In the Middle of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Killed in Cold Blood by Brian McDonald

Even Bad Publicity is Good Publicity
Review by Kim Cantrell

Several times I had passed over Brian McDonald’s latest true crime book titled In the Middle of the Night for one published after the case has went to trial.  It’s a pet peeve of mine to read a book while the case is pending.

But with the controversy surrounding the publication of this book, curiosity got the best of me and I had to see if all the hoopla was deserved.

In the Middle of the Night is based on the 2007 murders of the Petit family in Chesire, Connecticut:  mom Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.  Father and husband Dr. William Petit was brutally beaten, but survived.

This beloved family lived in suburbia heaven, until their home and lives became targets of two ex-con serial burglars:  Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes.  (Allegedly.  As the men have not yet been convicted.)

Written in a style reminiscent of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, McDonald doesn’t focus on the actual events of July 23, 2007, as much as he does the biographies of Komisarjvsky and Hayes; with an intent focus on Komisarjvsky, as he was one member of this party willing to talk to the author. 

If you’re looking for the cold, cruel facts of a vicious crime, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.  Yet if you want a startling look into the mind of the accused who is a Freudian wet dream and a justice system that failed society many times over, then you’ll definitely want to read In the Middle of the Night

Besides being published before trial, I was disappointed in the lack of a photo of the victims, with the exception of Dr. Petit.  I had to search for photos online.

Fortunately, those are my only complaints and I would very much recommend this book.


Much of the controversy surrounding this book is that many feel McDonald is making money from a family’s tragedy.  And, essentially, that is true.  But so do the newscasters, newspapers, television producers, professional bloggers, or any media outlet that reports crime.

If you boycott one, you must boycott them all.  And it would appear from the Amazon reviews (term used loosely, as the term review implies having read the book and many have not), these folks don’t abide by such a rule as many of them encourage the reading of the local paper for details about this crime.

My advice to opposers of this book:  simmer down.  I respect your views.  However, every time you stir the pot, you produce one more reader who has to see for themselves.

Turn your rage instead on a system that failed the Petits and other victims of these two men not fit to live amongst the rest of us.

Want to read it? Here’s where to get it:
Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Books-A-Million    Abebooks    Indie Bound    BooksFree

Other books about this case:  Murder in Connecticut:  The Shocking Crime that Destroyed a Family and United a Community by Michael Benson.