A Need to Kill: Confessions of a Teen Killer by Michael W. Cuneo (March 2011)

Strong Story. Crappy Photos.
Review by Kim Cantrell

It all happened so suddenly. One moment the Haines family is acting like modern Waltons and the in the next, Tom Haines, Lisa Haines, and Kevin Haines are murdered in their own bedrooms.

It would have been four had it not been for the Haines’ oldest child, Maggie Haines, who heard the scuffle in her brother’s 16room and ran to a neighbor’s for help.

Maggie, as the only survivor, was initially suspect; especially considering her rather composed demeanor.

In the end, although it would have been sad, somehow it would have made more sense if it Maggie had indeed killed her family compared to the truth: murder without motive by Kevin Haines’ best friend, Alec Kreider.

Kreider was an exceptionally gift with a high intelligence. Although considered an enigmatic by classmates, no one could have imagined that he’d kill three people just because he could.

In his second true crime book, A Need to Kill: Confessions of a Teen Killer, author Michael W. Cuneo leads readers through an a barely-old-enough-to-drive teenager’s bloody rage to the backyard fence gossip in an effort to understand, and finally to the anticlimatic conclusion of a life behind bars.

Even though it’s obviously written from the police’s account (Kreider had his chance, but declined when it wouldn’t be in his favor) and there’s no imput from Maggie Haines or other family, Cuneo still does an outstanding job of recounting this horrific crime.

I was disappointed, however, that there were no photos of the victims (with the exception of a video capture of Maggie). And the inclusion of the “homemade root beer,” the Lancaster County covered bridge, and an Amish horse and buggy were just downright pointless – who cares?! Just tell me it’s Pennsylvania Dutch country and I can form a pretty good mental picture.

A second disappointment was not knowing the year of this crime until more than halfway through the book. It may sound like a petty complaint, but the year, at least whether it was this decade or a previous one, is important to me. It provides me with the setting as much as describing the people and place.

But, as I said, the story was otherwise written in a spell-binding style that kept me reading for hours. Even with the less-than-desirable photos (and lack of important ones), A Need to Kill will still be one of the best books you read this year.

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