Synopses & Reviews
In Cold Blood
meets Adrian Nicole LeBlancs Random Family
: A harrowing, profoundly personal investigation of the causes, effects, and communal toll of a deeply troubling crime—the brutal murder of three young children by their parents in the border city of Brownsville, Texas.
On March 11, 2003, in Brownsville, Texas—one of Americas poorest cities—John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered their three young children. The apartment building in which the brutal crimes took place was already rundown, and in their aftermath a consensus developed in the community that it should be destroyed. It was a place, neighbors felt, that was plagued by spiritual cancer.
In 2008, journalist Laura Tillman covered the story for The Brownsville Herald. The questions it raised haunted her, particularly one asked by the sole member of the citys Heritage Council to oppose demolition: is there any such thing as an evil building? Her investigation took her far beyond that question, revealing the nature of the toll that the crime exacted on a city already wracked with poverty. It sprawled into a six-year inquiry into the larger significance of such acts, ones so difficult to imagine or explain that their perpetrators are often dismissed as monsters alien to humanity.
With meticulous attention and stunning compassion, Tillman surveyed those surrounding the crimes, speaking with the lawyers who tried the case, the familys neighbors and relatives and teachers, even one of the murderers: John Allen Rubio himself, whom she corresponded with for years and ultimately met in person. The result is a brilliant exploration of some of our ages most important social issues, from poverty to mental illness to the death penalty, and a beautiful, profound meditation on the truly human forces that drive them. It is disturbing, insightful, and mesmerizing in equal measure.
“All the issues that plague those living in poverty are in evidence in this story of love and loss in Brownsville, Texas. Laura Tillman delicately excavates the lives at the center of this tragic tale, providing insights into the people and the place that made them. She plumbs the American class divide so astutely and so sensitively, its near impossible not to see the humanity even in those we would have previously called monsters. To better understand the social issues at play here and across the country, please, read this book!” Jesmyn Ward, author of Men We Reaped and Salvage the Bones
"Laura Tillman has undertaken the kind of work that only the rarest of reporters actively seeks: she has shown us that even in the darkest corners of society -- and of the human soul -- there is beauty and hope to be found, and there are no absolutes despite how eager we might be to ascribe them. In the process, she paints a perfect picture of true journalism: its labor, its obsessiveness, its challenges, its toll, and also its value. I can't fathom how difficult this story was to tell, nor can I measure its greater meaning now that it has been told." Jeff Hobbs, author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
About the Author
Laura Tillman is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Pacific Standard, among other publications. Originally from Maplewood, New Jersey, she began her career at The Brownsville Herald in South Texas. She holds a BA in International Studies from Vassar College and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. This is her first book.