4 out of 4 stars
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Three Day Nights by Sandi Huddleston-Edwards is a religious-historical fiction that recounts the true story of three law enforcement officers who were brutally shot and killed in Rutherford County, North Carolina on May 31, 1979, by James Hutchins. Hutchins was the first person to be executed by lethal injection in North Carolina. The author uses the actual names of the perpetrator, the victims, those quoted in newspaper articles, and actual facts about the murders. All other characters are fictitious. She adds a fictional tale of two potential young authors researching the actual crime with the hope of writing a best-selling book.
Alex Wells and Tony Adams, aspiring authors, had been friends since college. They agreed to collaborate on writing a story about the 1979 murders of three Rutherford County, North Carolina law enforcement officers. During their research and interviews with Hutchins' family and friends, they met one of his closest friends, Charles Lefere, at the Rutherfordton Library. Charles gave his account of his friendship with James. As Alex and Tony pursued their story, both were struggling with family issues of their own. As the story came together, their individual lives seemed to be coming apart. In addition to their problems, they were both struggling with their feelings about the murders. They found themselves turning to Lefere who offered spiritual and emotional support. Amid their turmoil, both Alex and Tony were shocked to receive an invitation to attend the execution of James Hutchins as volunteer public witnesses. How did this happen? Had their project to write a book become more than they had wanted? Could they handle watching an execution?
The author does an outstanding job of weaving the actual story with fiction. The descriptions of the murders are bone-chilling, as the author describes how each of the three officers died. I felt anger at the cold-bloodedness of the crime, yet I felt compassion for Hutchins because of his abusive upbringing. In the community, he was known as a decent man until he was drinking, then his anger would get out of control, and he would become abusive. The central theme of the book is "forgiveness" and "self-awareness;" however, the author brings murder and capital punishment to the forefront as well as issues of drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
What I liked most was how each chapter began with either a scripture from the Bible or a quote. For example, this quote by Langston Hughes, "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." And from the Bible (NIV), 1 Peter 3:8 "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." The book has a strong religious theme that some readers may not like. However, the Christian reader will appreciate the lack of profanity and erotic scenes.
I can't think of anything I disliked about this book. It held my attention, brought me to tears, and made me thankful that my son remained safe during his time in law enforcement. I did find several typographical errors in the book, mainly spelling and added or missing words; however, it was still well edited. The errors did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book. Therefore, I am happy to rate Three Day Nights by Sandi Huddleston-Edwards 4 out of 4 stars.
I highly recommend this book to all adults eighteen and older, regardless of religious affiliation. We can all use a lesson in forgiveness and self-awareness in these stressful times. I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone younger than eighteen due to the graphic nature of the murders.
Three Day Nights
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