The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn. Viking/Penguin, 2005; $24.95; 320 pages.
FROM THE DUST JACKET:
Between 1985 and 2004, 8,894 unsolved homicides were committed in New York City. Here is the first ever inside look at the elite NYPD squad that cracks these 'unsolvable' cases.
There is no statute of limitations on murder. No matter when you did it, homicide is one crime you pay for. But first you must be caught. Today thousands of killers who managed to evade law enforcement are still walking the streets, while the dead and those close to them remain in an uneasy limbo, a restless sleep. So what happens after the detectives investigating the crime can go no further? Where does the police department begin when an unsolved case has gone cold? The Restless Sleep is a look at the elite squad of detectives charged with the overwhelming task of solving these crimes, of tackling the forgotten cases languishing in precincts and warehouses around New York, and of seeking closure for the victims and their loved ones.
In this fascinating in-depth narrative, Stacy Horn uses her unprecedented access to the NYPD Cold Case Squad to immerse herself in four unsolved murder cases -- cases going back as far as 1951 -- investigated by three indefatigable Cold Case detectives. Each detective uses his own contacts, informants, and resources and sifts through decades-old evidence, searching for new leads and looking for what others missed. The intuition, determination, and patience involved in tracking down the murderer of the parents of three young children in a drug-related hit in 1996, of the 14-year-old girl who in 1988 was stomped to death on the railroad tracks, of the cop who was killed with a meat hook and his own gun in 1979, or of the young wife strangled in her bedroom in 1951 are nothing short of heroic. These Cold Case detectives are on a constant hunt for the needle in the haystack, and Stacy Horn puts you there every step of the way.
From the grisly circumstances and desperate reconstructions of the crimes, through the endless legwork, the scientific advances that don't always yield hoped-for answers, and the harrowing politics and tangled history of the NYPD, Horn depicts the drama of each case and lays out the puzzle as seen through the eyes of the detectives.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
Kirkus Reviews: The old police saying turns out to be true: if a murder isn't solved within the first 72 hours, it starts getting as cold as the body, colder and colder until it becomes a cold case.... Without bogging down the story, Horn provides explanatory detail about everything from gathering evidence and evaluating witnesses to making use of forensic work. She shows how the detectives learn to build relationships with suspects during interrogation and to be articulate on the stand. In the process, she fills us in on the hairy world of intramural police politics. The Cold Case Squad steps on many territorial toes, from station house to One Police Plaza, which sometimes seems as scary as the dark streets of a bad neighborhood. For all the hope these profiled detectives inspire, the reality is that "most cold cases are never solved." A choice piece of police-procedural writing.
Hartford Courant : Horn spares none of the splatter and gore, which is good, because the reader should know the details of these scenes of cruelty and rage, where the homicide detective begins his work.
Horn is an excellent reporter and able writer, and the reader will come away from The Restless Sleep with a better appreciation for the tiring, frustrating job of trying to stop people from getting away with murder.
Entertainment Weekly: While Sleep hardly makes for soothing bedtime reading, Horn's gripping writing and palpable sense of outrage ensure that its narrative trail never runs cold.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stacy Horn, she said, from her apartment in downtown Manhattan, was "technically born in Norfolk, Virginia, because my father was in the Navy. But both my parents are from New York and we moved back to New York when I was three months old [in the fall of 1956] and that's where I grew up. In Huntington, Long Island, which is like a suburban small town, but very pretty. Which I couldn't wait to get out of."
Ms. Horn received a B.F.A. from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a graduate degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.
A CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR:
"Did you read a lot as a kid?" "No. I started reading when I read The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. I wasn't a bookworm until that book. It's about juvenile delinquents. I identified."
Ms. Horn was not interested in cops-and-robbers television shows as a youngster. "I had no interest," she said, "in true crime. Or even mysteries."
"When did you get to the city?"
"When I was done with college. I always loved the city. My grandfather was a judge, and my grandmother and he showed me the best of New York. It became this magical place to me. Every weekend that I could I would go in there. When I was 16, I was finally allowed to go in alone and so practically every weekend I would be going into the city. I couldn't wait to live there. It was Oz to me."
From Stacy Horn's biography (www.echonyc.com/~horn/restless/bio.html), a reader learns that in 1990, Ms. Horn founded Echo, a New York City-based online service "filled with writers, artists, and professionals who log in everyday to talk about work, love, how hard life can be, and what's on TV." Ms. Horn wrote about Echo and the Internet in a book called, Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town."
"What happened to Echo?"
"Still around, but shades of its former self. I'm on Echo every day. But at a certain point, I didn't want to do it anymore in terms of a business. I want it around because it's fun, and I enjoy the people and like having that place to check into every day. I've been running it as people close their accounts, the ones who are using it for Internet access. I tell them, 'Use Time Warner; it's a lot better.' I keep it around for the bulletin board stuff. So it's very small. It's only a few hundred people. Nothing lasts forever. It sticks around -- it's this small, local thing where I get to hang out with interesting people."