Breaking Blue [NOOK Book]

Overview

“No one who enjoys mystery can fail to savor this study of a classic case of detection.” 
—TONY HILLERMAN
 
On the night of September 14, 1935, George Conniff, a town marshal in Pend Oreille County in the state of Washington, was shot to death.  A lawman had been killed, yet there seemed to be no uproar, no major investigation.  No suspect was brought to trial.  More than fifty years later, the sheriff of Pend Oreille County, Tony Bamonte, in pursuit of both justice and a master’s ...
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Breaking Blue

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Overview

“No one who enjoys mystery can fail to savor this study of a classic case of detection.” 
—TONY HILLERMAN
 
On the night of September 14, 1935, George Conniff, a town marshal in Pend Oreille County in the state of Washington, was shot to death.  A lawman had been killed, yet there seemed to be no uproar, no major investigation.  No suspect was brought to trial.  More than fifty years later, the sheriff of Pend Oreille County, Tony Bamonte, in pursuit of both justice and a master’s degree in history, dug into the files of the Conniff case—by then the oldest open murder case in the United States.  Gradually, what started out as an intellectual exercise became an obsession, as Bamonte asked questions that unfolded layer upon layer of unsavory detail.
                In Timothy Egan’s vivid account, which reads like a thriller, we follow Bamonte as his investigation plunges him back in time to the Depression era of rampant black-market crime and police corruption.  We see how the suppressed reports he uncovers and the ambiguous answers his questions evoke lead him to the murder weapon—missing for half a century—and then to the man, an ex-cop, he is convinced was the murderer.
                Bamonte himself—a logger’s son and a Vietnam veteran—had joined the Spokane police force in the late 1960s, a time when increasingly enlightened and educated police departments across the country were shaking off the “dirty cop” stigma.  But as he got closer to actually solving the crime, questioning elderly retired members of the force, he found himself more and more isolated, shut out by tight-lipped hostility, and made dramatically aware of the fraternal sin he had committed—breaking the blue code.
                Breaking Blue is a gripping story of cop against cop.  But it also describes a collision between two generations of lawmen and two very different moments in our nation’s history.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1935, Spokane, Wash., was in the sixth year of the Great Depression. Unemployment was high. Civilian Conservation Corps workers were arriving in droves from the East for the Grand Coulee Dam project. Crime was rampant, and a series of creamery robberies had the town on edge. Then, on Sept. 4, the Pend Oreille County town marshal investigating these crimes was murdered. The mystery of George Conniff's death went unsolved until 1989, when Tony Bamonte, sheriff of Pend Oreille County and a graduate student, inadvertently uncovered information that generations of police had conspired to keep hidden. Egan The Good Rain , Seattle bureau chief for the New York Times, lumbers occasionally, but his account of the reopened investigation generally resonates with regional color. Bamonte's investigation of the killing started as scholarly research, but stepped up when ``a convergence of conscience and coincidence'' suggested that the marshal had been shot by a cop protecting colleagues associated with the robberies. In a deathbed confession, a cop revealed that the Spokane police were involved in more than ``a conspiracy of small corruptions.'' Egan evocatively resurrects the scenes and raw insensitivities of '30s police life in the region, from Mother's Place, the diner where cops plotted their heists, to the Hotel de Gink, where transients stayed. May
Library Journal
In the course of preparing a master's thesis on law enforcement in Pend Oreille County, Washington, Sheriff Tony Bamonte discovered new evidence relating to the 1935 murder of Town Marshal George Conniff. Bamonte uncovered documents that implicated another police officer in the murder and also revealed a widespread cover-up by the Spokane Police Department. Already unpopular because of his confrontations with the lumber industry and his criticism of other law-enforcement agencies, Bamonte further angered the police community by disregarding the code that forbids going after a fellow police officer--``breaking blue.'' Tracking down witnesses who verified his suspicions, Bamonte turned his efforts to a search for the murder weapon, a gun thrown into a river more than 50 years earlier. The trail eventually led him to a final surprising discovery, which in turn was capped by an even greater irony. Egan, Seattle bureau chief of the New York Times , tells this remarkable story with a journalist's thoroughness and a novelist's ability to evoke place and character. The tale is rich in history and suspense and is recommended for all crime collections.--Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
Powerhouse story of an iconoclastic sheriff who cracked through 54 years of police coverups and solved the oldest open murder case in the country. Beginning with a brilliant evocation of 1935 Spokane and Pend Oreille County, Egan (Seattle bureau chief of The New York Times; The Good Rain, 1990) sets the scene for the killing of Spokane town marshal George Conniff, who had surprised men stealing butter from the local creamery. In the fifth year of the Depression, Spokane was full of reluctant hobos—many of them farmers who had fled the dust bowls of the Midwest—living, hungry for food and work, in a Hooverville by the local rail yards. The Spokane police regularly extorted sex, food, and money from these "vagrants" and collected also from the bootleggers, saloons, whorehouses, Chinese lotteries, and opium dens in the "Queen City of the Richest Empire in the Western Hemisphere." When a shortage doubled the price of butter, 6'3" rock-fisted Detective Clyde Ralstin and his partner profitably robbed dairies until the night that Conniff was killed. Ralstin was fingered for the killing by fellow detective Charles Sonnabend, but Sonnabend was ordered by the brass to stop investigating, and Ralstin disappeared. Fifty-four years later, in 1989, 47-year-old Sheriff Anthony Bamonte—former logger, Vietnam vet, Spokane cop—was writing his master's thesis on the ten previous sheriffs of Pend Oreille County and discovered a 1955 deathbed statement by Sonnabend about the coverup. Bamonte began to probe the case and, amazingly, men and women in their 80s and 90s who had known Ralstin came forward. Egan's narration of Bamonte's methodical stalking, of the ring of paranoia tighteningaround Ralstin (living in a tiny Montana town and knowing of the hunt), and of murder refusing to stay buried after 54 years—all make for compulsive, white-knuckle reading. Egan rises into the Most Wanted group of true-crime writers with this smoothly told, exciting account.
From the Publisher
"As a former police reporter I can give Breaking Blue the ultimate complement—I wish I had written it. No one who enjoys mystery can fail to savor this study of a classic case of detection" --Tony Hillerman "An engrossing tale of corruption in the Nor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307800404
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/16/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 181,784
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Timothy Egan
Timothy Egan is the Pacific Northwest correspondent for The New York Times.  His last book, The Good Rain, was published in 1990.  He lives in Seattle with his wife, Joni Balter, and their two children.

Biography

Timothy Egan is a national enterprise reporter for The New York Times. He is the author of five books and the recipient of several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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    1. Hometown:
      Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 8, 1954

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Part 1 The Last Act of Life, September 1989
1. Judgment Day 2
Part 1 The First Act of Death, Autumn 1935
2. The Need for Butter 12
3. Cop Code 18
4. Mother's Kitchen 28
5. The Night Marshal 38
6. The Search 49
7. Stone Fortress 59
8. To the River 67
Part 3 Psychic Duel, 1989
9. The Student 76
10. The Sheriff 89
11. Metaline Falls 100
12. A Family Visit 110
13. Men With Badges 117
14. A Stirring 129
15. The Net 137
16. The Nurse 145
17. Home 155
18. Men Without Badges 165
19. In Big Sky Country 174
20. Retreat 187
21. Character Colors 193
22. The River 207
23. Last Gathering 218
Epilogue: May 1990
Commencement 238
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 5, 2013

    I have read several of Timothy Egan's more recent books, and lov

    I have read several of Timothy Egan's more recent books, and love his writing style and subjects so much that I went in search of older works.  I really enjoyed this one, and I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before.  A crime committed by one of the "boys in blue" (an officer in the Spokane Police Dept) during the hard days of the Depression is covered up and goes unsolved.  The victim is a cop himself, and his children never learn who killed their father.  The retelling of this nonfiction crime is engrossing in itself, but Egan also introduces us to a present day small town sheriff who decides to write his master's thesis on his sheriff predecessors.  He learns of the unsolved murder and becomes obsessed with solving it.    Revelations of how our upbringing shapes our foibles, how black and white is sometimes gray, and how searching for truth can be alienating and sometimes unrewarding are all themes of this excellently written and engrossing work of nonfiction.  What a talented author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2012

    Twilit mask

    Whats wrong carter?

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    Interesting story

    If you live in the Northwest, this book will hold some extra fascination. The references made about life during the Depression are educational. A good enough read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 30, 2013

    A layered look at a little-known event in history

    I love reading about small events that have big implications! This story about the murder of a policeman in Spokane, WA in 1935 might make one think, "Who cares!" But the story is so artfully told, and so full of amazing and sad context, that it's easy to see how it could be applied to our time. Another one in this vein is Philp Gourevitch's A Cold Case. Recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    Fantastic nonfiction that reads like a novel

    Timothy Egan is a talented writer who can bring history and Northwest alive. This is a true story of a police chief in a tiny town who decides to write about an unsolved murder of a cop from the 30's in nearby Spokane, WA. He becomes obsessed with the case, and yes, he does solve the mystery and brings some peace to the children (now elderly) who never knew who killed their father or why. Also a great portrayal of the early 30's and the seedy characters willing to make money anyway they can.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2012

    Dark

    Sits on a tree branch and crys in her hands

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 15, 2012

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    Posted January 23, 2010

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    Posted January 15, 2009

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