American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps

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9780060096878: American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps

In 1975, a new group of Peace Corps volunteers landed on the island nation of Tonga. Among them was Deborah Gardner -- a beautiful twenty-three-year-old who, in the following year, would be stabbed twenty-two times and left for dead inside her hut.

Another volunteer turned himself in to the Tongan police, and many of the other Americans were sure he had committed the crime. But with the aid of the State Department, he returned home a free man. Although the story was kept quiet in the United States, Deb Gardner's death and the outlandish aftermath took on legendary proportions in Tonga.

Now journalist Philip Weiss "shines daylight on the facts of this ugly case with the fervor of an avenging angel" (Chicago Tribune), exposing a gripping tale of love, violence, and clashing ideals. With bravura reporting and vivid, novelistic prose, Weiss transforms a Polynesian legend into a singular artifact of American history and a profoundly moving human story.

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Review:

On October 4, 1976, a brutal murder shocked the tiny island nation of Tonga. A young Peace Corps volunteer had been stabbed 22 times; another volunteer was identified at the scene, but despite the damning evidence against him, Dennis Priven was never convicted of any crime. A beautiful, free-spirited young victim; a brooding villain who carried a dive knife sheathed by his side; an exotic, Gauginesque setting: with material this sensational, it's surprising that the most compelling passages in American Taboo concern the inner workings of a government bureaucracy. But the Peace Corps was an integral part of Deborah Gardner's tragedy. According to Philip Weiss, their officials did everything in their power to hush up her murder, then funded the aggressive defense that helped Priven go free. Weiss's account captures an intriguing historical moment, when the Corps' initial spirit of idealism found itself besieged by political and financial pressures. But the book ! is marred by his breathless, run-on style, and the figure at the center of this story remains a cipher. Was Dennis Priven an evil genius who planned the murder—and his defense—to ensure he would escape punishment? Or was he, as a psychiatrist hired by the Peace Corps contended, a budding schizophrenic? Weiss' answer is regrettably perfunctory: "He was a brilliant madman allowed to stay too long in the wrong spot who had lost control and then manipulated everyone around him with coldness and creativity." Oh. --Mary Park

About the Author:

Philip Weiss has been a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor to Esquire, Harper's Magazine, and the New York Observer. He lives in upstate New York.

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Book Description HARPER PERENNIAL, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1975, a new group of Peace Corps volunteers landed on the island nation of Tonga. Among them was Deborah Gardner -- a beautiful twenty-three-year-old who, in the following year, would be stabbed twenty-two times and left for dead inside her hut. Another volunteer turned himself in to the Tongan police, and many of the other Americans were sure he had committed the crime. But with the aid of the State Department, he returned home a free man. Although the story was kept quiet in the United States, Deb Gardner s death and the outlandish aftermath took on legendary proportions in Tonga. Now journalist Philip Weiss shines daylight on the facts of this ugly case with the fervor of an avenging angel (Chicago Tribune), exposing a gripping tale of love, violence, and clashing ideals. With bravura reporting and vivid, novelistic prose, Weiss transforms a Polynesian legend into a singular artifact of American history and a profoundly moving human story. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780060096878

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