A new book about the Boston Marathon bombings last April is more gripping than a mystery novel, has more deeply drawn characters than a literary novel and is enriched by the details of a history book.
"Long Mile Home," by Boston Globe reporters Scott Helman and Jenna Russell, is a surprisingly fantastic read.
The basic outline is well-known: Two brothers are suspected in the April 15 bombings that killed three people, seriously injured hundreds and caused utter chaos.
It's the lesser-known nuggets, and the interweaving of the characters' stories, that make "Long Mile Home" a must-read.
The book starts out with a beautiful history of the Boston Marathon and poignant description of its opening moments.
As for the Tsarnaev brothers, the authors write that the older one, Tamerlan, heard voices in his head and erupted at fellow Muslims who celebrated secular holidays like Thanksgiving. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, was a former high school honor student who foundered in his studies at college and became a high-volume pot dealer, they say. The disintegration of their family and personal failures appeared to leave the brothers "with few positive influences, no direction, and little to lose," the authors write.
The vivid descriptions of the explosions and the firsthand accounts of their aftermath are beyond chilling. The randomness of who survived and who didn't is captured by a moment in which Krystle Camp-bell allowed a fellow spectator to take a prime viewing spot because her friend was closer to the finish line. Campbell was killed by the explosive-filled backpack dro-pped close to where she was standing. Also killed in the explosions were Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi and 8-year-old Martin Richard.
Stunningly, the death toll remained at three in great part because of the location of the bombing: near a medical tent and within 2 miles of six top hospitals, the authors write.
The suspense and anxiety is palpable as investigators sift through surveillance video in search of the suspects. Once the brothers' images and names are publicized, the action reaches fever pitch with a fateful car-jacking and firefight with police. Officers had pinned down Tamerlan Tsarnaev when Dzhokhar fled in the car-jacked Mercedes SUV, running over his brother in the process.
Authorities shut down several communities. Ironically, he was only found after the shelter request was lifted. Homeowner David Henneberry had been itching to go out to his lawn and put two errant paint rollers back in their place on his boat, but he didn't want to disobey police. When he finally ventured out, Henneberry saw blood on the floor of his boat and a still body lying near the engine box.
Dzhokhar was taken into custody and is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
It's an incredible story, and the heart-rending pictures in the middle of the book are a stark reminder that it's real, not fiction.
'Long Mile Home'
by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell