Casey Cep has picked up where Lee left off: She’s written the true-crime story that Harper Lee never figured out how to write ... It’s one measure of just how rich Casey Cep’s material is, and how artfully she handles it, that I have given away only about a tenth of the interest and delight contained within just the first third or so of her book. She reminded me all over again how much of good storytelling is leading the reader to want to know the things you are about to tell him, while still leaving him to feel that his interest was all his idea. By the time I got to the section on Harper Lee, I wanted to know more about her than I’ve ever thought I wanted to know ... Furious Hours builds and builds until it collides with the writer who saw the power of Maxwell’s story, but for some reason was unable to harness it. It lays bare the inner life of a woman who had a world-class gift for hiding ... it’s in her descriptions of another writer’s failure to write, that [Cep's] book makes a magical little leap, and it goes from being a superbly written true-crime story to the sort of story that even Lee would have been proud to write.
... fascinating ... Cep has spliced together a Southern-gothic tale of multiple murder with the unhappy story of Lee’s literary career, to produce a tale that is engrossing in its detail and deeply poignant ... Cep writes with great skill, sensitivity and attention to detail. The book does, however, suffer from three substantial problems, two of them, admittedly, not of Cep’s making. One is the frustrating secrecy that still surrounds Lee, which means most papers about her remain under lock and key. There is, too, the dying fall of Lee’s own life, which leads to the book ending on a frustratingly low-key note ... The third fault, however, is Cep’s own, and has to do with the structure of the book, as we are introduced first to Maxwell, then Radney (someone who should probably have taken a narrative back seat) and finally, more than halfway through the story, to Lee herself, each time being taken back to what feels like the beginning. That this doesn’t fatally upend the whole project has much to do with Cep’s other skills as a narrator, and the intense fascination of the subject she’s writing about.
...what I didn't see coming was the emotional response I would have as I blazed through the last 20 pages of the book—yet there I was, weeping ... Each section of the book could stand on its own, making it feel, in a way, like three books in one. But, ultimately, Furious Hours delivers a gripping, incredibly well-written portrait of not only Harper Lee, but also of mid-20th century Alabama—and a still-unanswered set of crimes to rival the serial killers made infamous in the same time period.
... succeeds in telling the story that Nelle Harper Lee could not and offers an affecting account of Lee’s attempt to give meaning to a startling series of events ... To the potential disappointment of some readers, Furious Hours is not structured as a typical murder mystery or courtroom drama. But it’s a rich, ambitious, beautifully written book. A gifted journalist who has written frequently for the New Yorker, Cep has imposed order here by providing biographical portraits of three figures: Maxwell, Radney and Lee. Each section moves the intrigue forward while rendering the lives of these real people, and the forces at work within them, as fully and fairly as possible ... a revealing triptych, one that tells a crime story but also says a great deal about the racial, cultural and political history of the South ... the section on Lee is by itself worth the price of admission.
Cep’s book is a marvel. In elegant prose, she gives us the fullest story yet of Lee’s post-Mockingbird life in New York ... Cep’s is an account emotionally attuned to the toll that great writing takes, and shows that sometimes one perfect book is all we can ask for, even while we wish for another.
For book lovers, there is a thrill to discovering a great story populated by intriguing characters and unexpected dramatic twists. The thrill is compounded when that story fronts for a fascinating backstory that might even outshine the primary tale. And when the stars align perfectly, both stories are told by a fresh, authentic voice. In Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, author Casey Cep has hit the trifecta ... Furious Hours is a true gem and its author, Casey Cep, is the real McCoy.
... delightfully twisty and gives time to both fact and rumor, treating any viable piece of information with the respect it deserves ... a fascinating, if frustrating, read ...
It’s enough of a page-turner to whet any true-crime fan’s appetite, but ultimately unsatisfying in that neither the killer nor the author’s story comes to any conclusive ending. It’s hardly fair to place the blame for this squarely on Cep ... Despite raising more questions than it answers, this is truly an entertaining and educational book. Cep’s writing is visual and engaging, effortlessly transplanting her reader to any setting she evokes ... Occasionally, she gets a little caught up in admiration for her own sentences...but this propensity for grandiloquence rarely distracts from the story at large ... due to the difficulty of pulling together such an ambitious project, the reader is left wanting more ... I found myself spending a lot of time flipping back to earlier sections in attempts to recall important names and events that I had forgotten due to the book’s rigid, yet somehow disjointed, pacing ... Regardless, I really enjoyed the book and came away from it feeling like I learned something. In the days since I finished it, it has stayed with me, a testament to the resonance of the story Cep has told.
[Cep] bring[s] clarity and compassion to this double project: an examination of a writer’s lifelong struggle with writing matched with a determined dive into the true-crime story Lee ultimately abandoned ... a terrific read and a superbly researched, deeply sympathetic portrait of the author of one of America’s most beloved novels ... Cep’s compact, 130-page biography of the elusive author is a marvel of concision and clarity and the best part of Furious Hours. It is also one of the most compassionate portraits of writer’s block and what Cep calls 'unfinishedness' – the inability to complete a work — you’ll ever read.
Casey Cep's fascinating Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee is a carefully researched and lyrically composed story about Lee's intention to write a nonfiction book recounting a string of killings in rural Alabama in the 1970s ... Cep surveys obstacles that included loneliness, depression, episodes of heavy drinking and the deaths of Lee's invaluable "Mockingbird" editors. There was confusion about the ideal protagonist in the Maxwell murder story ... Cep surveys obstacles that included loneliness, depression, episodes of heavy drinking and the deaths of Lee's invaluable Mockingbird editors. There was confusion about the ideal protagonist in the Maxwell murder story ... Though an absence is at the center of Furious Hours, the book never feels insubstantial. Cep likes detours, which well suits this kind of book ... This is Cep's first book. Let's hope it's not her last.
... essentially two books—a thriller and a biography—that Ms. Cep stitches into an intriguing and occasionally gripping whole. The only problem is that the enigma of Harper Lee is far more fascinating than the criminal trial she ultimately abandoned ... for a true-crime tale, it is awkwardly devoid of suspense ... Ms. Cep pads this story with thoughtful digressions on Alabama’s politics and full profiles of Maxwell and Radney, but she strangely makes no mention of Lee until halfway through the book. When Harper Lee finally does arrive, it is a relief. Ms. Cep’s brisk and lively account of the woman’s life offers few surprises, but it is engrossing all the same.
Casey Cep’s oddly titled Furious Hours amounts to two different books. In one, she reports — as best she can, given limited sources — the story of that dispiriting struggle. But she also tells, with great verve, the fascinating true-crime story that Lee failed to complete ... The author ably sifts through the evidence for Maxwell’s crimes and explains the sometimes arcane mores of the Deep South. Ever eager to provide context, however, she tends to plunge into narrative black holes.
[Cep is] a thorough researcher and polsihed writer ... Harper Lee fans may find themselves impatient to read about her, as she doesn’t appear until more than halfway through the book, but they’ll be rewarded for the wait. While the myriad mysteries about Lee’s life seem unlikely to ever be resolved, Furious Hours offers an absorbing glimpse into the gifted but guarded life of this enigmatic literary hero.
...an enthralling debut about crime, fact, and fiction ... Moral ambiguity is what binds the two narrative threads in Furious Hours: the first is a meticulously researched accounting of the case of Reverend Willie Maxwell ... Investigating Maxwell for herself, Cep comes up against all of the narrative problems that stymied Lee ... That moral complexity is exactly what appealed to Cep about investigating both lives — Maxwell’s and Lee’s ... we have the consolation of knowing that while Harper Lee is done writing, Casey Cep is just starting out.
In this effortlessly immersive narrative, Cep engagingly traces how Lee found the case and began—and ultimately abandoned—a project she called The Reverend. Cep writes with the accessible erudition of podcast-style journalism; she breathes not only life, but style into her exhaustive, impressively researched narrative. She relies heavily on the backstories of each of her narrative threads, which transforms her book into a collection of connected preambles ... This kind of storytelling may feel disjointed, but there’s a reason for it: By fully detailing the crimes before Lee even appears, Cep allows readers to see the case through Lee’s eyes and recognize its nascent literary potential. Above all, this is a book about inspiration and how a passion for the mysteries of humanity can cause an undeniable creative spark ... A well-tempered blend of true crime and literary lore.