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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Tangled Vines

Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders

Narrator: Shaun Grindell

Tantor Audio

ISBN: 9781250283481

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Publication Date: 08/08/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

In Tangled Vines, bestselling true crime author John Glatt reconstructs the rise of the prestigious Murdaugh family and the shocking double murder that led to the downfall of its patriarch, Alex Murdaugh.

Among the lush, tree-lined waterways of South Carolina low country, the Murdaugh name means power. A century-old, multimillion-dollar law practice has catapulted the family into incredible wealth and local celebrity—but it was an unimaginable tragedy that would thrust them into the national spotlight. On June 7th, 2021, prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh discovered the bodies of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on the grounds of their thousand-acre hunting lodge. The mystery deepened only months later when Alex himself was discovered shot in the head on a local roadside.

But as authorities scrambled for clues and the community reeled from the loss and media attention, dark secrets about this Southern legal dynasty came to light. The Murdaughs, it turned out, were feared as much as they were loved. And they wouldn’t hesitate to wield their influence to protect one of their own; two years before he was killed, a highly intoxicated Paul Murdaugh was at the helm of a boat when it crashed and killed a teenage girl, and his light treatment by police led to speculation that privilege had come into play. As bombshells of financial fraud were revealed and more suspicious deaths were linked to the Murdaughs, a new portrait of Alex Murdaugh emerged: a desperate man on the brink of ruin who would do anything, even plan his own death, to save his family’s reputation.

My Review

Seasoned investigative reporter Jim Glatt's latest true crime book, TANGLED VINES: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders, focuses on a prominent recent murder trial of Richard Alexander Murdaugh from the powerful South Carolina legal family and its history.

A century-old, multimillion-dollar law practice brought the family into incredible wealth, power, and privilege―but it was an unimaginable tragedy that would thrust them into the national spotlight.

On June 7th, 2021, prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh discovered the bodies of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on the grounds of their thousand-acre hunting lodge. The mystery deepened only months later when Alex was discovered shot in the head on a local roadside.

The author explores the family history through the generations, born in Islandton, SC, in 1793, and the son who became the first lawyer in the family opening a one-man law practice in 1910. Taking readers to the next century and the Murdaugh name with three generations of lawyers.

By the time Murdaugh graduated from law school in 1994, new state laws had made it illegal for solicitors to also practice civil law. He joined the family law firm specializing in personal injury cases. Then his intoxicated teen son Paul drove a boat into a bridge and killed Mallory Beach, his nineteen-year-old friend.

Then in June 2021, Murdaugh found his wife and Paul shot to death at his hunting estate—a double murder for which he would be later convicted. Then Murdaugh was caught stealing ten million dollars of funds from his clients. Three days later his father, Randolph III, died of cancer after a long illness.

What happened after Alex ordered Fast Eddie to shoot him remains unclear.

The dark secrets of this Southern family are unraveled and come to light. They used their power, privilege, and influence to protect their own. From the financial fraud and the suspicious deaths linked to the Murdaughs, Alex was a desperate man on the brink of losing everything and his reputation who would do anything, even planning his death.

With a lot of media surrounding this family and murder, as well as podcasts and Netflix series, the author provides an in-depth family history. Their powers and influence were limitless. They had lorded it over judges, politicians, and top law officials for 86 years before Alex's father retired in 2006, appointing his own handpicked successor. The family ran one of South Carolina's top law firms, specializing in personal injury cases for the little man, which netted them millions of dollars a year.

Downplaying their wealth and privilege for political reasons, the Murdaugh family enjoyed their huge plantation estates, hunting lodges, and waterfront properties, including one called "Murdaugh Island." They appeared to be above the law and impervious to any legal consequences.

There are other questionable deaths with suspicion around the family; however, the Murdaugh family name, its power, and prestige allowed them not to be held accountable until all is unraveled with the deaths of Maggie and Paul.

The book details the corruption, the money Murdaugh stole, how he did so, and the victims—from fraud and embezzling to murder, making the beautiful Low Country feel dirty from the family history and the politics which goes back years. The author uses this background information effectively to help readers understand this entitled family and its motives. Murdaugh thought he would get away with his crimes.

As the author mentions—this is a twenty-first Greek tragedy that has played out in real-time as the world watches aghast. The author uses personal interviews, police records, and Alex's highly revealing jailhouse phone calls to his family, providing insight into his true character and many other interviews—some desiring to remain anonymous.

Glatt says he cannot say if Alex is a true sociopath, but in all the true crime books he has written, he has never come across anyone as dark and devoid of conscience as he appears to be.

The book was easier to follow than the audio, like someone reading a script without emotion, and the narrative was a little dry. While I liked the book's front cover, I did not care for the audiobook cover. I usually like this narrator, Shaun Grindell; however, it may be due to the non-fiction material.

There were a lot of characters to keep up with, from politicians, officials, clients, and family. Anyone who enjoys true crime and has followed the Murdaugh trials or readers who may not be familiar with the murders will appreciate the detail and research. It does not cover the trial and his ultimate conviction, but perhaps the final publication will include these details.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Tantor Audio for a gifted ARC and ALC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: Aug 8, 2023


"Readers will be swept up in this account."

―Booklist, starred review

“Glatt has produced the equivalent of a juicy John Grisham novel, featuring a lead more 'dark and totally devoid of conscience' than anyone he’s ever researched. This real-life Southern noir lingers.”

―Publishers Weekly, starred review

About the Author

John Glatt is an investigative journalist with more than thirty-five years experience. In the last thirty years he has written 25 true crime books and 5 biographies. With more than a two million books currently in print all over the world, Glatt is acknowledged to be one of the best true crime writers working today.

A native of London, England, Glatt left school at sixteen and worked in a variety of jobs - including tea boy and messenger - before joining a small weekly newspaper outside London, where he honed his keen news sense. Over the next few years he freelanced for many national English newspapers, including The Daily Express, The Sunday People, The Daily Mail and Woman Magazine.

In 1981 he moved to New York, working on staff for News Limited, as well as freelancing for Newsweek, Omni, the New York Post, the Australian, Modern Business and other newspapers and magazines worldwide.

His first book Rage & Roll: Bill Graham and the Selling of Rock, was published in 1993 to critical acclaim. Two years later he wrote Lost in Hollywood: The Fast Times and Short Life of River Phoenix, a well received biography on the tragic movie star. His next book, The Chieftains: An Authorized Biography, which was published in 1997, saw him nominated for a 2000 Grammy in the spoken word category. In 1998 wrote the well-received The Ruling House of Monaco: The Story of a Tragic Dynasty, uncovering many new revelations about the Grimaldis.

In 1998 he wrote his first true crime book, For I Have Sinned: True Stories of Clergy Who Kill. A year later he followed it up with Evil Twins, an anthology of twins that kill. And since then he has written a True Crime book a year for St. Martin's Press True Crime Library, establishing him as a master of the genre.

His latest book Golden Boy will be published in July 2021 and he is working on a book about the Lori Vallow/ Chad Daybell case - The Doomsday Mother - which will be published in January 2022.

Over the years, Glatt has appeared on scores of television and radio programs all over the world, including ABC 20/20, Dateline NBC, Fox News, Discovery ID, BBC World, and A&E Biography.

He and his jewelry designer wife Gail live in the Catskill Mountains. WEBSITE







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