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Who Named the Knife: A Book of Murder and Memoryby Linda Spalding
Synopses & Reviews
Murder. Hawaii's beautiful Hanauma Bay. The suspects: two young mainlanders on their honeymoon. Maryann Acker, a pretty young Mormon woman, is 18. William, just out of prison, is 28. The crime is robbery, ending in a killing. And before the spree is over, another robbery and murder a few days later in California.
In 1982, Linda Spalding, a mainlander herself, living in Hawaii, is chosen as a juror for Maryann's trial there. Surprisingly the chief witness against Maryann is William, accusing her of shooting their victim. Spalding has reasonable doubts, but on the last day of the trial, she is abruptly dismissed from the jury and Maryann is sentenced to life in prison.
Eighteen years later, Spalding stumbles over the journal she kept during the trial and reads it carefully. Was she right to have doubts? Then she tracks down Maryann, who is still incarcerated.
Linda writes, Maryann answers, and moved by the letter, Linda begins to uncover much more than the answer to the question of Maryann's guilt or innocence. There's the bold new friendship frustrated by monitored visits, hard-to-make phone calls and the dehumanizing results of years in prison. But as her understanding of the forces that drove Maryann's actions grows, Linda finds herself compelled to examine her own past as well as Maryann's.
Who Named the Knifeis a record of this complex journey — a journey into America's troubled soul and into the twists of fate that spin two lives down different but infinitely painful paths. The story isMaryann's but it is also Spalding's as subject and writer overlap and the hunt for truth unmasks the mysteries of family truths. Lyrical and achingly honest, this is a story that offers us profound insight onto the vagaries of the human heart.
"'In June 1978, Larry Hasker was murdered in Hawaii. Maryann Acker was convicted of the crime in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison. In this sparkling account, noted Canadian novelist Spalding creates a nuanced, deeply felt tale of her own involvement in the story and how it led her along a path of self-discovery. Chosen for the jury, Spalding was dismissed from the case after showing up five minutes late one day. Acker was convicted and their lives spun off in different directions until, 18 years later, Spalding unearthed the diary she had kept during the trial, contacted Acker and became entwined in an attempt to get Acker a new trial (the main witness against her has since confessed to the murder). Spalding's strong, elegant prose carries the story along effortlessly. With her own life full of tragedy — a failed marriage, the accidental death of a brother and sister-in-law — Spalding both relates to Acker and suffers from guilt, knowing her vote might have spared Acker a life behind bars. Along the way, Spalding weaves a beautiful story about coming to terms with her mother's imminent death and her unresolved relationship with her often violent-tempered father. This delicate yet powerful work should find a wide readership.' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
"By turns — and in equal measure — intriguing and frustrating." Los Angeles Times
"A literary tapestry of true crime, memoir and personal essay that simultaneously enthralls and disturbs." Kirkus Reviews
"Subtle, never sentimental, exact and terrifying, Linda Spalding is compelled by what she sees and learns, taking the moral disturbances of popular life as her starting point as she examines the blind violence at the heart of things." Susanna Moore, author of The Big Girls
"I've read dozens of courtroom dramas and probably hundred of memoirs, but Spalding's remarkable book takes both of those familiar genres, twists them together, and pulls the resulting cord so taut that you cannot possible stop reading until you reach the last, haunting sentence." Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Possible Pursuits
About the Author
Linda Spalding was born in Kansas and lived in Mexico and Hawaii before immigrating to Toronto in 1982. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, Daughters of Captain Cook, The Paper Wife, and (with her daughter Esta) Mere. Her non-fiction The Follow, was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award and the Pearson Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize. She has been awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for her contribution to the Canadian literary community.
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