Durham County court reporters are still trying to finish a final transcript of the Michael Peterson saga, but as far as I’m concerned — with the publication of Diane Fanning’s book, “Written in Blood,” the official record is now complete.
Fanning provides a full account of the epic Peterson murder mystery. Her writing is superb. Most importantly, Diane Fanning has written a true-crime book focused more on the truth than on the crime, and in that sense, her work honors the spirit of the victim, Kathleen Hunt Atwater.
Rich with devastating details and ironic insights into the stranger than fictional world of Michael Peterson, Diane Fanning’s book is a triumph. She has untangled the impossibly complex and grotesquely contorted story of money, malice and murder and laid it bare for all to see.
“Written in Blood” fills in the familiar framework of the notorious North Carolina case with important new details (the strange death of George Ratliff) and bits of dialogue (Peterson to Candace: “I can either turn the heat on or buy four plots. I can’t afford to do both.”), and a treasure trove of background information. (The secret of the red carnation.)
Diane even manages to out-Peterson Peterson, with her vivid rendering of his anxiously offered heroics in battle during the Vietnam War.
Not content to merely expose the decades of deceit, petty greed and random violence that led to Michael’s premeditated murder — Diane Fanning goes on to give a nearly day by day account of the contentious, 5-month trial.
The cynical showboating and underhanded courtroom strategies of deluded defense teammates, Rudolf and Maher, are painfully rendered. Accounts of Caitlin Atwater’s dawning horror throughout the legal ordeal are particularly effective.
Diane’s summation of the marathon murder trial forces her reader to feel every stinging insult Peterson’s courtroom charade added to the vicious injury he caused Kathleen Peterson and so many, many others.
Diane Fanning’s “Written in Blood” is a beautifully written record of the truth.
I believe her superbly crafted monument will bring some measure of satisfaction to Kathleen Peterson and Elizabeth Ratliff’s family and friends, and to those of us who never knew Michael Peterson, but who agonized over his senseless killing during the disconcerting courtroom drama.
The truth is marching on and we move on with it.
Thank you, Diane. The book is perfect. As with the brilliant work of columnist, Tom Gasparoli, it is most ironic that Michael Peterson’s evil fictions would finally serve as the subject of such masterful writing.
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