunne could have predicted a Donald Trump presidency.

There are skeletons in the Kennedy family's closets...literally, as in, actual skeletons. We know of two, for sure: Martha Moxley's, and Mary Jo Kopechne's. This book is Martha Moxley's story, as much as Black Water, by Joyce Carol Oates, is Mary Jo
Lee Goldberg
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Trashy good fun, but written really well too. Inspired by the 1975 murder that convicted one of the Kennedy's nephews. Reaches soap opera theatrics with all the juicy plot twists. Flawed characters you love to hate, including the narrator who becomes embroiled in the Kennedy-esque family "The Bradleys" for better and worse. Has a brilliant true crime feel. ...more
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lori by: Joseph
My brother recommended this book to me and at first I didn't like it, but 2 chapters in the drama started. Each chapter sucked me in more. The ending was a surprise and then a double surprise. ...more
Entertaining and well-written fictionalized account of the Martha Moxley murder and the Skakels/Kennedys. Extremely engrossing.
Katlyn Webb
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bonnie Wilson
Not the sort of book I usually read but I had nothing else on hand and it came my way. I think this fits the description of "beach read" - quick, not very demanding, rolls along after the first few chapters which are rather slow.

I've never read anything else by Dunne and I found his style somewhat peculiar. The POV alternates between first and third and at least once we are suddenly in the head of someone who was never otherwise a POV character, which is rather jarring.

The entertainment value i
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found this in the giveaway pile at the local library. I've always had a soft spot for Dominick Dunne from Vanity Fair, and, of course the OJ Simpson trial. One grieves with DD in the senseless murder of his daughter due to domestic violence. You can tell he is a seeker of justice in his writings.

This novel is about a large Irish Catholic family in CT whose favored son brings home a friend from boarding school. All is not what it seems in this big happy family, and Harrison cannot help being enc
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book about a fictional family much like the Kennedys and their relatives. The novel parallels true events with the murder and cover up available to the ultra rich and powerful. I’m enthralled with Dunne’s sharp, witty, and satirical writing style and his characterizations that closely resemble real events from the past. I’ve loved reading the book first and then researching the truth behind the story. This book revolves around the true story of the Martha Moxley murder by Michael Sk ...more
John Damaso
Not the most miraculous of prose writing, but there were page-turning moments of tension, and the overall arcs of mostly flawed characters served as the driving force of the story, which I learned later, was a composite of some shady crimes attached to Kennedy family relatives.

Revealing the Bradleys in profile by a narrator who is sold to us as truth-seeking and wrong-righting felt a lot like Fitzgerald’s creation of Nick Carraway, which makes sense, since Harrison Burns makes 2-3 explicit Gats
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the reasons I’ve been a subscriber to Vanity Fair magazine for 30 years, is the writing. My favorite was the late Dominick Dunne. It may have been his superb writing that lured me into true crime stories. His books are fictionalized accounts of real events and powerful people; circles he was known in. This book was fascinating! It’s the story of the Martha Mosley murder, at the hands of Michael Skakel, a nephew of Ethyl Kennedy. All the names and places are changed of course, and some cha ...more
Brenda DeMartini- Squires
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Although this book is a fictionalization of the Martha Moxley murder trial, the plot reads like a Trump-family handbook. The story of the corruption and privilege is too familiar to thinking people who have had to live through the debacle of this presidency and its scandals. Even more painful is the portrayal of America's worship of celebrity and wealth. The American public's role as co-dependents to pampered, preening billionaires is rendered perfectly in the public's response to the trial at t ...more
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a well written book. The character development was perfect. I could envision each of the characters. The story itself was so well done. At first I thought Harry was stupid to allow Constant to talk him into helping him but later on, I realized that this was an 18 or 19 year old kid who was very emotionally needy due to losing his parents at a young age. He had no other support system. I read in a review that this story was loosely based on the Kennedys. The family taking care of its own ...more
Growing up in Connecticut I remember coverage of the Martha Moxley case being on the news when Michael Skakel was tried in the late 90s-early 2000s. I forget what Google rabbit hole I fell down about that rather recently that brought this book to my attention, as it is loosely based upon that case. Skakel's conviction was recently tossed and the state can't retry him so I'm sure it was some news article pertaining to that...

The first third of the book or so was kinda draggy but the rest of it wa
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Harrison Burns finds himself welcomed into the Kennedy-esque Bradley family. They are Irish, very wealthy, many children . . . and when Harrison meets the youngest son Constant at school and is brought home for a holiday he feels very fortunate. Constant is the family's hope, scheduled eventually to run for President. For Harrison, the luck runs out when he is involved in a violent incident where he helps Constant cover his tracks. What happened and his role in it haunts Harrison for years, unti ...more
Danielle Shorr
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A well-executed fictionalized portrayal of the infamous Martha Moxley case, lending us possible perspective and insight that one would be unable to find elsewhere. I first read the book in high school, then re-read at the end of my college career. A must read for anyone interested in the strange and convoluted web that is the Kennedy family and their many burdens. The narrative is engaging and the unique perspective of our narrator is the perfect voice to lead us through the series of events.
Carol Rioux
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Murder, Coverup, Political scumbaggery

As you read this, you will immediately think of the Kennedys and the Skakels and the murder of Martha Moxley. It seems the rich are different and can buy their way out of anything and it doesn’t matter what it costs because they have money. Of course, they present themselves as a loving Catholic family, but appearances can be deceptive. Dunn is great with these kinds of stories.
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Dominick Dunne was an American writer and investigative journalist whose subjects frequently hinged on the ways high society interacts with the judiciary system. He was a producer in Hollywood and is also known from his frequent appearances on television.

After his studies at Williams College and service in World War II, Dunne moved to New York, then to Hollywood, where he directed Playhouse 90 and

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