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Fatal Vision

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  21,863 ratings  ·  463 reviews
Fatal Vision is the electrifying true story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children, murders he vehemently denies committing. Bestselling author Joe McGinnis chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and intricate crime, and probes the life and psyche of the magnetic, ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 684 pages
Published August 1st 1984 by Signet (first published 1983)
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Laura-Lee Rahn I read Fatal Vision many years ago and found it one of the most detailed books ever. Interesting to me is that the author begins believing Macdonald…more I read Fatal Vision many years ago and found it one of the most detailed books ever. Interesting to me is that the author begins believing Macdonald and later decides he is guilty. Since then I've seen several Jeffrey Macdonald interviews. He is forever appealing his case. Every time he'd get a hearing he'd be in the news again. Between Fatal Vision being so meticulous with the evidence and hearing Macdonald's version of that night from his own lips, I'm convinced there's nothing to debunk. But I did want to thank you for telling us about the book. Generally speaking, it's always best to read several viewpoints of any situation. So I do appreciate you sharing the info. Sincerely, LLR(less)
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)
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 ·  21,863 ratings  ·  463 reviews

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Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime, legal, crime
“There was a day, a very hot and humid Saturday in early August, when in the company of two criminologists who were preparing to testify for the defense, I went inside 544 Castle Drive. I remained for five hours, amid the mustiness, the clutter, and the dust. For the most part it was the little things to which my attention was drawn…Eventually, I became aware of a noise. A low hum, being emitted by the refrigerator. The [Criminal Investigation Division] agent who had opened the apartment that ...more
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
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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.
Rebecca McNutt
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
True Crime Classic on sale:
$1.99 today, 6.4.18
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
spooky and wow. HE DID IT it is clear even before dna. and now after dna it proves he did it.
Nov 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mary Ronan Drew
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've been on a bit of a true crime reading binge lately, and I grabbed this book at the bookstore after years of avoiding it. Maybe it was because I remembered the miniseries on TV so many years ago, or maybe the age of the book put me off. I can admit now that it was a mistake to discount it. Once I started, I couldn't bring myself to read anything else until I'd finished it.

Joe McGinniss was invited to tell the story by Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the man accused of murdering his wife and
j e w e l s
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
fascinating. I still don't know what to think.
Dennis Littrell
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
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 them off.

Joe McGinniss who at the time was
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
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fatal Vision follows the real life story of Doctor Jeffrey MacDonald, and the murder of his wife and children. On 17th February 1970, MacDonald claims that a group of hippies, two white men, a black man and a blonde woman with a floppy hat, broke into his house, assaulted him, and then murdered his wife and two little girls. But as law enforcement investigate further, his story doesn't seem to ring true, and physical evidence doesn't match his claims. Could MacDonald, respected Green Beret ...more
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
James Hayman
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overly long at roughly 800 and then some pages. But I found I couldn't stop reading. This has to be one of the best true crime books ever.
Dee Eisel
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Dawnelle Wilkie
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
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 ...more
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Joe McGinniss was an American journalist, non-fiction writer and novelist. 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. It spent more than six months on best-seller lists. He is popularly known for his trilogy of bestselling true crime books — Fatal Vision, Blind Faith and Cruel Doubt ...more
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“I think everybody needs a father of sorts. Somebody that they can talk to or lean on or cry on his shoulder once in a while. And I don’t know who that person would be in my brother’s case, after my father passed away. There was no one alive that would be an adequate substitute. If he was looking to me for guidance, he didn’t see any, and so he went on his own.” 0 likes
“It said, “There seems to be an absence in him of deep emotional response, coupled with an inability to profit from experience. He is the kind of individual who is subject to committing asocial acts with impunity. He lacks a sense of guilt, he seems bereft of a strong conscience, and he appears incapable of emotionally close or mutually cooperative relationships with women. “Derivatively, he apparently avoided, even resented, the demands on him to fulfill the responsibilities of having been a husband and a father of female children. Parenthood, for him, may have been viewed as threatening and potentially destructive.” The report also said, “He is subject to being amnesic concerning what he would wish to blot out from his consciousness and very conscience. His credibility leaves much to be desired. In testing, he proved himself to be considerably pathological and impulsive, with feministic characteristics and concealed anger. He has a disdain for others with whom he differs and he is subject to respond with anger when his person is questioned, on whatever basis.” 0 likes
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