Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime

Random/Anne Schwartz. Mar. 2022. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593177426.
Gr 8 Up–A true crime story from 1924 Chicago in which two college students plan and carry out a kidnapping and murder as a way of demonstrating their superior intelligence. Both from wealthy families, best friends Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb excelled at academics, skipped grades in school, and saw themselves as above the rest of society yet lacked interpersonal skills and compassion. They believed, due to their superior intellect, any crime they planned and committed would be unsolvable, so they decided to carry out the ultimate crime. They plotted for months, kidnapped, and killed a 14-year-old neighbor, then attempted to collect a ransom from the victim’s family. Within days of the murder, they were caught and quickly confessed, despite the corrupt and inept Chicago police at the time. The crime quickly gained national attention and was hailed as the crime of the century. Their families hired the renowned lawyer Clarence Darrow, a staunch opponent of the death penalty. Using groundbreaking defense techniques analyzing the mental condition of the young men, Darrow brilliantly fought to save them from the death penalty. Fleming breathlessly accounts the crime, trial, and the public discourse surrounding it. Equally fascinating, she explores the disturbing, psychological life of the murderers, including their unusual upbringings, codependent relationship, and manipulative relationships with the media and prison guards to gain public favor. Includes numerous black-and-white photos and extensive back matter.
VERDICT A chilling page-turner with compelling psychoanalytic aspects not often seen in young adult nonfiction. Highly recommended.

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