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.
...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.
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.