Review of Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime

Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime
by Candace Fleming
High School    Schwartz/Random    368 pp.    g
3/22    978-0-593-17742-6    $19.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-17743-3    $22.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-17744-0    $11.99

“Nineteen-year-old Nathan Leopold would kill a child today.” The kidnapping, ransom, and murder plot had been in the works for months, but it came to fruition on May 21, 1924, when Leopold and his friend, eighteen-year-old Richard Loeb, targeted Loeb’s second cousin, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks, as he walked through their affluent Chicago neighborhood. Leopold and Loeb had privileged childhoods but ones with elements of neglect and abuse, potential red flags for their troubled relationship, in which Loeb got a partner in crime for his psychopathic tendencies and Leopold got a sexual relationship in exchange for enabling his partner’s ­criminal activity. While they pulled off the kidnapping and murder, the ransom plot fell apart, in part because Bobby’s body was found too quickly. The horrific crime puzzled the police, but the press, pandering to the public’s insatiable appetite for scandal, helped solve the case. The ensuing trial saw Clarence Darrow trying to avoid the death penalty for the amoral and remorseless pair. There is a mountain of primary-source material for this story, and the narrative expertly parses it, giving readers an uncommon depth of psychological insight. This is, at once, a psychological crime thriller, a suspenseful courtroom drama, and a timely, relevant examination of social issues. In the field of YA narrative nonfiction, Fleming (The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, rev. 1/20) continues to outdo herself. An author’s note, source notes, and a bibliography are appended.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.
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