New York Times Bestseller: The “fascinating” true story of John Dale Cavaness, a much-admired Illinois doctor—and the cold-blooded killer of his own son (The Washington Post).
Fusing the narrative power of an award-winning novelist and the detailed research of an experienced investigator, author Darcy O’Brien unfolds the story of Dr. John Dale Cavaness, the southern Illinois physician and surgeon charged with the murder of his son Sean in December 1984. Outraged by the arrest of the skilled medical practitioner who selflessly attended to their needs, the people of Little Egypt, as the natives call their region, rose to his defense.
But during the subsequent trial, a radically different, disquieting portrait of Dr. Cavaness would emerge. Throughout the three decades that he enjoyed the admiration and respect of his community, Cavaness was privately terrorizing his family, abusing his employees, and making disastrous financial investments. As more and more grisly details of the Cavaness case come to stark Midwestern light in O’Brien’s chilling account, so too does the hidden gothic underside of rural America and its heritage of violence and blood.
“A meticulous account . . . An implicit indictment of a culture that condones and encourages violent behavior in men.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A fascinating story, and Darcy O’Brien does a great job of structuring it for suspense.” —The Washington Post
“A terrifying story of family violence and the community that honored the perpetrator.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Stunning material . . . Handled with justice and fastidiousness by a natural storyteller.” —Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize
The southern triangle of Illinois has been known as Egypt or Little Egypt since 1832, when northern Illinoisans journeyed there to buy corn after a difficult winter. In this riveting historical true-crime acount, we read about John Dale Cavaness, who grew up there and returned to practice medicine when he completed his training. With his second wife he had four sons and became one of the most beloved men in the area, often treating patients without charge. But at home he was tyrannical, beating his wife and eventually leaving her for his mistress, and criticizing his sons. University of Tulsa English professor O'Brien ( The Silver Spooner ) shows how this complex human being disintegrated, turning to drink and drugs and squandering his considerable income on chimerical schemes, until he killed two of his sons, presumably to collect the insurance. Convicted and sentenced to death, Cavaness committed suicide in prison. Literary Guild alternate.
A bit of a page turner…
Fascinating real life tale of megalomania, mayhem and murder, indifferently written.