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December 13 , 2008

A Killing in Iowa: A Daughter’s Story of Love and Murder


Rachel Corbett was eight years old when the man she had come to regard as a father killed his girlfriend and then himself on May 13, 1993. Over the years Corbett has been haunted by how such a seemingly gentle, loving man could be capable of murder. She's wrestled with how her mother, who had been involved with the man for years, hadn't seen the signs. And she’s wondered what ghosts from Scott Johnson’s past compelled him to pick up that gun.

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“The sudden brutality that gripped the last hours of his life—and eternally came to characterize it—was a mystery I couldn’t put out of my mind,” writes Corbett. “What broke this soft-spoken, achingly vulnerable man and made him so violent? His was a crime no one ever understood, with no apparent motive…. Why didn’t he just kill himself? What debt did Crystal pay? And why didn’t he kill us? After all, he was with us the day he died.”

"A Killing in Iowa," Corbett’s mesmerizing, beautifully written memoir, reconstructs the tragedy and tries to make sense of a senseless crime in a place where we least expect such violence: the quiet, rural heartland. Both a mystery story and an evocative snapshot of a place and time, "A Killing in Iowa" is a stunning debut by a gifted new writer.


Rachel Corbett is an arts writer in New York. She is news editor at "Artnet Magazine" and has written for the "New York Times," "The Nation," and the "New York Observer."

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