Timothy Dumas, former managing editor of Greentown News, is obsessed with the most infamous murder mystery to occur in America's wealthiest community, Greenwich, Connecticut. For years, Dumas has written about the headline-grabbing slaying of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, found beaten to death on the lawn of her home on Halloween, 1975. Now, with Greentown, Dumas offers one final examination of the case.
The brutal murder of the young all-American beauty, as chronicled by Dumas, begins with a no-holds-barred overview of Ground Zero, the remote Belle Haven community of Greenwich, nicknamed "Greentown," a place where nothing is as it seems. Something evil and decadent lurks in the rows of gabled mansions along the tree-lined streets in the monied enclave, home of the nation's tony jet set, Hollywood royalty, and political power brokers. Dumas shatters the myth of this suburban Shangri-La with his probing, uncompromising look at the girl's last hours and the crime's aftermath. However, it is the author's crisp, lean writing style that lends the work its power. Dumas's relentless search does not prevent him from finding the underlying humanity of the principals in this sordid event. The author ventures bravely into the minds of each of the key players, using their individual voices to weave a colorful tapestry of grief, deception, and hypocrisy. The writer is at his best when he allows them to speak their deepest fears and secrets. Some elements of the case surfaced immediately police disclosed that the murder weapon was a woman's golf club and that the last person to see the dead girl was Thomas Skekel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy. Others, however, remain a mystery. With the complete revelation of the grisly murder, the Belle Haven community, long protective of its reputation and distrustful of outsiders, closed ranks, stymying the police investigation. Every lead rushed to a frustrating dead end, witnesses suddenly became strangely mute, suspects were captured and quickly released.
To his credit, Dumas veers away from the type of doting fascination with the rich and famous that writer Dominick Dunne exhibited in his popular A Season in Purgatory, which is also based on the Moxley case. Instead, Dumas focuses his attention on the seemingly ill-fitting puzzle pieces of the unsolved murder. Why would a killer choose the carefree, fun-loving Moxley teen for such a gruesome death? Why was the clumsy six-iron used as a murder weapon? How did a stranger get past the defenses of the heavily guarded Belle Haven community? Was it an inside job? In short, Dumas's Greentown is the perfect example of what a treasure trove of research can become in the hands of a capable writer.
Reviewed by Robert Fleming.