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The Corpse Had a Familiar Face

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  474 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews

Now in trade paperback, Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Buchanan’s classic nonfiction masterpiece detailing events from her eighteen years writing for The Miami Herald.

Nobody covered love and lunacy, life and death on Miami’s mean streets better than legendary Miami Herald police reporter Edna Buchanan. Winner of a 1986 Pulitzer Prize, Edna has seen it all, including more tha
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 14th 2009 by Gallery Books (first published 1987)
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Feb 16, 2011 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read another review on this site that said this book was far better than Connelly's book on his career as a journalist covering the crime beat. Buchanan's book is far more interesting in many aspects - first, she was a woman entering a man's career world in the late 60's/early 70's; second, she illustrated many stories she covered (I'm sure not even scratching the surface of what she did over her long career) but didn't go in depth but hit on the important parts so you still got the full pictu ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, she is a fine journalist and was really able to get the story, as told over and over and over again in this book. It is a bit monotonous, though, with story after story after story of horrible things happening to people. It does not go anywhere. It is a catalogue of crime stories, and for that it has value, but anyone looking for any kind of narrative arc will be disappointed.

Plus, a chapter devoted to her cats? Totally unnecessary.

Carla Remy
Edna Buchanan covered crime for the Miami Herald through the 1970s and most of the 1980s. Her stories of being an early female reporter are interesting. The body count, the endless horrible things she covered, terrible. Or fascinating. This book came out in 1987.
Leah  St.James
Mar 16, 2012 Leah St.James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys writing or reading about crime
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (Miami Herald reporter) Edna Buchanan takes us along for a ride as she narrates some of the most memorable stories and characters of her career (to that point). Great, great book for any novelist who writes about crime....except these are all true! Makes me almost wish I'd taken up journalism. Edna Buchanan (from one former Jersey Girl to another), thank you for sharing your stories.
May 21, 2014 Kolbe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best long-form journalistic memoir I have read. Edna Buchanan tells her story of working the crime beat during the height of crime in Miami with skillful ease and intrigue. She tells her stories with plenty of personality, yet remains true to all the facts of each case she covered. Nothing has inspired me to pursue covering a crime beat more (although I'm still not doing that, what's wrong with me?).
Aug 23, 2011 Noah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled onto this book by accident but I'm sure glad I did. It's outstanding. Buchanan writes perfect crisp newspaper sentences, structures her paragraphs and chapters with purpose, and packs the book full of fascinating stories and people. It's rare for a book to paint a picture of a particular place in a particular time this well. Even if you could care less about the topic this is still a great read.
Charles Choi
Jun 17, 2007 Charles Choi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journalism
Before she descended into writing potboiler mysteries, Edna Buchanan was a crackerjack Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter for The Miami Herald. This out-of-print book has Buchanan fondly going over her days on the cops and courts beat. Not always well-written, but a good place to mine information on what being a journalist is really like, and there a few good tips on reporting for the observant.
Greg Kelly
Aug 18, 2016 Greg Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Reporters are like cops in yet another way: We suddenly appear in someone's life at a crucial, often emotional point, suddenly their best friend, confessor, defender, confidant, and shoulder-to-cry-on. We share the same foxhole for a short time, then we are gone with our story, slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am. It is often difficult for both of us."

The life of a journalist is a difficult one to grasp. The nights are long slaving over a story with a deadline quickly approaching. A journalist's life is a
Jennifer Kay
Sep 19, 2015 Jennifer Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the department of Things That Aren't There Anymore:

"From the beginning, it was a comfort just to see the Miami Herald building looming huge and permanent against the skyline. It made me feel secure. It still does. You can see it from the expressway, the causeways, from downtown, and from the bay. Just look up. The Herald building sprawls over an entire block of prime waterfront. Employee parking lots are slowly swallowing the surrounding neighborhood. Sometimes the world's biggest barge is
Dee brown
Dec 28, 2014 Dee brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this, and will read more by Ms. Edna Buchanan. This is about her life journey to becoming a journalist. She takes you her first crime story. She doesn't over explain her job, but one can tell she was made for it!! I'm looking forward to reading more from her!
Shannon J.
Nov 03, 2014 Shannon J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny book, surprisingly enough. Edna is very engaging, and her personal side to the stories she wrote on is quite entertaining.

Was lucky enough to find this earlier edition at a library book sale...
Nov 30, 2015 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By many accounts, Edna Buchanan is considered to be the best crime reporter ever written. The fact that there's not a definitive collection of her works remains a glaring omission that needs to be corrected. 'The Corpse Had A Familiar Face' is a good substitute. A great read, and a definite must-read for any crime reporting enthusiast.
Jul 25, 2016 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! Highly recommended to people who love true crime and to Miami natives. As someone who has now made her home in Miami, I was shocked and fascinated at Miami's crime-ridden history.

Edna Buchanan is one amazing lady!
Jan 06, 2016 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, memoir
A friend, then a cops-and-courts reporter, had recommended Buchanan years ago as the best of the best in crime writing. I'd hoped for something like a compilation of her reporting, but the book is also substantially a memoir. Buchanan's own story is well-told, but her crime vignettes are astonishing. I'll stick a few examples under quotes later. In retrospect, an entire book of those would have felt exhausting by the end. The best way to read her work is probably the way it was meant, daily, in ...more
Jul 03, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Miami in the 1970s and 1980s: Heat, crime, crime, heat, crime.
aPriL does feral sometimes
Holds up even almost 25 years later. If reporters were accomplished in the way Ms. Buchanan is at her job, people would still be buying newspapers. Since she won a Pulitzer it's obvious her writing is as superb as her reporting. Wonderful 'true crime' genre, but they should actually invent a genre for her since this is far too superior over normal true crime books. More memoir of a reporter who is among the five best reporters ever.
Apr 10, 2009 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
A novel of fascinating crime stories. The book was riveting and will keep you glued to your seat. Edna Buchanan has taken her years of experience as an award winning reporter for the Miami Herald and given us a glimpse into the "real" world of crime. A father who murdered his comatose toddler in her hospital crib, the 15 year old boy who killed for 'fun' and others.

A wonderful read!
Nov 02, 2011 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as a young beat reporter for a Brooklyn weekly paper, and it instantly became one of my favorites! Buchanan is a terrific reporter and writer, with a macabre sense of humor that expertly fits her subject matter - as crime reporter for the Miami Herald during a period of ample violence. Every reporter or aspiring reporter should read this book. Wonderful!
Apr 21, 2014 Esther rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Miami's most shocking crimes in the late 70's and 80's, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
I can't help it. Does it make me some variation of trailer trash? I love "Miami Vice" and this book of short stories, mysteries with a certain flair were all set in Miami. It took all I could do not to set the detectives out in white linen coats. Besides, she's a bona fide first rate mystery writer and this was just hors d'oeuvres!
May 30, 2015 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, journalism
Just re-read this. It still holds up after 20 years. Buchanan has a real understanding of the dedication needed to be a top newspaper reporter. She covered the cops for the Miami Herald and she did it with a tremendous sense of the humanity of her victims. Anyone interested in journalism should read this.
Mar 21, 2007 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about covering crime set in my hometown! This also has a good deal of biographical info. but she manages to tie it to a sort of lifelong interest in criminals and their exploits, and I'm a sucker for someone who writes so lovingly about SoFla! Even if her medium is the crime beat.
Jan 05, 2013 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reporting
As a reporter, this book was a breath of fresh air. A reporter talking about the art of reporting for exactly what it is. Buchanan's writing may be several decades old, but it is still as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.
Meg Parmentier
Jul 24, 2010 Meg Parmentier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was the main focus on my college admission essays when I was applying to journalism programs. She provides a great model for what a journalist should always strive to be.
Cynthia Mappus
Jul 26, 2012 Cynthia Mappus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LOVE her writing style! It's crisp, sometimes shocking, but definitely addictive! If you read this first book, you'll be hooked. Be prepared to become an Edna Buchannan Fan for Life!!!
Mar 27, 2008 Dayva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I knew when I read this work by Miami Herald reporter and Pulitzer winner, that she would make a fabulous novelist, too! Her ficton is as fascinating as her factual work.
Dalton Lebleu
She's a cat lady, terrible with guys, an alarmist, and can be dangerous. But she is a great writer and has some terrific subject matter in the war zone that was Miami.
Very interesting and likeable author. Learned a lot about Miami crime and the history of the city. Recommend it, though some uncomfortable material is covered.
Jul 24, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like her firecracker style of writting and I like that they are true stories. This was my first of Edna Buchanan and I liked it better than the others.
Jul 08, 2011 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-faves
Insane true stories by this ballsy old crime reporter, brilliantly written with wacky humour. Totally inspired me when I was a journalist
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Edna Buchanan 1 3 Dec 05, 2009 12:23PM  
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Edna Buchanan knew she wanted to be a writer since she was 4 years old. She moved to Florida where she got a job at a small newspaper. Ms. Buchanan became a reporter for the Miami Beach Daily Sun in the late 1960s.

In 1970, she was hired as a general assignment and police-beat reporter at the Miami Herald. In 1973, Ms. Buchanan became a police beat reporter, which coincided with the rise of Miami
More about Edna Buchanan...

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“Gary Robinson died hungry.

He wanted fried chicken, the three-piece box for $2.19. Drunk, loud, and obnoxious, he pushed ahead of seven customers on line at a fast-food chicken outlet. The counter girl told him that his behavior was impolite. She calmed him down with sweet talk, and he agreed to step to the end of the line. His turn came just before closing time, just after the fried chicken ran out.

He punched the counter girl so hard her ears rang, and a security guard shot him—three times.”
“In the official police account, the plumber was shot and robbed on the street. Not true—guys stick together—the detective didn't want the victim's wife to know he was flagrante delicto with a prostitute when wounded. I didn't want her hurt or embarrassed either. She figured it out herself. I met her later, after their divorce, and she brought up the subject. The hospital returned her injured husband's garments. She was washing them when she realized that, although there were a number of bullet holes in his body, there were none in his clothes.” 0 likes
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