Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Case Study No. 0756: Betsy Treading, the "Librarian Murderess"

Neighborhood Watch A Novel (Unabridged) Audio Book
5:03
http://www.qb ba.com/book/60610/ neighborhood-watch-a-novel-unabridged/
Twelve years ago, librarian Betsy Treading was convicted of murdering her neighbor, the bohemian loner Linda Sue....
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From amazon.com:

Neighborhood Watch: A Novel
Cammie McGovern (Author)
Release Date: June 10, 2010

A riveting and frightening tale of false accusation from the author of Eye Contact

Twelve years ago librarian Betsy Treading was convicted of murdering her neighbor, the bohemian loner Linda Sue. After DNA testing finally exonerates Betsy, she returns to her suburban community determined to salvage her life and find the true killer. As she begins to pick apart the web of secrets, lies, and love affairs uncovered in the wake of her trial, Betsy suspects that her tight-lipped neighbors may know something that she has denied even to herself.

In Neighborhood Watch, Cammie McGovern captures the nail-biting electricity of the best literary thrillers and zeros in on the subterranean tension abuzz in a town whose dark secrets threaten to obliterate the glossy fa├žade of a perfect life. It is also the story of a woman coming into her own, finding her strength, and taking control of her life. It asks readers, what sort of price would you pay for the sake of your reputation? Intricately woven, psychologically astute, and filled with complex and surprising characters, Neighborhood Watch marks a significant step in the career of this talented author.

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From powells.com:

After twelve years in prison, Betsy Treading is released when new DNA evidence irrefutably proves that she didn't murder her eccentric and noticeably single neighbor, Linda Sue Murphy. But Betsy quickly discovers that innocence in court doesn't redeem her in the eyes of old friends. To clear her name and find Linda Sue's true killer, the former librarian unravels the web of denial, delusion, and secrets that has ensnared her community. A psychological tour de force, Neighborhood Watch rips the surface off a seemingly idyllic world and keeps readers guessing until the very last page.

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From publishersweekly.com:

In this superb suburban thriller from McGovern (Eye Contact), newly tested DNA evidence results in the release from prison of Betsy Treading (aka the Librarian Murderess) after serving 12 years for the bludgeoning of sexy divorcee Linda Sue Nelson, a neighbor in Milford, Conn. Betsy, a somnambulist, had confessed out of fear she'd done the deed while sleepwalking. Back home in Milford, Betsy determines to find out who really killed Linda Sue, who was having an affair with their married neighbor, charismatic author Geoffrey Steadman, who was a friend of Betsy's then husband, Paul. Now divorced from Paul, Betsy accepts temporary lodgings with an old friend and neighbor, Marianne Rashke, founder of the local neighborhood watch group. McGovern, a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, seductively unreels Betsy's pursuit of the truth one shocking spool at a time. Fans of literary suspense fiction will be well rewarded.

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From penguingroup.com:

Secrets need safe harbors. They lurk in places you'd expect - laboratories that house controversial experiments, the scenes of brutal murders, inside the minds of those who've committed crimes. But secrets also have a tendency to hide in inconspicuous, quiet places. In a marriage that seems perfectly normal. In a house on a typical suburban street. In a garden that just won't seem to grow. And in the mind of a librarian whose ordinary days belie the memories that disturb her nights. All of these secrets are at the center of Cammie McGovern's Neighborhood Watch.

For more than a decade, Betsy Treading has been haunted by the secrets surrounding the death of her neighbor, Linda Sue. Scant evidence seemed to implicate Betsy in the murder. Based on her years of severe sleepwalking, she had little trouble believing cops' scenario and has spent the last twelve years in prison, kept company by a cellmate and her imaginary children - the ones she's lost in five heartbreaking miscarriages.

When DNA testing finally exonerates Betsy, she finds herself released from one prison and back into another: the stifling suburban street where she lived with her now–ex husband. It's a different world now, one of cell phones and paranoia, where people she once called friends go out of their way to ignore her. It is a world where, in order to be accepted, Betsy must solve Linda Sue's murder once and for all. Doing so will require dredging up painful memories and sorting through what really happened on the night of the killing.

As she investigates, Betsy begins to remember more and more about the time leading up to Linda Sue's death. But other memories also emerge about her horrific childhood and the marriage she now realizes was, much like her quintessentially suburban life, an illusion.

But most of all, Betsy finally unravels the vast web of secrets she and her suburban neighbors have desperately tried to hide for so many years. The reason for Linda Sue's murder lies in these secrets, as does the identity of the real killer. Even with an ever–watchful eye, secrets are never truly safe - and neither are those who try to keep or uncover them.

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From bostonbookbums.com:

Cammie McGovern's third novel Neighborhood Watch takes the reader on a compelling ride through the courtrooms, secret cold-fusion labs (seriously,) prison system, libraries and local Neighborhood Watch meetings of contemporary, suburban Connecticut.

We meet our protagonist, librarian Betsy Treading, as she is serving her sentence at the Connecticut Correctional Institute for Women. Betsy not only was accused, but confessed, to killing her single, divorced, next door neighbor Linda Sue, apparently in a jealous rage over a shared crush and pregnancy.

Betsy does not remember the events of the night in question, but she found a blood stained nightgown, was in her neighbor's house, and has a history of sleepwalking. Also, Betsy's neighbors and friends made well-intentioned comments to one another, and later, the police, about her mental instability (although how well-meaning they truly are might be up for debate) who did not know the depths of her challenges with fertility. The aforementioned all draw Betsy to the police station with her bloody nightgown and a confession that, however weak, led to her conviction, and her tabloid title: The Librarian Murderess.

Once the Innocence Project becomes involved in her case, and Betsy is released into the custody of some former neighbors, onto the very street where the dirty deed occurred, she decided to search for answers on her own. Who else knew about her sleepwalking? Who else was in Linda's house that night? What happened to Linda's cat and why wasn't a cat ever mentioned in the police report? What do her neighbors really know? And why can Betsy not remember a single thing from that night?

McGovern paints a seemingly realistic portrayal of life in prison (not having 'done a nickle' ourselves we can only attest to material previously read and viewed) although isolated from the outside world, there is community within the prison walls; friends are few and far between but once you find them you fight hard to keep them; and there are no romanticized scenes when other inmates discover that Betsy will be released. Instead there is bitter resentment, feelings of betrayal, and crushing jealousy that she will be leaving while they will be staying behind.

Parallels between prison life and suburbia are implied, such as the notion of sticking to one's own kind, everyone wearing a uniform (orange jumpsuit or khakis and polo shirt), talking but not really saying anything, especially when certain people are present, seemed an intriguing narrative element. When you threw in the neighbors learning how to Taser gun someone in case of a burglary? Or hosting an ex-convict to tell them about how he used to choose homes to break into? The lines of prison life, and life “outside” became more blurred.

For readers of literary fiction interested in spicing things up a bit, mystery fans, or womens literature fans: Neighborhood Watch is a speedy weekend read that will keep you guessing. (Even those of you who usually guess the answers at the very beginning? This should keep you on your toes!)

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From google.com:

In the twelve years I've lived in the Connecticut Correctional Institute for Women, I've tried in vain to forget about the past and focus instead on the here and now, on contributions I can make to improve the quality of life for everyone in here. I am different than most of the other inmates, who've grown up in either juvenile detention centers or trailer parks they shared with rats that were, for some, more pleasant than their stepfathers. Scratch a female inmate, I've discovered, and you'll usually find a girl whose mother had terrible taste in men. I've also learned this much: I'm not better than any of these women, nor - for all my education and degrees - am I smarter. We've made the same mistakes, misjudged other people and ourselves.

Officially I am the prison librarian, a job for which I get paid thirty-five cents an hour. I solicit donations from publishers and local libraries, and in twelve years have transformed a bookshelf of thirty tattered paperbacks into a library of more than six hundred titles, some delivered straight from the publisher. Books with pages so sharp and clean the girls have gotten paper cuts turning them.

For the last six years I've also served as an inmate representative on the prison welfare committee. There I won Wanda her right to keep more than one nail polish in her cell so she could re-create her old days as New Haven's most popular manicurist, the life she had before she shot and killed the husband who'd been beating her for fourteen years. Wanda is my best friend here, and I believe her when she says she felt like she had no other choice. "What's done is done," she says, "and I'd like to get back to work."

To a certain extent, she can. Not for money, of course, but she can ply her trade, as I can. Once upon a time I was at the top of my class in the UConn Library Science Program. I was the first hired and the fastest-rising assistant to the head librarian the Milford Town Library had ever seen. Readership, circulation, and interlibrary loans all increased under my stewardship right up until the day I was arrested, after which, of course, I have no more figures. We were on the cusp of numbers that would win us more state funding. I wouldn't mind knowing what became of that, but I don't.

The media dubbed me "The Librarian Murderess." One newspaper described me as a "Victorian Volcano," as if being a librarian might still be a reflection of one's sexual mores, which of course is ridiculous and archaic thinking. We librarians like books. We also enjoy research. Above all, we like serving people, which is what defines librarians, not our myopia or our sexless hair buns. We believe that when books are present and learning is possible, all people benefit. In my time here I've watched a twenty-three-year-old woman learn to read to keep up with her daughter in the first grade on the outside. I've watched another go from reading only the worst of our most popular titles - the blood-soaked crime novels the women here have a bottomless appetite for - to other genres: a collection of short stories, a biography of a tennis pro. Small satisfactions, but real ones nonetheless. Sometimes I believe I've made a larger difference here than I could have at my old job, where - let's be honest - the illiterate didn't often walk through the door.

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