Frequently we are stunned by examples of how evil strikes without warning to take away our loved ones. The shooting deaths at Virginia Tech are only the most recent example. Why? we ask. And Why? again. Paul LaRosa’s new book, Nightmare in Napa, is a sympathetic, human retelling of one of those stories, set in a middle class enclave of California wine country. All who knew the two young women who were brutally stabbed to death in a tiny Napa cottage they shared with a third girl friend could not have been more shocked by the murders. Family and some friends may never really recover from that shock. LaRosa details the lives of these people with an engaging, clear style of writing. He takes us through to the surprise confession of the murderer. He confronts the why. And still it hangs in the air. In the end, as with many a good true crime recounting, what remains with the reader are the questions not the answers.
Nightmare in Napa is a book is of more than passing interest because it grew out of a decision by the CBS TV show “48 Hours Mystery” to track the people involved during the investigation and to have a book written in connection with their production. In the end, the TV show’s staff members were shocked to learn that the murderer was so close to people involved that he had attended their tapings, urging one participant not to cooperate but otherwise attracting little attention. LaRosa writes of all of this without a trace of self indulgence. His book is a good piece of journalism but one that unlikely to be followed up with the same professionalism if the idea of writing books off true crime TV shows becomes a trend. Story tellers are just too tempted to make themselves the story and to hype the facts out of some misguided idea that leads to more sales.