Bringing Adam Home by Les Standiford *WOW!*

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Bringing Adam Home
"When I left Adam that day, I told him, 'Honey, I'll be right over there in the lamp department,' and he looked back at me and said, 'I know where you'll be, Mommy.' Those are the last words I ever heard him say. That's the moment I've lived with for twenty-five years, and that is worse than anything some sick son of a bitch could ever say to me."

Bringing Adam Home is a grisly unflinching account of six-year old Adam Walsh's murder and the long jinxed investigation that followed. Many of you might be familiar with the name Adam Walsh - son of America's Most Wanted host, John Walsh and his wife, Revé. He was abducted one day in 1981 from Sears, where his mother left him for a few minutes at an arcade stall and came back to find him missing. He was then murdered by a serial killer, Otis Toole. What follows is a badly put investigative effort that should have solved the case in 1983, but instead neglects evidence, abandons proper interviewing techniques and has an incompetent detective who is more worried about his reputation than in solving crimes. This book details much of that evidence - Otis Toole himself coming forward multiple times to confess, the crime scene photos that were never printed (the biggest evidence of all was in these photos), and not following up with or giving any importance to the eyewitnesses that came forward.

Right from the first page, this book hooked me in. I like reading about true crime - I've thoroughly enjoyed reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which features a cold-blooded killer, Perry Smith. Columbine by Dave Cullen was a favorite read from last year, it featured two teen misfits, who went on to make Columbine a household word forever. Otis Toole, Adam's murderer is a drifter and a very "strange man" with "strange eyes" - he has a very low IQ, several learning disabilities, and a troubled upbringing. He was the only suspect in the murder right from when he first confesses, but he was never charged. Detective Sgt Joe Matthews was pulled in to help on the case initially but Jack Hoffman, the arrogant detective in charge dismissed him soon. Since then, Matthews' repeated attempts to help were always botched, even though he always made some new finding.

Les Standiford writes a well-researched book, that never once reads like a boring crime report. Instead, although the reader already knows the outcome of the whole investigation right in the first few pages of this book, I never once could put the book down - and took to reading it at every spare minute I got. Les Standiford attributes Detective Sgt. Joe Matthews for all the research, but it cannot be denied that he has shared all that research with the readers in a compelling style. This book is a reader's dream - a true crime, psychopathic or remorseless killers, the anxious wait for justice. This book is also a person's nightmare - a true crime, psychopathic or remorseless killers, the anxious wait for justice.

Adam Walsh's murder is another one of those defining events that can be said in terms of before and after. Before the murder, children enjoyed plenty of freedom, they would play out all day without adult supervision and be back as promised before dinner. Parents hardly batted an eyelid when their child requested if he/she could play someplace else in a mall, while they went shopping. After Adam Walsh's murder, though, "Few parents would ever again leave their children alone or unattended in public places". I belong to the After era. I've never known life otherwise, so some parts of this book evoked plain disbelief in me. I wanted to ask many times, how Revé and a lot of parents left their children unattended. I grew up hearing every day from my parents - there are bad people out there, don't talk to strangers, don't go anywhere without telling us. That's the same thing I've told every younger cousin of mine and also my nieces and nephews. I had to suspend my current conditioning to accept that times used to be safer for kids at one point. There weren't any pedophiles or serial killers who targeted kids, rapists or abductors then, like there are plentiful now.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is a grisly and unflinching account of the murder. There are many aspects described vividly (Adam Walsh is the only child Toole murders. But he confesses to it many times.) There is supposedly a photo shared in this book (it was absent in my review copy, but I saw it online), that I couldn't stop staring at. It was horrifying once you understood what the picture was but it wasn't obvious (a layman glance didn't help me much). But this book is not so much about the grisly murders as it is about the investigation. It is also a testament to the Walshes' work towards ensuring stronger laws and legislation to protect kids. In Matthews' words, their work made sure that "From the moment a child goes missing, no matter what, everybody drops what they're doing". It is also an ovation to Sgt. Matthews for finally providing the Walshes an answer to the twenty-five year old question regarding what happened to their child. In the end, this is an impressive documentation of how things changed so much - from the days when kids could easily go anywhere so long as they promised to be back before dark, to the current unwritten rule of never leaving a child unattended.

I received an ebook version of this title for free for review from the publishing imprint ECCO via NetGalley. Bringing Adam Home was released on March 1st. Check it out on the publisher's page, Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. To visit the author's website, click here.

16 comments:

Marg Bates said...

I am not sure I could read this one. Hate to think about all the things that can happen to kids!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Wow. This sounds totally amazing. I had no idea she left him at an arcade stall. For some reason I thought he wandered away. What a horrible thing that woman has to live with. Great review.

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

There is definitely a before and after of parenting caused by Adam's murder and I think it's really sad. I used to ride my bike to the local shopping center and run all over my neighborhood all day long. I think it's sad, because kids have lost a sense of independence because of it. I'm glad to see this book is so well written.

J H Hravey said...

Wow. I definitely have to read this. I have been on a nonfiction kick lately anyway and thought In Cold Blood was fascinating.

Your review is phenomenal. I love when a nonfiction writer uses sources so well. Thanks for this one!

Katy said...

Wow is right. Great review--you've made me really tempted to go get a copy of this book.

hcmurdoch said...

This is a book I would never think of reading (too scary as a mom of a 10 year old, too graphic, etc), but you have really made a case for it. I am of the "before" generation that ran free and played wherever we wanted without worry, but I am raising a child in the "after" generation and it just makes me sad that she doesn't get the experiences that I had.

Caribousmom said...

Your review makes me want to run out and buy this book. I am fascinated by these kinds of stories (the years in Search and Rescue gave me insight into how cases are handled...or mishandled...and I am always interested to read about the investigative process). I think this was one of those cases that definitely had a far reaching effect on the general public. Thanks fro the review.

Athira / Aths said...

I have to say those parts were disgusting, but I barely remembered them later (probably my mind suppressed them). Still, horrific to think people like this breathing the same air as we do.

Athira / Aths said...

It's sad - you can never forgive yourself after something like that.You keep imagining all the different ways you had acted.

Athira / Aths said...

I have to say I'm really envious. I wish I had known that kind of life. There's always that feeling of fear inside you because of what happened to Adam Walsh. Even now, I get wide-eyed if I ever see an unattended child anywhere.

Athira / Aths said...

Thank you! I loved how this book has listed so much relevant history! It's not just the Adam Walsh murder - but a lot of the child abductions that were also covered.

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you do read it! This book has been amazing!

Athira / Aths said...

I felt that many wouldn't pick this book to read because of its contents. There is plenty of grisly stuff, and I wanted to make sure I highlighted it. But I also wanted to say that one should still read it because although parts made you terrified for your kids, there are so many other things covered here - it's meant to be informational more than horrific.

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you get to read it. I feel I've learned so much now about how things used to be and how they are now. I'll be eager to hear your thoughts.

S. Krishna said...

I'm hesitant about the grisly nature of this book, but I do enjoy true crime and want to give it a try. Thanks for the review.

Athira / Aths said...

I kind of worried about the grisly nature too, but everything else about the book made up for it! I hope you do get a chance to read it.