I am obsessed with stories of obsession. Chances are, you too, judging by the steadfast popularity of true crime stories presented in podcasts, documentaries, movies, and books.
What distinguishes Eileen McGaran’s book from the real crime just published, Two truths and a lie Above so many others I’ve read is the moral appeal of being on the page and the lyric-boned poetry of her writing style.
McGarrahan got both the traits the hard way. Long ago, when she was a young reporter for Miami HeraldMcGarahan testified that the execution went wrong and reported the case and the man who was executed – a convicted murderer – relying, she says, on “the state’s version of events as the truth.” Two truths and a lie It delves into the more than two decades of McGarrahan’s saga to correct this mistake.
Two truths and a lie It opened in May of 1990 in a Florida prison where McGarahan and other journalists met to witness the death of Jesse Taviero by electrocution for the killing of two police officers at a Florida break in 1976. McGarahan volunteered to be there because she wanted to prove herself. She was the only woman in town at the time AnnounceState capital office and she was young. “Five years ago I was breaking up Hangman’s song In a literature class at Yale. “
But nothing McGaran read could have prepared her for the strange reality of the execution that followed. Due to an electrical malfunction, Tafero’s head caught fire. Months later, a friend of the vibrant McGarahan reporter advised, “Go see another one … this will take it out of your mind.”
Instead, McGarrahan questions the significance of journalism – her dream career – and takes off for California where she works on home building sites. “While working with tiles at the time, I was laying a lot of limestone – countertops, walls, and floors – and I kept noticing the fossils, which are tiny living things embedded in the stone, frozen forever just as they were when disaster struck. I thought, It’s me “.
Then, one evening, McGarahan came home from work and turned on her television to hear Barbara Walters announce that there was new evidence indicating that Tavero might have been innocent. Soon after, Fate intervened to urge McGarrahan – at age 32 – to be interviewed for a job as a private investigator.
McGarahan did not inform the head of the detective agency about the Taviero case. However, when he hires it, the manager cleverly says, “You are guilty-driven, which means you will never stop until the job is done.” McGarahan tells us her career as a detective eventually led her to “a full circle, into the mystery she tried so hard to leave behind.”
You’ll notice that I hardly say anything about this mystery: the question of who killed these two policemen at the break on the highway in 1976. Taviero was sleeping in a car at this stopover, with his girlfriend, 9-year-old son, their infant daughter, and another man. One of the officers went to check on them and within minutes, the two officers were shot dead.
Like Tavero’s execution, the murder scene – as MacGaran imagines it – haunts her. She finally allowed herself for three months to work on the case full time, and her investigation spread across continents. That’s all I will say because the experience of living this investigation with McGarrahan is so intense that our readers should try it for themselves.
To me, the deeper draw here is McGarahan’s struggle to come to terms with the evil I was drawn to as a young reporter. Here she talks about the blurring of the stories that give her book its title:
“There is an old team game called Two Truths and a Lie. Maybe you played it. Someone stands and says some things about themselves, and the more weird the better. The trick is to guess which parts are the components and which are right, and the goal of the game is to get you to believe something that hasn’t happened. Never … as it is played among friends while having a few drinks, it’s harmless fun..but add an electric chair and put that game online, and there’s a price to be paid … [By] Listeners. Families. Witnesses. You’ve been trapped in that game for twenty-five years. I paid a price too. “
This phrase might sound a little dazzling, but once you read McGarrahan’s reflective book, you’ll understand how restrictive it is in assessing the damage done.