MURDER AT TEAL’S POND

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Bushman and Givens are in thrall to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, about which Bushman has written and Givens has devoted a podcast. On the TV show, a woman named Laura Palmer turns up dead, and it’s up to investigators and curious townies to examine a barrel of red herrings before hazarding a provisional truth. So it is with the case of Hazel Drew, “beautiful, blonde, and connected to a number of powerful men,” whose dreadfully swollen body was recovered from a pond not far from Troy, New York, in 1908. The real-life gruesomeness is classic Lynch territory, though more reminiscent of his film Blue Velvet than of the relatively civilized series. Investigators in the Drew case hazarded any number of guesses, many of which concerned the young woman’s character. Though from a hardscrabble background, with an alcoholic, chronically unemployed father, she had some money and nice things, and the conclusion was that she must have come by them by illicit means. The authors paint a detailed portrait of a police force—indeed, a whole city—riven by petty politics and undermined by corruption. They are also hopelessly bound to Twin Peaks. “Sand Lake, we found out, has twin peaks of its own: Perigo Hill, in the northeast corner of the town, and Oak Hill, near the center, each rising to an elevation of nine hundred feet,” they write, a point that contributes nothing to the tale. The looping narrative is dogged by other annoyances, including the authors’ habit of peppering the narrative with far too many rhetorical questions: “Where was Hazel going when she left Union Station on Monday, July 6? Where did she spend Monday night and Tuesday morning?” Their proposed solution stands up to reason, but by the time they arrive at it, readers could be forgiven for abandoning the chase.

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