The Corpse Had a Familiar Face

“The crime that inevitably intrigues me most is murder. It’s so final.  At a fresh murder scene you can smell the blood and hear the screams; years later, they still echo in my mind. Unsolved murders are unfinished stories. The scenes of the crimes may change over the years; highways are built over them, buildings are torn down, houses are sold. I drive by and wonder if the new occupants, as they go about their daily lives, ever sense what happened there. Do they know, or am I the only one who still remembers?” – The Corpse Had a Familiar Face

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edna Buchanan spent years covering Miami, “America’s Hottest Beat,” for the Miami Herald.  Edna went from factory worker to crime reporter in a matter of just a few years with nary a college degree. Though at first appearances she was simply another beautiful blond in high heels and a mini-skirt, beneath her glamour lay the steel-trap mind of a reporter who always wants to know who, what, when, where, and why.
Why did serial killer Robert Carr commit his atrocious acts? How did a woman’s body, horribly burned, end up lying on her couch in undamaged clothing? Where was the nearly mute old man who wandered away from his devoted wife one sunny afternoon? Who kidnapped seventeen-year-old Amy, who “loved Sylvia Plath, Chinese food, clothes from secondhand stores, babies, little children and her family?” These are just a few of the many stories Edna reported and shares in this volume.
Of course some stories have no final answers, but they are still intriguing tales of the heartbreaking searches for those answers. It’s Edna’s ability to take crime statistics and turn them into familiar faces that make her more than a mere ambulance-chaser.  The people she covers matter to her, and in the pages of this book you will meet real people, not only the corpses they left behind—and it’s not all corpses by any means. Some of the less lethal criminals can be downright charming, such as Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy, who entertained crowds with his high-diving act when he wasn’t pulling off multi-million dollar jewel heists. Then there was Emilio, the handsome DEA informant who loved living on the edge and also loved Edna.
Part memoir and part true crime saga, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face is never cold or impersonal in its portrayal of the victims, the perpetrators, or the men and women who bring them to justice. Although the science and characters presented in shows such as CSI and Law & Order are intriguing, compared to the true crimes set down by Buchanan they lack a fascinating veracity and an empathic heart. Take a stroll into the dark side of late 20th-century Miami with Edna for a look at death—and life—as a dedicated crime reporter knows it.