November 17, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

The Stalking of Kristin

Current Status
In Season
George Lardner Jr.
, Nonfiction
We gave it a B+

In 1993, Washington Post reporter George Lardner Jr. won a Pulitzer Prize for an article on the murder of a young woman at the hands of a mentally disturbed ex-boyfriend with a long criminal record. It was a crime about which, says Lardner, ”I’d give anything not to have written.” The victim was Lardner’s youngest daughter, a 21-year-old art-school student in Boston, and The Stalking of Kristin is the extraordinary account of how she lived and why she died.

In a tone marked by its quiet, matter-of-fact need to understand, Lardner sets out to make two points: first, that Kristin ”could have been anyone’s beautiful daughter,” and second, that her death was ”a crime that could and should have been prevented.” But readers who expect that the first idea will become a testament to the author’s grief and the second to his rage will be stunned by the hushed quality of this book.

Lardner, a journalist for more than 30 years, knows that you have to get out of the way of a story in order to tell it. And so he does what reporters do: He probes, he interviews, he compiles the facts. And eventually, he discovers the daughter he knew and the daughter he didn’t — a kid whose childhood heroine was Pippi Longstocking, who would spray her hair into a Mohawk in the girls’ bathroom every morning of 10th grade, and who, he notes sadly, ”went for the bad-boy type.”

Without grandstanding or demonizing, Lardner brings relentless investigative zeal to recounting what he describes as the legal ineptitude that allowed his daughter to be gunned down on a sidewalk. At times, you want him to shout, or weep. That he doesn’t — that he has channeled his agony into such a lucid, probing document — is this book’s considerable achievement.

You May Like