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  • Maureen Boyle

Puzzles left unfinished

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

As a child, I was drawn to mysteries. The short stories in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen, Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew series, the books by the legendary Agatha Christie and the darker, true crime books, such as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, where the answers are chilling.

As an adult, I am still drawn to mysteries. Now, I read police reports, court documents and dense science books on topics such as bone fragments. I interview the families of the dead and try to bring, on the page, life to the lost. I keep trying to answer that question that eludes psychiatrics, psychologists, criminal profilers, detectives, prosecutors and judges: Why do people intentionally kill? Sometimes mental illness is the cause. Sometimes rage overtakes reasoning. But there are still those cases, the horrific ones, the ones that shock, the ones that rip the heart, the ones considered "cold cases," that nag the brain, that defy logic.

Cold cases are like unfinished puzzles. The four corners are neatly intact. So is much of the middle. It is often that one in the middle, that center piece, that is missing. Without it, there is no solution.

That center piece is often found in the memories of people close to the killer or close to the scene.

As I continue writing and researching my third book, I am in awe of the strength people show in the face of adversity. I am also heartened by those who come forward, who help bring the families of the dead some justice, who do it because it is the right thing to do.

There is still one case, the 1988 murders of nine - and likely 11 - women in New Bedford, Massachusetts where that center piece remains missing. I covered that case as a reporter for the Standard-Times of New Bedford and it was the subject of my first book, Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer. One day, I hope to write the final chapter to that story. One day, I hope someone comes forward with that final puzzle piece.

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