Blind Faith

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

On September 7, 1984, Rob Marshall, a successful insurance broker, and his wife Maria were driving to their suburban home after a night of dining and gambling in Atlantic City. According to Marshall, he thought something was wrong with one of his tires, so he pulled off the Garden State Parkway into a pitch-black, deserted picnic area in the middle of dense woods. While inspecting the tire he was hit over the head and woke up to find Maria shot to death in the front seat of their Cadillac. The Marshalls with their three handsome, high-achieving adolescent sons had been considered a model middle-class family, but the police investigation began to reveal an entirely different picture. Marshall was on the point of bankruptcy, had been carrying on an affair with a married woman, and had insured his wife’s life for more than $1.5 million.

Joe McGinniss does an outstanding job of re-creating this case. He tells the story from the points of view of the Marshalls’ three sons, who continue to try to believe in their father’s innocence as the damning evidence piles up against him. It is this filial loyalty McGinniss is referring to in the title BLIND FAITH.

The true-crime genre, which Truman Capote claimed to have invented with his classic IN COLD BLOOD, requires the author to extrapolate from documented facts in the spirit of the so-called “New Journalism.” He must invent dialogue that might have been spoken by the principal characters and describe what they might have been thinking and feeling on various occasions. McGinniss is totally uninhibited in doing this. He will write whole pages of dramatized narrative which fits so neatly into the weft and woof of the known facts that they seem integral to the pattern. Beyond that, he has the wisdom to reveal the general truth in the specific incident: the way in which this crime reflects the moral decay of an important segment of American society.