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.