Cook, Kevin. Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, and the Crime that Changed America. Bold Strokes Books. 2014. $25.95. 242p. HC 978-0-393-23928-7.
In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered as she returned home after her job as a bartender. This event led to the development of the “bystander effect,” where crowds of people can watch a violent crime occur and choose not to help if they can believe that someone else will step up and help instead. This much-discussed case led to the creation of Good Samaritan laws in many states. Cook maintains, however, that although it is true that people did not choose to help Kitty when she was being stabbed by her murderer, the story is not as simple as it seems.
Drawing from eyewitness accounts, court transcripts, interviews, and newspaper articles, Cook paints a picture of a neighborhood where some people may have chosen not to act, but where most people were likely asleep or assumed that the noise, typical in a growing city where people stay awake throughout the night, was simply the scream of a silly, possibly drunk young couple out too late at night. While it is true that Kitty was a lesbian and that she was murdered, her murder was not a hate crime, but rather a crime of opportunity.
This true crime story is excellently told. Cook gives an appropriate amount of background both for Kitty and her murderer, leading up to the night the two of them met on the street and Kitty was killed. The aftermath, including Winston Moseley’s trial, conviction, escape, and return to prison. The author also details the sociological results of this event and how a newspaper story led to the common belief that thirty-eight people heard Kitty cry for help and chose to ignore her. This book would be a fantastic addition to a public library’s true crime section as well as an academic library’s collection.