Book Description

How did two teenagers brutally murder an innocent child…and why? And how did their brilliant lawyer save them from the death penalty in 1920s Chicago? Written by a prolific master of narrative nonfiction, this is a compulsively readable true-crime story based on an event dubbed the “crime of the century.”

In 1924, eighteen-year-old college students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb made a decision: they would commit the perfect crime by kidnapping and murdering a child they both knew. But they made one crucial error: as they were disposing of the body of young Bobby Franks, whom they had bludgeoned to death, Nathan’s eyeglasses fell from his jacket pocket.

Multi-award-winning author Candace Fleming depicts every twist and turn of this harrowing case–how two wealthy, brilliant young men planned and committed what became known as the crime of the century, how they were caught, why they confessed, and how the renowned criminal defense attorney Clarence Darrow enabled them to avoid the death penalty.

Following on the success of such books as The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh and The Family Romanov, this acclaimed nonfiction writer brings to heart-stopping life one of the most notorious crimes in our country’s history.

My Review

Before reading this book, I had only a vague familiarity with the Leopold & Loeb case. I was excited about the opportunity gain a greater understanding of both the events that led up to the case as well as the trial/aftermath.

I found this book to be thorough and engaging. Fleming weaves a compelling narrative that follows the two young men from their separate precocious childhoods, through their tumultuous friendship, and eventually to their murder pact. I knew that Clarence Darrow defended Leopold & Loeb, but I didn’t know about the interesting parallel between his defense and the infamous affluenza defense almost a hundred years later. Darrow also referred to the duo by their boyhood nicknames: Babe and Dickie, in order to capitalize on their youth. On that note, I didn’t know about the outcome of the trial either and the result surprised me, although perhaps it shouldn’t have.

The book is written for a young adult audience, but it never felt juvenile to me—nor did I get the sense that details were being imparted for the sole purpose of being sensationalistic. Yes, the facts of the case—two extremely privileged young men killing a younger boy just to see if they could get away with this—are inescapably sensationalistic, but it’s important to convey information without being lurid for the sake of being lurid. And this book achieves that goal effortlessly.

I would absolutely recommend Murder Among Friends. This book will appeal to true crime fans, and while some of the details might not be appropriate for precocious readers, it’s perfect for teen readers. I am looking forward to more fascinating nonfiction from Fleming in the future.

I received a digital ARC of this book from Random House Children’s/NetGalley

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