ON NOVEMBER 2, 2007, police in Perugia, Italy, discovered Meredith Kercher's body. Someone had stabbed the British girl in the throat and left her wrapped half-naked in a duvet in the cottage she shared with American student Amanda Knox. Three nations were held rapt by the lurid fruit this crime bore. The British press painted Knox (dubbed "Foxy Knoxy") as a heartless femme fatale, her nebbish Italian boyfriend as the brute she seduced into committing murder. The case twisted and expanded daily as new suspects appeared, talk of extreme sex games surfaced, and the prime suspects changed their stories.
Kercher's murder ignited international discussions on everything from the politics of study-abroad programs to how the media portrays women. These are sorely missed in Candace Dempsey's account of the crime, Murder in Italy. Dempsey is a thorough researcher who seems happy to lay events on a timeline with little reflection on what makes them important: We learn how the roommates organized their refrigerator, but the book lacks drive, context, and creativity.
Instead of analyzing Knox's actions, Dempsey spends a lot of ink defending them, breathlessly dismissing the decision, for example, to show off cartwheels in the police station as the whims of a free spirit. Not only does this bias make Murder boring, but it does a disservice to the complexities of a case that is still sending shockwaves into the world.