This is a fascinating true crime story that revolves around three people: a reverend who was accused of multiple murders, the lawyer that defended him, and the author that wanted to tell their story. The author was Harper Lee, and the story of Reverend Willie Maxwell was to be the subject of her second, long-awaited book, but it never made it to the printing press. The Reverend had an affinity for buying multiple life insurance policies for both his immediate and extended family members. After the fifth mysterious death of a family member, and his being cleared of murder charges in court, Maxwell was gunned down in an act of vengeance during the funeral for one of the victims. The lawyer that successfully defended him then represented his killer. This is the story that captivated Harper Lee, who spent years in this small Alabama town interviewing and researching it. What was the real story behind these deaths? Why did Harper Lee never finish the book she called The Reverend? In this well-researched account, these are some of the questions Casey Cep tries to answer, while also giving us detailed glimpses into a small town in the Deep South, the courtroom drama that ensued, and the life of Harper Lee.
–Sharon, Annie Bloom’s Books, Portland, OR