Review of Murder on Middle Beach HBO rating *****
A murder mystery. A family drama. A coming of age story. These are some of the central themes covered in this excellent HBO documentary series. Madison Hamburg was a film student when he first learned of the brutal murder of his mother. The police couldn’t solve the crime, so Madison attempted to solve it himself, turning his search for a killer into a four-part documentary series.
While Madison isn’t successful in finding the person or persons responsible for his mother’s death, he does run down numerous leads that point to several suspects, with some of the most promising suspects being family members.
The filmmakers lay out the facts and identify suspects. I won’t go through them here. I will, however, point out one significant clue that stands out above all others. The day before the murder a man wearing dark clothing and a ski mask was spotted wandering the property.
Each episode leads to a different suspect with different motivations. However, the weight of the evidence leans heavily towards the one person who had the most to gain from Barbara Hamburg’s death – her ex-husband and Madison’s father. On the day of the murder, Barbara had an appointment to attend a court hearing over money related to the couple’s divorce. That hearing would have had serious repercussions for Jeffrey Hamburg if he were to lose.
There’s one moment in the series that stood out for me. It happens when Madison and his sister, Allie, are talking about their mom and Madison’s film project. Madison asks his sister what she would say to the person responsible for the murder. I don’t remember her response to the question, but I remember Madison’s answer when his sister turned the question around and asked him what he would say. “I’m coming for you,” Madison said. That remark says a lot about Madison’s motivation.
A story like this takes years to unravel. The series ends with Madison winning a FOIA request for documents in the criminal investigation. Hopefully, there will be more to come.