The Annals of Unsolved Crime
How often does a book appear which is both exceptionally important and splendidly fun to read? Such is veteran investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein’s new book "The Annals of Unsolved Crime."
As much a pleasure to thumb through as a particularly lively styles section in Vanity Fair, a magazine for which the author used to write, it is hugely significant in its revelations and its conclusions.
Composed as a series of brief summaries of 35 of the most famous true-life mysteries of all time, it’s paced like a thriller. Typical is this opening from an iconoclastic account of one of the numerous assassinations the book examines:
Olof Plame was the young, dynamic and charismatic prime minister of Sweden with a radical foreign policy that had attracted the world’s attention - and concern. His assassination in 1986 bedeviled, divided and haunted the country for over a decade.
On February 28, 1986 at 11:21 p.m., while walking home with his wife from the Grand Cinema on Sveavagen Street in Stockholm, Prime Minister Palme was fatally shot from behind at close range as he neared a subway station. His wife, Lisbet, was then shot by the assassin and critically wounded, but she survived. Palme had no bodyguards or escorts, and no one witnessed the shooting. By the time Lisbet turned in his direction, the shooter, wearing a heavy overcoat, was calmly jogging away...
In this account, as so many in this collection, the author persuasively presents a striking and controversial interpretation of events. His conclusion? The schizophrenic Swede who was accused and convicted of the crime was innocent and the actual perpetrators of the murder were secret agents of South Africa’s apartheid government acting to prevent Palme from providing military aid to the anti-apartheid African National Congress, then a guerrilla group.
A former Professor at MIT, Harvard and UCLA, Epstein is not a crackpot, and he adduces evidence for this thesis from testimony that came out before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission -- as well as by pointing out the many large holes that exist in the case against the madman convicted of the shooting, inconsistencies that led to his eventual release.