Picks and Pans Review: Blind Faith

updated 01/30/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/30/1989 01:00AM

by Joe McGinniss

Rob and Maria Marshall were among the most envied couples in the exclusive Brookside section of Toms River, N.J. Their house was big and beautiful; their three teenage sons blond and healthy. They drove the best, ate the richest and wore the trendiest. But beneath the surface appearance of perfection dwelled a desperate man's thoughts of murder. It is there that the author of the best-selling Fatal Vision centers his new work of nonfiction. McGinniss ably captures the routine of suburban life (card games, cookouts, car pools) and depicts Maria as an attentive mother and wife who never suspects her husband's gambling or his encounters with prostitutes; she never questions, never wonders. She is more concerned with preserving pretenses than with confronting reality. Rob Marshall is a more troubled character: coldhearted, brutal, violent. From the first, McGinniss makes no attempt to obscure Marshall's shallowness, his insecurities, his madness and, ultimately, his crime. Because of this, there is no element of surprise when Maria is murdered. On Sept. 7, 1984, while driving home from Atlantic City with her husband, she is shot, he claims, after he stops to check a rear tire. In the aftermath Rob Marshall cannot fool his sons or the police with the story that he fashions, and soon his double life is exposed. If Blind Faith were simply a story about a husband murdering his wife, it would fail. The outcome is too predictable. But McGinniss has shaped a compelling tale of domestic horror masquerading as domestic bliss. He has taken all the elements of crime—murder, deceit, million dollar insurance policies-wrapped them into this womb of polite society and produced as true an American story as any written in recent years. (Putnam, $19.95)

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