Books

Nina Burleigh The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox

The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox

Now In Paperback
Reviews:

""Clear-eyed, sweeping, honest and tough, Nina Burleigh's autopsy of one of the most compelling criminal dramas of our time sets a standard that any of the other other chroniclers of this tale have yet to meet. The story of Amanda Knox is part Salem witch trial, part cultural misunderstanding of an epic sort, and part vendetta. Burleigh found the universal elements of a junior year abroad that shook the world, and she brings them home without sentimentality nor an axe to grind. This is what long-form narrative journalism is all about." -- Tim Egan, New York Times

"THE FATAL GIFT OF BEAUTY is the real, the true, and the complete story of the Amanda Knox case. It will draw you into a nightmare world of murder, conspiracy, corruption, false accusations, police incompetence, abuse, lies, and manipulations. Nina Burleigh is a first-rate journalist who presents a meticulously researched and reported account, with every fact documented and sourced. It is an essential read for anyone interested in this case. More than a murder story, is a look into the dark and complex soul of Italy itself."--Douglas Preston, co-author of The Monster of Florence

"Finally, the twisted tale of Amanda Knox, the all-American college girl convicted of murder in Italy, gets the telling this extraordinary story deserves. Nina Burleigh's immersion in Italian cultural history provides a context that allows us--first the first time--to understand how this international miscarriage of justice could have occurred. Stirring, compelling, and in the end a tragic tale worthy of Italian opera." --Joe McGinniss, author of Fatal Vision, The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro and The Rogue

"The global media, in its frenzied coverage of the sensational Amanda Knox murder trial, overlooked what Nina Burleigh has skillfully unearthed and analyzed--a compelling chain of evidence, subtle levels of significance. Her telling of the tale is clearly the only one that gets it right."--John Berendt, author of The City of Falling Angels and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

"Nina Burleigh has cut through the confusion of conflicting and often inaccurate news accounts of the Amanda Knox murder case and given us a lucid, fair-minded account of the case. She shows, quite convincingly, that Knox and her co-defendant have been victims of a serious miscarriage of justice. Perhaps more importantly, she explains why, showing the case to be the product of cultural misunderstanding between Italy and the U.S."--Alexander Stille, author of The Sack of Rome

"[In] this powerful example of narrative non-fiction...Burleigh, who parses how the Knox trial was perhaps tainted, still presents a fair and unbiased portrait of a girl adrift in a foreign legal system and a culture rife with preconceptions about young American women." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Burleigh's propulsive narrative and the many unsettling aspects of the case make this a standout among recent true-crime titles."--Kirkus Reviews

"Journalist/author Burleigh (e.g., Unholy Business) reconstructs a murder case that has proved to be about much more than murder."--Library Journal

Order on Amazon
Order on Barnes and Noble
Order on IndieBound
Order on the iBookstore

Nina Burleigh

Unholy Business

A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land
Collins, Oct 2008

Israel, with 30,000 archeological digs crammed with Bible- era artifacts, and fever-pitch religious extremists vying for proof of faith and history, is the setting for this gripping story from the eccentric world of Biblical archaeology and high-end characters - relic collection. Surrounded by a cast of colorful characters - scholars, evangelicals, detectives, billionaires and dealers - a pair of scholar-cops stalk a wily millionaire who conducted what Israeli police called "the fraud of the century." Two objects at the center of the fraud - the James Ossuary and the Joash Tablet - were only the tip of the iceberg. Museum shelves worldwide may still display fakes from his workshop.

Unholy Business takes readers into the murky world of Holy Land relic dealing from the back alleys of Jerusalem's Old City to New York's Fifth Avenue, and reveals Biblical archaeology as it is pulled apart by religious believers on one side and scientists on the other.
Buy on Amazon
See Nina's Oriental Institute lecture on Unholy Business
Reviews Of Unholy Business

"Skillfully constructed as a series of narrative vignettes, Unholy Business is indeed reminiscent of a good, if rather dark film. Burleigh has a marvelous talent for thumbnail character sketches and many of her protagonists seem to leap off the page... Burleigh...narrates the case of the James ossuary in detail and with a zestful sense of adventure..." -Associated Press

"In delving into the story of a high-profile biblical antiquities fraud case in Israel, Nina Burleigh found a journalistic treasure trove....a real-life thriller as consequential as it is entertaining...." -Barnes & Nobel

"Bracing account...Burleigh skillfully navigates the theological dilemmas that attended the 'discovery' of the ossuary and the forensic evidence that finally sank it." -The Washington Post

"In fast, noir-ish prose -- imagine Sam Spade in the Holy Land -- Burleigh tracks her story through the twilight world of Arab grave robbers and smugglers to the glimmering salon of a billionaire collector in Mayfair whose mission, writes Burleigh, is 'proving the Bible true." -Time

"In her captivating chronicle, veteran journalist Burleigh enters a dark world full of shady dealings, illicit collectors and monomaniacal archaeologists. ... Burleigh draws her readers in from page one and brilliantly captures the compelling debates about archaeology's relationship to faith." -Publishers Weekly

A "lively account. ... Ms. Burleigh uses the story of the James Ossuary to trace the eccentric and sometimes dodgy characters who buy, trade and deal in antiquities. But it is also a springboard for her larger meditation on the field of biblical archaeology." -Wall Street Journal

"In a narrative befitting the intrigue and mystery surrounding the shadowy world of antiquities and archeology in Israel - the only country of origin in the world where it is legal to sell such things - Nina Burleigh tells a tale of greed and ambition mixed with political and theological yearning." -The Toronto Star

"Shrewd and piquant journalist Nina Burleigh ... tells the full story behind one of the greatest hoaxes of all time. ... With brio and acumen, Burleigh follows the trail of antiquities fraud in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, visiting collectors' lairs, biblical sites, and archaeological digs. ... In all, a provocative inquiry into the age-old pairing of faith and folly." -Booklist

Nina Burleigh

Mirage

Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt 
Harper, Nov 2007

Little more than two hundred years ago, only the most reckless or eccentric Europeans had dared traverse the unmapped territory of the modern-day Middle East. Its history and peoples were the subject of much myth and speculation--and no region aroused greater interest than Egypt, where reports of mysterious monuments, inscrutable hieroglyphics, rare silks and spices, and rumors of lost magical knowledge tantalized dreamers and taunted the power-hungry.

It was not until 1798, when an unlikely band of scientific explorers traveled from Paris to the Nile Valley, that Westerners received their first real glimpse of what lay beyond the Mediterranean Sea.

Under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Army, a small and little-known corps of Paris's brightest intellectual lights left the safety of their laboratories, studios, and classrooms to embark on a thirty-day crossing into the unknown--some never to see French shores again. Over 150 astronomers, mathematicians, naturalists, physicists, doctors, chemists, engineers, botanists, artists--even a poet and a musicologist--accompanied Napoleon's troops into Egypt. Carrying pencils instead of swords, specimen jars instead of field guns, these highly accomplished men participated in the first large-scale interaction between Europeans and Muslims of the modern era. And many lived to tell the tale.

Hazarding hunger, hardship, uncertainty, and disease, Napoleon's scientists risked their lives in pursuit of discovery. They approached the land not as colonizers, but as experts in their fields of scholarship, meticulously categorizing and collecting their finds--from the ruins of the colossal pyramids to the smallest insects to the legendary Rosetta Stone.

Those who survived the three-year expedition compiled an exhaustive encyclopedia of Egypt, twenty-three volumes in length, which secured their place in history as the world's earliest-known archaeologists. Unraveling the mysteries that had befuddled Europeans for centuries, Napoleon's scientists were the first to document the astonishing accomplishments of a lost civilization--before the dark shadow of empire-building took Africa and the Middle East by storm.

Internationally acclaimed journalist Nina Burleigh brings readers back to a little-known landmark adventure at the dawn of the modern era--one that ultimately revealed the deepest secrets of ancient Egypt to a very curious continent.
Buy on Amazon
Reviews of Mirage

"Burleigh...explains significant details without getting heavily academic. By separating the narrative into sections and sketching individuals-the chemist, the mathematician, the zoologist - she makes the discussion accessible...a fascinating read about an extraordinary time and place in world history." -The San Francisco Chronicle.

 "One of Napoleon's more reckless gambles -- there were many -- was his ill-fated invasion of Egypt in 1798. Determined to cut off Britain's trading routes with India, the petit general crossed the Mediterranean with some 50,000 soldiers and sailors, looking to drive the English from the Orient. But this was a military mission with an intellectual bent. Napoleon, intoxicated by the example of Alexander the Great, another conqueror with big ideas, had a grand vision: He wanted to modernize Egypt -- even if he had to do it at the point of a gun -- and explore the glories of the Egyptian past ...  -The New York Sun

 "Burleigh's description of a young army overdressed for the sweltering heat (in Alpine wool uniforms), afraid and unable to communicate with the increasingly hostile locals, has echoes of the present. Her principle subject, however, is not the military but the 151 "savants" Napoleon took along -- geologists, mapmakers, naturalists, artists, even a musicologist. . . .Burleigh hurtles in less than 250 pages through the three grueling years the savants spent in Egypt, peppering her tale with multitudes of facts, digressions, and antidotes." -The New York Times.

"Burleigh's latest history gives us a fresh take on well-known material - Napoleon's eighteenth - century invasion and Democracy-spreading mission in Egypt. His campaign did not go well. (Sound Familiar?)" -More Magazine

"Author Nina Burleigh is an accomplished journalist who reported for Time magazine in Iraq in the 1990s. With Mirage she has written a very detailed book about Napoleon Bonaparte's march to Egypt with the French army beneath him. . . I certainly recommend reading this book. Burleigh's approach to this historical adventure is refreshing and very approachable -- history for the non historian." -LoadedQuestions.com 

"With an easy style and an eye for striking detail, Burleigh concentrates on 151 French scientists, scholars and students who joined the expedition, tempted by hero worship of Napoleon and the prospect of scientific adventure." -The Associated Press 

"If you enjoy delving into small crevices of the past looking for little-considered gems of history, then Burleigh's (The Stranger and the Statesman) latest is for you. Focusing on Napoléon's expedition to Egypt in 1798-1801 and particularly on the scientists who accompanied the military forces, Burleigh illuminates an unfamiliar moment in the history of science. . . .Burleigh's storytelling ability is mesmerizing; she skillfully fills in the backstory of the region in artfully crafted paragraphs, summing up thousands of years of history without slowing the flow of the narrative." -Library Journal 

"Burleigh (A Very Private Woman) offers an absorbing glimpse of Napoleon's thwarted bid for a grand French empire and its intellectual fruits." -Publishers Weekly "A breathless account of the French invasion of Egypt in 1798." -Kirkus Reviews

The Stranger and the Statesman

The Stranger and the Statesman

James Smithson, John Quincy Adams, and the Making of America's Greatest Museum: The Smithsonian
William Morrow, October 2003

Combining the charming eccentricity of The Professor and the Madman with the brilliant insight of Founding Brothers, here is a riveting biography of a little-known scientist and his incomparable legacy. It was one of the world's greatest philanthropic gifts--and one of its most puzzling mysteries. In 1829 a wealthy naturalist named James Smithson--a self exiled outsider, and the bastard son of the first Duke of Northumberland, who though obscure, associated with some of the most brilliant European scientists of his time, men who were laying the groundwork for what we now know about chemistry, electricity, and the atom--left his library, mineral collection, and entire fortune "to the United States of America, to found . . ."an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge"--even though he'd never visited the U.S. nor knew any Americans.

In this fascinating, illuminating history, Nina Burleigh pieces together the facets of this quirky recluse's life-a tale of illicit sex, madness, greed, generosity, science, and politics. She reveals how Smithson's bequest was nearly lost due to fierce clashes among battling Americans-states' rights advocates, nationalists, federalists, anglophiles, xenophobes, and others. Yet, she details, thanks to the patient efforts of unsung heroes, namely the bristly former president John Quincy Adams, Smithson's legacy was finally realized in 1846 and has become today one of our most important educational, cultural, and scientific establishments.
Buy on Amazon

Reviews of The Stranger and the Statesman

 "Most of us employed at Smithsonian have the vague knowledge that James Smithson's disenchantment with British aristocracy was behind his curious bequest to create an institution to be founded in Washington, D.C., "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." But this is far from the complete story. Thanks to this lively and extraordinarily well-researched book, Nina Burleigh shows the situation to have been far more interesting and complex ..." -Geotimes

"Of all the great nineteenth-century philanthropists who used their wealth to enrich American civil society, James Smithson (1765-1829) is surely one of the more enigmatic. Millions flock to the Smithsonian museums that bear his name each year, yet few people realize he never visited America. And none can say why this illegitimate son of a British aristocrat used his fortune to endow what would become America's best-known museums." -The Philanthropy Roundtable.

"Burleigh's investigation reads at times like a riveting cold-case episode; she succeeds admirably in putting flesh on Smithson's skeletal remains." -Chicago Tribune

"The source of Smithson's desire to establish an institution in the new city of Washington "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge" is the psychological mystery at the heart of Nina Burleigh's engaging tour of his life and times,The Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams and the Making of America's Greatest Museum: the Smithsonian." -San Francisco Chronicle

"When I started this slim book, a new account of the life of the enigmatic and eccentric English love child who went on to become the initiating benefactor of America's Smithsonian Institution, the auguries were far from good, and I thought that I would not like it at all. There were all manner of infelicities about the book that, initially at least, put me right off it. But I persevered and, 200-odd pages later, I put it aside, replete, delighted, enchanted, and fascinated -- and humbled too by the realization that a hasty judgment is often an unworthy judgment, and that all books should at least be given a chance ..." -The Boston Globe

This engaging book is well worth the time to read. Even James Macie, or James Smithson, as he came to call himself in middle age, might have applauded this "increase & diffusion of Knowledge" about the founding of the institution." -Richmond Times Dispatch

"This meticulously researched book reads like a suspense novel, looking for clues in James Smithson's odd life that might have led him to give a large fortune to a country he had never seen. Then there's the question of what America, then completely broke, would do with the money. The twists and turns of that political plot feature a hero-John Quincy Adams, who could be called the stepfather of the Smithsonian. It's a riveting story of two men, and a fascinating picture of the world where they lived." -Cokie Roberts

"Nina Burleigh tells an unusual and exciting story, backs it up with impressive scholarship, and brings to life the sometimes vexed history of a great American institution." -Justin Kaplan

"What a great American story! Nina Burleigh's The Stranger and the Statesman is a beautifully rendered account of the extraordinary circumstances that lead to the creation of the Smithsonian. John Quincy Adams comes bursting out of these pages full of tenacity and grit. The old adage that 'history is stranger than fiction' has never been more apropos. Highly recommended." -Douglas Brinkley
A Very Private Womans

A Very Private Woman

The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer
Hardcover: Bantam Books, 1998
Paperback: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1999

In 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer, the beautiful, rebellious, and intelligent ex-wife of a top CIA official, was killed on a quiet Georgetown towpath near her home. Mary Meyer was a secret mistress of President John F. Kennedy, whom she had known since private school days, and after her death, reports that she had kept a diary set off a tense search by her brother-in-law, newsman Ben Bradlee, and CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton. But the only suspect in her murder was acquitted, and today her life and death are still a source of intense speculation, as Nina Burleigh reveals in her widely praised book, the first to examine this haunting story.
Buy on Amazon

Reviews for A Very Private Woman

"In this fascinating and painstakingly-researched account, Nina Burleigh has dissected Washington's most intriguing murder mystery and produced, all-in-one, a captivating biography, a thriller, and an insightful portrait of Georgetown in its golden presidential age of high-drama political dinners and late-night White House assignations." -Christopher Ogden, author of Life of the Party

"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil meets Camelot ... elegant and evocative ... Burleigh weaves a good tale. She's terrific on a Georgetown that no longer exists." -Washington Post Book World

"Power is so utterly fascinating. Sometimes it's used for evil purposes, like the kind of power that has silenced the telling of Mary Pinchot Meyer's mysterious murder for over three decades. In A Very Private Woman, Nina Burleigh has finally told this tragic tale of a privileged beauty with friends in high places." -Dominick Dunne

"A superbly crafted, evocative glimpse of an adventurous spirit whose grisly murder remains a mystery." -San Francisco Chronicle

"Provocative, erudite...pure Georgetown noir." -The New York Observer

"Mary Meyer, CIA wife, mistress of President Kennedy, murder victim, has long been a story waiting for the right author. In this book, with its incisive, unsensational but fascinating reporting, Nina Burleigh really delivers. ... Fine, well-judged work."-- Anthony Summers, author of Official and Confidential and Goddess

"While Burleigh avoids offering theories about the unsolved murder, she vividly evokes one conspiracy of titillating interest today: how Washington insiders of the era kept their "secretly swinging" activities discreet."-Entertainment Weekly, Megan Harlan

"Nina Burleigh brings a rich array of real-life characters to A Very Private Woman, some of whom could have tumbled out of a John le Carré novel." -Patricia O'Brien, The New York Times Book Review

"A scintillating true story ... [Burleigh] relies on well-documented evidence and recollections. ... An astute observer of the political scene." -New York Post

"A sensitive study of a time, place and woman ... A Very Private Woman is a wonderful read." -Weekly Standard

"Burleigh provides an intriguing look into the mythology surrounding the Kennedy White House and the Cold War era, when secrets were a way of life." --Knoxville News-Sentinel

"Proves that every Washington sex scandal is juicy in its own way."Glamour

"Journalist Nina Burleigh gives a fascinating account of the suspicions that have fed conspiracy theories of CIA involvement in the death of Mary Pinchot Meyer, married to a top CIA official and a mistress to President John F. Kennedy. Meyer was murdered on a wooded towpath in Georgetown, less than a year after Kennedy's assassination. As fascinating as the circumstances of her unsolved murder, including CIA concerns about the contents of Meyer's diary, her life was equally compelling. Born into wealth, member of the Eastern social elite, Meyer became part of the domestic scenery of the CIA during its most clandestine period. Burleigh conveys the CIA husbands' pernicious intrigues and the wives' suppressed domesticities. Secrets kept by Meyer's cold warrior husband contributed to the growing distance between them, even after the loss of a young child. Meyer retreated into her painting and lovers, including Kennedy. A close relationship with Timothy O'Leary led to allegations that she brought drugs, including LSD, into the White House for use with Kennedy. Conspiracy theorists will love this book." -Vanessa Bush, Booklist

The name Mary Meyer is unfamiliar to most Americans. Those living in Washington and Georgetown know it well. Mary Pinchot Meyer's story has waited 34 years for just the right author. An author capable of relating an insightful portrait of DC and Georgetown in the days of "Camelot." An author who could with high-drama dissect Washington's most intriguing murder mystery. Nina Burleigh, a contributing editor at New York Magazine and a resident of New York City is the writer who now steps forward to tell Mary's story of mystery and intrigue ... " -BusinessKnowHow.com

Enhanced by Zemanta