Pros: Gives a generally good idea and outline of the case and the people involved.
Cons: Some parts, especially about "Uncle" Al, feel like the author just 'phoned in' his performance.
The case covered in the book Mama's Boy: The True Story of a Serial Killer and His Mother, by Richard Pienciak, (1997, Onyx Publishing) is something you'd expect to see on a bad Lifetime Network movie, overacted and farfetched, but sadly, the events chronicled in the book are completely true. The book includes background on the defendant, the victims, and those who assisted him.
The one factor that sets this book in a realm of its own for me is that not only did I follow it in the newspapers, I knew some of the people personally involved in the case (Law enforcement, thank God...not the defendants or victims) and I also sat in the courtroom as a spectator for part of the trial. The book was released after the case wrapped up, so to read it as a bound book rather than newspaper accounts and glimpses of the case in progress, gave me something of an insider's look on which to base my feelings on the finished product, the book.
The other side of the coin, though, is maybe I expected more.
I saw the author taking constant notes in the courtroom during my time there, and Mr. Pienciak did everything he could to blend into the background like a fly on the wall, absorbing everything he could to bring it to life in the form of a book. He sat at a small table behind the Prosecutor and his pen never stopped touching the paper. I also met Mr. Pienciak briefly and while I found him to be a pleasant, nice man, I don't think he did the case full justice. With this in mind, here's my review of his book.
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What is the book about?
Eric Napoletano is currently in prison for murdering his wife Myra in their rented apartment in Clifton, New Jersey. While this might not sound like a big deal in and of itself - there are tons of husbands in jail for killing their wives, and domestic violence is a huge issue, right? - Napoletano is *NOT* serving sentences for earlier murders. He killed an underaged girlfriend and his ex-mother-in-law along the way. Those prior murders happened in New York. He has been profiled as a sexually sadistic serial killer.
There is a full documentation on the whos, whats, whens, whys and wheres. Names, dates, locations. There are compiled black and white photographs in the center of the book.
How could he have gotten away with two murders, one done in broad daylight on the streets of New York City? It wasn't hard, having a mother employed at 1 Police Plaza, who had access to police reports, memos, records, and witnesses. However, she didn't have that sort of influence in New Jersey, which is inevitably where Napoletano was convicted. Carolyn Napoletano always maintained her son was innocent, but in reality, she is as guilty as he is. You'll have 384 pages of factoids and story to see.
Carolyn never married the man who got her pregnant with Eric, and while not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it's a little bizarre that she legally changed *her* surname to "Napoletano" when no one was even sure that really was the baby's father, much less really the baby's father's last name! Carolyn and Eric also had an Oedipus-like vibe to their relationship which you'll find creepy and which is touched on in the book.
Her judgment as a parent is explored fully in the book, and you will get a look at how mentally deranged she is. You'll see the lengths she went to, to assist her murderous offspring.
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One person the book should have devoted more detail to but didn't was one of the creepiest aspects: "Uncle" Al Jiovine, who not only helped Carolyn cover up what Eric had done, he was also caught on audiotapes played before Judge Vincent Hull (retired) for almost the entire summer prior to the actual trial to see what would be admitted into evidence. He turned State's evidence against Napoletano in exchange for consideration toward a plea agreement for himself rather than go to trial.
Jiovine's bizarre relationships with both Carolyn and Eric would help piece the puzzle together for the prosecution. Carolyn barely knew "Uncle" Al when she allowed her son to MOVE IN with him! It's been suggested that both Jiovine and Carolyn may have molested Eric at different times in his life. Having seen Jiovine in person in the courtroom, he is the type of person who has a look about him, that even if you didn't know who he was or what he'd done, would give you an uneasy feeling. He was a significant part of the case, yet Mr. Pienciak watered him down to focus more on the Caroline/Eric dynamic.
I don't want to give any more of the case away in case you decide to buy this book or take it out from the library, but to get the facts, beyond the author's interpretation, and to read the old news articles, they're easily available online by using the terms "Eric Napoletano" into your search engine of choice.