Iphi­ge­nia in For­est Hills: Anato­my of a Murder

Janet Mal­colm
  • Review
By – August 24, 2011
Read­ing Janet Malcolm’s new book, you might mis­tak­en­ly think you had picked up a nov­el. Yet the plot is all too true and the char­ac­ters are right out of the pages of the news­pa­pers. The sto­ry that rocked the Bukha­ran Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in 2009 is so well writ­ten here that you not only get the facts of the sen­sa­tion­al mur­der and riv­et­ing tri­al, you get the con­flicts and the doubts too. Both intel­lec­tu­al and emo­tion­al pre­ci­sion are the guid­ing forces in this tale of jus­tice and injus­tice that shat­tered the lives of the Borukho­va-Malakov fam­i­ly.

The book is an out­growth of Malcolm’s cov­er­age of the tri­al that appeared as an arti­cle in The New York­er, an arti­cle that was high­ly praised for its scrupu­lous report­ing and inter­view­ing of key peo­ple on both sides of the issue. The result is a sus­pense­ful sto­ry that is ful­ly believ­able, mak­ing the read­er think deeply about such crit­i­cal issues as truth, char­ac­ter, moral­i­ty, and rea­son­able doubt.

Although she is a sea­soned reporter, with four books to her cred­it plus a cov­et­ed PEN Biog­ra­phy Award, Mal­colm seems to have attacked this top­ic with unusu­al verve. Her sto­ry expos­es the enig­ma that lies beneath the cen­tral nar­ra­tive of the tri­al and clar­i­fies the mal­leabil­i­ty of the evi­dence that was pre­sent­ed. She focus­es on the human fac­tors that all lawyers, judges, and juries need to under­stand to reach an unas­sail­able ver­dict, one that, in this case, sealed the fate of two aspir­ing immi­grant fam­i­lies and the young daugh­ter who had the grave mis­for­tune to wit­ness the murder.

Lin­da F. Burghardt is a New York-based jour­nal­ist and author who has con­tributed com­men­tary, break­ing news, and fea­tures to major news­pa­pers across the U.S., in addi­tion to hav­ing three non-fic­tion books pub­lished. She writes fre­quent­ly on Jew­ish top­ics and is now serv­ing as Schol­ar-in-Res­i­dence at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al & Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

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