Review of Above Suspicion

Above Suspicion written by Joe Sharkey
Rating *****

Mark Putman was a man with a promising career with the FBI. He was hard working, motivated, and an overachiever. His world came crashing down thanks to some bad decisions and an encounter with a female informant that turned deadly. The how and why of what happened between Mark Putman and his informant, Susan Smith, is detailed in this excellent work of nonfiction.

Author Joe Sharkey methodically lays out the events leading up to the encounter that costs Susan Smith her life. The early chapters detail the different worlds of Mark and the people of rural Kentucky where Mark gets his first assignment as a special agent for the FBI. Things heat up both figuratively and literally once Mark gives in to Susan’s sexual advances.

Mark is married with two children. His few encounters with Susan in a car in the Kentucky hills have dire consequences. Susan claims to be pregnant with Mark’s child. She sees Mark as her ticket out of Pikeville. She threatens to ruin his career if he doesn’t leave his wife. There is a fight between the two. That physical struggle ends with Susan dead from strangulation. The moral decisions faced by Mark before and after his crime are what make this such a fascinating story.

Mark knows that the right thing to do is to confess and face up to the consequences of his actions. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he decides to cover up the crime and lay low as the investigation into Susan’s disappearance begins. The author sums up Mark’s dilemma with the following: “The impulse to confess was crushing, yet the need to go on was overpowering.” It is during this period, after the crime but before he ultimately confesses, that the story is the most compelling.

This book was originally published in 1993. It has been rereleased in conjunction with an upcoming movie about the case.

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