I flipped the last page of Judgment Ridge by Mitchell Zuckoff and Richard Lehr and breathed a sigh of releif. The nerve-wracking weeks I had spent staying up late and chewing on my fingernails to find out more about the murder case that rocked New Hampshire seven years ago had come to an end. And at the end of the read, some painful realizations became clearer.
There is a fine line between sanity and insanity. It's a delicate mental balance, which if disrupted, can make a person's actions baffling to their own family and friends. Not that they're always easily understood by the same otherwise. The killers, in this case, chanced upon Half and Suzanne Zantop as the couple prepared to enjoy another lazy weekend. They were the victims of an act of violence dreamt up by two small-town teenagers who had too much spare time. And one of who thought himself to be a "superior being."
What made the killers unlike their peers who spent their time enjoying the snow and the rustic outdoors? What made them think that they would get away with their porous plan of killing randomly-selected people after robbing them to runaway and live their lives like vagabonds?
It's likely no one will entirely understand what the two teenaged boys were thinking at the time of the murder or what caused them to hatch the bizarre plan in the first place.
But what truly deserves a mention is the impeccable reconstruction of events that the authors have managed to achieve. Investgative reporters for The Boston Globe, Zuckoff and Lehr have transported readers to the scene of the crime and the days that preceded it, leading to the build up, and allow them to witness it by narrating the story in scary detail. It's not just the details that are scary. It's the precision with which they've got all of them.
A line in the book speaks of one of the killers revisiting a "place that he loathed," referring to him reliving the double murders, during police questioning. It's similar for the readers who are taken to a loathed place and play silent spectators as the authors piece together the bloody carnage that ensued that January afternoon.
The people of Chelsea will never find answers for why two of "their children" turned into cold-blooded killers. Half and Suzanne Zantop are gone forever. The way in which they are spoken about in the book drives home the great tragedy in losing the couple. But there probably wasn't a better way to immortalize them than this book.
A definite recommended read.