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Paperback Journal of the Dead : A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert Book

ISBN: 0060959223

ISBN13: 9780060959227

Journal of the Dead : A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

I killed and buried my best friend today ... When authorities found Raffi Kodikian -- barely alive -- four days after he and his friend David Coughlin became lost in Rattlesnake Canyon, they made a grim and shocking discovery. Kodikian freely admitted that he had stabbed Coughlin twice in the heart. Had there been a darker motive than mercy? And how could anyone, under any circumstances, kill his best friend? Armed with the journal Kodikian and Coughlin...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


can't beat it. i loved how it got into detail about the killing and Raffi's relationship with Dave. the only thing i didn't like was how the story would jump back and forth between the scene in Rattle snake canyon to the court scene (in part one)

Amazing true-life story; a complete page-turner

This was originally a magazine piece, and then Kersten expanded it into a book. I was hooked from the book's description, and this turned out to be such a page-turner that I finished it in just two days. The story is captivating: did a man perform a mercy killing on his best friend out in the desert, as he died from dehydration, or did he murder him in his sleep? The author correctly identified that this situation was not about guilt or innocencem but about the sentencing part of the trail. It's a great moral dillema: would you be able to watch your friend suffer to death? At the same time, though, the law does not make allowances for mercy killing. Watching the prosecution and sentencing of this crime was fascinating. I fault the park for this tragedy, too, and I'm surprised that didn't come out in the civil litigation. The dead man's parents donated money to improve the park, though, so perhaps they are the type to do good without litigation. The park charged too much for water, didn't provide containers for drinking water, and the ranger seemed to have never heard of the idea of clueless East Coasters stumbling around on a vision quest without the proper precautions, so he trusted everyone to take care of themselves entirely too much. Kersten has painted a grippping narrative that will make you think about the fine line between right and wrong, and how society should mete out punishment. I hope he turns out more non-fiction soon.

Highly recommended

I thought that this book was excellent and, as they say, could not put it down. I thought that it was very well written AND researched and that the author was meticulously fair, giving plenty of ammunition to both those who feel that Kodikian is a stone-cold killer and those who believe that there were extreme mitigating circumstances. As for those who criticized the author for not interviewing Kodikian, I found that criticism silly--if the guy is not going to give an interview, what can you do? I'm sure he tried. I did find some sloppiness in the editing. Take for example, the issue of dates. At various times, we are told that the killing occurred on Sunday, August 8. However, page 113 tells us that Friday was August 4 and Saturday was August 5. This of course impossible if Sunday was the 8th. Then, on page 197, we are given a third possibility (albeit through a witness) that Thursday was August 6. Obviously 2 of these 3 scenarios are wrong. How did the editors miss this? Finally, I have always been somewhat puzzled about the concept of a "suspended sentence". It sounds me me like a completely meaningless concept because the sentence always seems "suspended" into perpituity and is never actually served. So what is the point of a suspended sentence at all? Why not just give the actual sentence?

A fantastic debut

I knew this book would be of interest simply due to the morbidly unusual circumstances of the case itself, but Kersten's journalism is what makes this a genuinely good book. His prose is a pleasure to read, economical but with a flair for the romantic and an excellent instinct for presenting the case in a larger context, vis a vis the southwestern desert and the very human relationships involved. He never moralizes or takes sides, letting the stark ambiguity of Kodikian's story reasonate within each of us as a reader; the result is an absolutely harrowing read.

one of the best true crime novels I have ever read

If you like true crime books, this is one for you. The author does a great job of giving you the tales of the trials, and evidence, and lets you form your own conclusion of guilt or innocence. This is a true crime story that does not give a black and white conclution. Even when the judge finishes the trial, you are not quite sure if it is an appropriate judgment. I personaly don't know if the person (Raffie) commited the crime out of mercey or not, so I relly don't have my own oppinion of innocence or guilt, but the stroy itself is done professionaly as well as interesting. I couldn't put this book down!!!
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