Summer Reading

Words gone wild! The best and the breeziest for beating the heat in 2002

One Polish count, one graceful Southern belle, and a lavish, pastoral chunk of land in Virginia: The Count and the Confession (Random House, $24.95) is not, despite its subject matter, a romance novel. Journalist John Taylor's account of the 1992 death of Roger de la Burde, a wealthy, controlling scientist who may or may not have killed himself, is a deceptively simple book that seeks to answer several intriguing questions, but one that captivates above all others: How could an intelligent person confess to a crime she might not have committed? Beverly Monroe, an apparently kind and gentle woman, had stood by her philandering companion for 12 years and was the last person to see him alive. She initially told an ingenious police investigator that she wasn't at his house when he died, but after she finished talking to the detective, she had partially confessed to a crime most everyone felt she couldn't have committed. Taylor isn't as interested in whether Monroe did or didn't pull the trigger -- early readers of the book were evenly split between guilt and innocence -- as he is in the often bizarre mechanics of justice. Sometimes grim but always fascinating stuff.

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