John Taylor's latest opus tracks the real-life suicide (or was it murder?) of East Coast eccentric Roger de la Burde.
Insistently claiming he was a count — a fully fabricated title — Burde grew up in Communist-occupied Poland. Although he had a degree in chemistry and worked for Philip Morris, Burde's true avocation was collecting — both art and women. Throughout his marriage, Burde was a womanizer, but his longest affair was with Beverly Monroe, a well-educated divorcée, fellow Philip Morris employee, and the woman eventually accused of murdering him.
Pressured by a police investigator who preyed on her fragile state, Monroe confessed to killing Burde, and then proceeded to watch her life savings ebb away to finance her trial and multiple appeals. When Monroe's daughter, Katie, a court of appeals law clerk, takes on the campaign to prove her mother's innocence, she abandons a promising career for an emotionally and physically draining appeals process that spans nearly a decade.
To adequately cover the story behind the story, Taylor spent nearly two years conducting hundreds of hours of interviews with family members, mistresses, police investigators, and lawyers, and poring over thousands of pages of legal and forensics documents. Despite the detailed research, The Count and the Confession makes for a great summer read. Taylor masterfully describes the colorful cast of characters and the intriguing situations they get themselves into, weaving intricate legal issues into the entanglements of everyday life. The book provides an enjoyable true crime fix.