True Crime Reviews: Deja Vu

Déjà vu
Review by Kim Cantrell

Jerry Mark grew up farming alongside his three brothers on their father’s Iowa farm. AS the boys reached adulthood, the oldest would head north to Canada, another brother would suffer from schizophrenia, and Jerry would go to law school only to toss it aside for a hippie lifestyle; leaving the third son, Leslie “Les” Wayne Mark.

When family patriarch Wayne Mark was diagnosed with cancer and the outcome inevitable, he called his nomadic son home and there announced that Les was officially taking over the family business.

Filled with jealousy, greed, anger, and humilation at being passed over for a younger sibling, Jerry fumed and sulked and then began planning.

Over a thousand miles Jerry would travel to cold-bloodedly slay his brother, his sister-in-law Jorjean Marks, 5-year-old niece Julie Julane Mark, and toddler nephew Jeffrey Wayne Mark in the wee morning hours of November 1, 1975.

When police arrived at the Leslie Mark Farm to find the brutally murdered family, a shiver went through them; the Clutter Family murders of only 16 years before still fresh in their minds. Vowing to get justice for this well-liked family, investigators went to work and it didn’t take long to figure out that Les’s big brother Jerry was the culprit.

Jerry used his skills as a defense attorney to create the perfect crime, but he didn’t count on the determination of police. And that, simply put, was his fatal error.

Scott Cawelti grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with the Mark kids; Jerry being just one year his senior. He too felt the shock that flowed like water through the town when Les and family was murdered and Jerry, Les’s own flesh and blood, stood charged with the crime.

Now he tells the story of the Cain and Abel Murders, as they came to be dubbed by local media, in his 2011 true crime book appropriate named Brother’s Blood.

Just as the crime gives a feeling of déjà vu, so does the writing as Cawelti uses creative licensing to develop dialogue between characters. However, since the banter is created from interviews it stays pretty much parallel to the facts.

I was absolutely fascinated from the get-go, and not a single section so boring or redundant that I wanted to skim; not even the trial.  And I love it when a book is so well-written that I enjoy reading all of it.  So Brother’s Blood by Scott Cawelti gets a big thumbs up from me. Most definitely put it on your reading list!