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Murder in Little Egypt

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,423 ratings  ·  102 reviews
The unimaginable crime of filicide takes on the cast of tragic inevitability in this haunting true tale of violence, greed, revenge, and death. Fusing the narrative power of an award-winning novelist and the detailed research of an experienced investigator, Darcy O'Brien unfolds the story of Dr. John Dale Cavaness, the southern Illinois physician and surgeon who in Decembe ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 17th 2002 by Running Press Book Publishers (first published 1988)
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3.95  · 
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 ·  1,423 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Mikki
I don't read much true crime but this really was well done. So much history of the place and people, which are very important to the person of Dr Cavaness and his development, though he seems, hopefully. to be very much an individual. He is a person of Little Egypt but not the only type of person who lives there, thankfully.

The setting of Little Egypt, in Southern Illinois, is integral to the entire story as it sets the stage for the creation of the isolation which could foster the type of peop
Rebecca McNutt
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shocking, nerve-shattering and completely worth it all, Murder in Little Egypt is an absolutely unforgettable true crime novel with a lot of both history and mystery behind it.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
BAM The Bibliomaniac
True Crime Commemoration # 36
Setting: 1984 Saline County, IL ( only Harlan County in KY has more violent crime statistically of rural counties)

This is the story of a greedy, drunken, selfish, womanizing doctor of a small country county in the southern point of Illinois who shot two of his four sons after buying insurance policies on their lives. What's amazing is that no matter how sodden and worthless this man became the majority of his townsfolk still worshiped him. He was guilty as sin and th
♥ Marlene♥
Nearly finished. Wow what a treasure I discovered and had not realised it would be so good. it has been sitting on my true crime book shelf for many years.
Very very well written.

Update: This is how to write a great true crime book. I do not understand why this author is not more famous although I did know him from a great book The Hillside Stranglers. Just learned he died in 1998 so no more books by this author. I still have to get a copy of The Power to Hurt.

I did not read the description of t
Lady ♥ Belleza
In December 1984 Dr. John Dale Cavaness was charged with the murder of his son Sean. The community was outraged and rose to his defense. What they didn’t know was that for years he had terrorized his family and his employees. He made disastrous financial investments and was a womanizer. No one spoke out because everyone was afraid of him.

Seven years earlier Cavaness’ first son was found dead of homicide in the woods of Little Egypt. That murder has never been officially solved but many believe C
Rebecca Martin
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best true crime books I've ever read. How did I never come across this book before? It was published in 1989 and I only found the title by happenstance recently while reading an essay on true crime and female readers by Laura Browder. The deep historical and cultural background of "Little Egypt" (southern Illinois) and the portrait of the incredibly insular atmosphere in which the story of a father's crimes against his family takes place are a real stand-out in this book. The story of ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true story. It read like a novel. A page turner of the highest order.
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
This is a chilling true crime story that will horrify and perhaps leave you convinced that there are people walking amongst us, appearing to be completely normal, who are the embodiment of evil.
The story follows the life of a country physician, much beloved by his patients and community. His personal life however is punctuated by violence towards his family, alcohol abuse, shady financial dealings, and insurance fraud. He is very abusive to his wife and sons, and ultimately is charged with murde
May 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I enjoy a good practical joke, as long as i'm not the victim. So what i should probably say is i enjoy reading/hearing about a good practical joke. The star of this book, Doctor Dale Cavaness, is such a joker. He's into the usual stuff: stamping on your new watch, switching x-rays, telling people they're pregnant with twins when they're not. Just your usual, good-ole practical jokes. The above examples are some of his lesser offensive acts, the more the book progresses the more evil he gets maki ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This could be titled more correctly, the life biography of Dale Cavaness. Because that is what it is, in minute detail, as he lived it during the entire mid portions of the 20th Century, until 1986. So we are covering 1930s-1986 period within an area of Southern Illinois called "Little Egypt" in this book. Actually it is a large area, rather shaped like an inverted triangle at the very bottom of the state of Illinois with the top point of that triangle slanted a bit Westward where St. Louis live ...more
Red In
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm about 1/4 of the way through the book, so still have a way to go, but it has taken me almost this long to begin to even be INTERESTED in continuing to read it. So far, I've only managed to read a few pages each night. There is just WAY to much detail in the beginning of this book about "Little Egypt" and the killer's parents lives (and, as I recall, even his grandparents). I skipped over some of it, not being interested AT ALL in the history of the towns he lived and worked in. To ME, there' ...more
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Maybe because I live in St. Louis, and know a bit about southern Missouri and Illinois, but I found this to be a very interesting and well written story. I vaguely remember reading the story in the Post Dispatch at the time.
I know the area where the second murder took place and the neighborhood where the boys lived at the time of the murder so I could visualize a lot of what was described in the book.
Kudos to the Author for his investigation into this Bazar event. It would probably make a good
Jul 06, 2010 rated it liked it
I read this book because I'm from Southern Illinois and I wanted to learn more about some of the history of the area. It was well written...very interesting and sad. My only problem is that the book seems to depict all of Southern Illinois as violent and ignorant...and that is completely untrue!
This was a wonderful well-written book and I highly recommend it.
The author's style is too rambling, her sentences convoluted and distracting, and I couldn't get past the writing to enjoy the story.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Being from Southern Illinois and so very near where this story takes place, I was really into this book. Murder in Little Egypt is the first true crime novel I've ever read, so I don't know if it's great or not.

I think Darcy O'Brien did a really great job describing the area where this tragedy unfolds. He paints a vivid picture of the Cavaness family, each member coming alive throughout the course of the book.

The first couple of chapters really dive into the literal bloody history that has bee
Denise Mullins
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
It never ceases to amaze me how abusive, narcissistic sociopaths can so easily control and manipulate those around them. In this true crime account, a doctor of a rural Illinois community constructed a lifestyle in which he was frequently intoxicated, habitually abused his wife and four sons, maintained an unethical and illegal medical practice, and yet was revered by the citizenry. The idea that he murdered two of his sons and nearly escaped justice is chillingly recounted by Darcy O'Brien in a ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
A well- written, painful slow burn.
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago someone asked me why I liked true crime books. As best I could I explained that I enjoyed the genre because at its best the works function almost as a biography/sociological study showing the perpetrator and how he/she functions or fails to function in society. I cited books like Fatal Vision and an Executioner’s Song that give one a fair amount of insight into the psychology of the subject while also illuminating the sociological and legal structures the either limit or fail to ...more
Debbie Keller
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
True story about a doctor who murdered his 2 sons to collect insurance. It was a slow starter, but once it got going, I really liked it.
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
If there's anything that reading true crime will teach you, it's that monsters are real. They may come in the form of a charming, disarming serial killer who catches flies with honey. Or a seemingly unsolvable mystery in the media forces us to wonder what horrors could lay around each street corner. Perhaps a night of horror leads us to feel unsafe in our own homes, with our sweet sleeping families. What happens, then, when the monster comes from within - and fools everyone on the outside?

The la
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is truly horrendous when a father purposely kills his own son. That is what Murder in Little Egypt is about; a father who is so crazed that he kills his own son out of hatred and despise.

Dr. John Cavaness was loved by the people in his southern Illinois community and surrounding area. They were outraged and stood firmly behind him when he was charged with the murder of his own son. It wasn't until the trial when they learned the truth about the kind, caring doctor that they knew. They discov
K.A. Krisko
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: true-crime fans
Well, I'm glad I went ahead with this one. I recently read (well, tried to read) another of O'Brien's, 'Dark and Bloody Ground', and was so bored I could not finish it. This one is much, much better. In fact, when I couldn't be reading it, I was thinking about reading it. It's detailed without bogging down, hits on all the necessary background of all the important characters, and finishes with a nice but not overly-technical run-down of the trial. One creepy thing is, Dale Cavaness reminds me to ...more
Hari Brandl
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really well written true crime book. O'Brien tells a straight forward story which begins with a telling of the crime(s) and a little of the factors that complicated the case, then goes back in time (once!) for background, and then works it's way to the denouement in an orderly fashion, chronologically. Background on the key players is insightful and unemotional, relevant to the progression of the story, and brief. Each character is referred to by an individual name which is used throughout the ...more
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gripping account of true events!
This was so well written that I kept forgetting it was not fictional. Each character/person became whole and familiar to the reader and the flow of the narrative made this book a relentless page turner.
This story reveals the chameleon-like diabolical nature of a real life sociopath and his ability to hypnotize those around him.
There was also an interesting subplot!
It was a tragic inability of a large interdependent group of people to honestly scrutinize ugly evide
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
The author's widow let me borrow this book, I'm so glad she did. It was a fast read. I love the way Mr. O'Brien writes! It shows you truly don't know a person. I can't wait to read more of his books. This is his second book I've read.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The appalling story of the murder of three sons from the same family. Told from the point of view of his surviving son and the mother of the children, it's a heartbreaking picture of how a person can pick up the pieces and carry on after being blindsided in the cruellest possible way.
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Worth Reading

I had never heard of this story until reading this book. It's a little slow getting into it but worth sticking with. Hard to imagine someone this evil.
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a "can't put down" book about a horrific doctor who almost got away with murder in southern Illinois.
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Darcy O'Brien was born in Los Angeles, the son of Hollywood silent film actor George O’Brien and actress Marguerite Churchill.

O'Brien attended Princeton University and University of Cambridge, and received a master's degree and doctorate from the University of California, Berkely. From 1965 to 1978 he was a professor of English at Pomona College. In 1978 he moved to Tulsa, and taught at the Unives
“The upstairs was hopeless: all her clothes, Dale’s suits, everything belonging to the boys. And everywhere the powerful, sickening smell of ashes and water.” 2 likes
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