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Blood and Money: The Classic True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power

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Edgar Award Winner: The “gripping” true story of a beautiful Texas socialite, her ambitious husband, and a string of mysterious deaths (Los Angeles Times). Joan Robinson Hill was a world-class equestrian, a glamorous member of Houston high society, and the wife of Dr. John Hill, a handsome and successful plastic surgeon. Her father, Ash Robinson, was a charismatic oil tyco Edgar Award Winner: The “gripping” true story of a beautiful Texas socialite, her ambitious husband, and a string of mysterious deaths (Los Angeles Times). Joan Robinson Hill was a world-class equestrian, a glamorous member of Houston high society, and the wife of Dr. John Hill, a handsome and successful plastic surgeon. Her father, Ash Robinson, was a charismatic oil tycoon obsessed with making his daughter’s every dream come true.   Rich, attractive, and reckless, Joan was one of the most celebrated women in a town infatuated with money, power, and fame. Then one morning in 1969, she fell mysteriously ill. The sordid events that followed comprise “what may be the most compelling and complex case in crime annals” (Ann Rule, bestselling author of The Stranger Beside Me).   From the elegant mansions of River Oaks, one of America’s most exclusive neighborhoods, to a seedy underworld of prostitution and murder-for-hire, New York Times–bestselling author Thomas Thompson tracks down every bizarre motive and enigmatic clue to weave a fascinating tale of lust and vengeance. Full of colorful characters, shocking twists, and deadly secrets, Blood and Money is “an absolute spellbinder” and true crime masterpiece (Newsweek).  


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Edgar Award Winner: The “gripping” true story of a beautiful Texas socialite, her ambitious husband, and a string of mysterious deaths (Los Angeles Times). Joan Robinson Hill was a world-class equestrian, a glamorous member of Houston high society, and the wife of Dr. John Hill, a handsome and successful plastic surgeon. Her father, Ash Robinson, was a charismatic oil tyco Edgar Award Winner: The “gripping” true story of a beautiful Texas socialite, her ambitious husband, and a string of mysterious deaths (Los Angeles Times). Joan Robinson Hill was a world-class equestrian, a glamorous member of Houston high society, and the wife of Dr. John Hill, a handsome and successful plastic surgeon. Her father, Ash Robinson, was a charismatic oil tycoon obsessed with making his daughter’s every dream come true.   Rich, attractive, and reckless, Joan was one of the most celebrated women in a town infatuated with money, power, and fame. Then one morning in 1969, she fell mysteriously ill. The sordid events that followed comprise “what may be the most compelling and complex case in crime annals” (Ann Rule, bestselling author of The Stranger Beside Me).   From the elegant mansions of River Oaks, one of America’s most exclusive neighborhoods, to a seedy underworld of prostitution and murder-for-hire, New York Times–bestselling author Thomas Thompson tracks down every bizarre motive and enigmatic clue to weave a fascinating tale of lust and vengeance. Full of colorful characters, shocking twists, and deadly secrets, Blood and Money is “an absolute spellbinder” and true crime masterpiece (Newsweek).  

30 review for Blood and Money: The Classic True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tooter

    5++++++ Stars. Everyone should experience Thomas Thompson sometime in their lives, even if nonfiction is not your thing. He's absolutely amazing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    This bleak story is one of the best true-crime books around. Joan Robinson, the daughter of Ash Robinson, a rich oil millionaire, dies mysteriously, and her husband, John Hill, is brought to trial for murder. It ends in a mistrial, and John is murdered by a contract killer before he can be tried again. The books then follows the people involved in the murder as the law attempts to bring them to justice. Now, I don't believe John murdered his wife. If I recall the book correctly (and it's been a wh This bleak story is one of the best true-crime books around. Joan Robinson, the daughter of Ash Robinson, a rich oil millionaire, dies mysteriously, and her husband, John Hill, is brought to trial for murder. It ends in a mistrial, and John is murdered by a contract killer before he can be tried again. The books then follows the people involved in the murder as the law attempts to bring them to justice. Now, I don't believe John murdered his wife. If I recall the book correctly (and it's been a while), it was described as medically impossible for him to have intentionally given her that disease. The only way for him to be guilty is through "murder by omission", which strikes me as a bizarre legal quirk which allows someone to suffer as a murderer when all they've committed is involuntary manslaughter. And in all probability, John isn't even guilty of that. The book pretty much admits that the only reason this case became an criminal trial is because of Ash Robinson's influence. It's also very strongly implied that Ash set up John's murder. You would think that John, having been harassed, wrongfully accused, and finally murdered by his crazed father-in-law, would be the most sympathetic person on earth. And you would be wrong. He's a douche; everyone in this book is. No one is completely sympathetic, and no one is completely unsympathetic, either. Every character is carefully written so that they can have full personalities, and they all have huge character flaws. It really gives you a bleak picture of humanity. But the picture this book gives you of humanity is nowhere near as bleak as the picture it gives you of the legal system. I don't think a single person in this book gets fairly treated by the law. We get to see John be railroaded at the grand jury, through the eyes of it's only unbiased member, whose concerns are pretty much ignored by the rest. Another person on trial has some defense, but her lawyer lazily pleads her guilty on the chance that she'll be released on appeal. A third person (she was almost certainly guilty) is convicted, but it is not so much on the evidence but rather because her well-meaning lawyer made a slip-up which allowed the defendant's daughter to testify that her mother had prostituted her as a child. All in all, this a wonderfully written book. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys true-crime, or to anyone who feels too happy or optimistic about life and wants to put an end to that nonsense.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    The book was boring as hell

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wash your hands.

    Utterly compelling and well worthy of the hype. It's a story in three books but is a tragedy in five acts. Very well written, I especially like that the court cases, which could have been boring if allowed to dominate the book, are seperated by the stories and people who lead up to them. No one is portrait as a saint, they are shown as real people with real flaws but it's very tactfully done. With the last most damning court case, the author allows the real events and words to do the talking. On Utterly compelling and well worthy of the hype. It's a story in three books but is a tragedy in five acts. Very well written, I especially like that the court cases, which could have been boring if allowed to dominate the book, are seperated by the stories and people who lead up to them. No one is portrait as a saint, they are shown as real people with real flaws but it's very tactfully done. With the last most damning court case, the author allows the real events and words to do the talking. One of the things I came away with was just how convoluted and binding the system at the time was for prosecution lawyers. For example It's ludicrous that it was not legal for the prosecution to show a jury police records of a defendant. Had this happened today we would be reading a radically different and much shorter book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joey R.

    Great book! This book is as great as "In Cold Blood" There is truly an art to writing a True crime book and making it as compellable to read as a good novel. Unfortunately now I have to read all of his books because it was that good.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    First, some advice: Don't look up any of the names before you finish the book. It's somewhat like the movie Psycho where it goes in a very different direction from what you might expect. You'll have a much better reading experience if you don't already know the story. The writing is very good and the story is full-bodied. Thompson ably demonstrates the author's power to change the reader's perspective with subtle shading and illumination. I never watched Dallas, Knots Landing or Falcon Crest but First, some advice: Don't look up any of the names before you finish the book. It's somewhat like the movie Psycho where it goes in a very different direction from what you might expect. You'll have a much better reading experience if you don't already know the story. The writing is very good and the story is full-bodied. Thompson ably demonstrates the author's power to change the reader's perspective with subtle shading and illumination. I never watched Dallas, Knots Landing or Falcon Crest but I suspect the best of those shows would tie in well with Blood and Money. The book is slightly overlong but worth reading (it sags a bit at the three-quarters mark but finishes well). If you've read a lot of true crime this will fit in well with the others; if you're new to the genre this is an excellent book to start with.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    It's a classic. I re-read it, and somehow had forgotten EVERY freaking detail. Except of course how totally bizarre the rich Texans are. That stuck with me from decades ago when I read this for the first time. The crime of the murdered wife/daughter was all resolved by halfway through, then the obsessed old rich guy (the original victim's father) just basically went out and hired people and made sure that the murderer paid. Wonder what ever happened to the kid? Time to google. It was the first tim It's a classic. I re-read it, and somehow had forgotten EVERY freaking detail. Except of course how totally bizarre the rich Texans are. That stuck with me from decades ago when I read this for the first time. The crime of the murdered wife/daughter was all resolved by halfway through, then the obsessed old rich guy (the original victim's father) just basically went out and hired people and made sure that the murderer paid. Wonder what ever happened to the kid? Time to google. It was the first time I had read about Racehorse Haynes, the attorney for the original murderer. Wow, and attorneys wonder why people think they are totally willing to sell themeselves for money.

  8. 4 out of 5

    j e w e l s

    an old classic! one of my favorites

  9. 5 out of 5

    Russell J. J.

    The Houston newspaper recently said that Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money was the quintessential book about Houston. I had read the book in 1978 when it was first released, and I found it fascinating. With this new accolade, I decided to read it once again. And I wasn’t disappointed. Reading like a novel, rather than the non-fiction it is, Thompson captivates his readers with a story of devotion, greed, treachery, prostitution, and guile. The book opens with the death of socialite Joan Robinson The Houston newspaper recently said that Thomas Thompson’s Blood and Money was the quintessential book about Houston. I had read the book in 1978 when it was first released, and I found it fascinating. With this new accolade, I decided to read it once again. And I wasn’t disappointed. Reading like a novel, rather than the non-fiction it is, Thompson captivates his readers with a story of devotion, greed, treachery, prostitution, and guile. The book opens with the death of socialite Joan Robinson Hill, the daughter of crusty wealthy oilman Ash Robinson. Both she and her father were firmly entrenched in the River Oaks set—the area of Houston where the fabulously wealthy live and play. Ash is convinced that Joan’s philandering plastic surgeon husband John Hill murdered her. And thus begins a tangled web that doesn’t unravel until the final word, 475 pages later. Ash Robinson is a J.R. Ewing as he uses his influence and money to pursue an indictment against his son-in-law. What takes place would today—and probably even then—be considered illegal, but this was 1960s Houston, Texas, and rich men could get away with a lot more than perhaps they can today. Before the story is over, there is a trial, a murder-for-hire, a crazy heroin-riddled prostitute, and a woman, who wants us to believe she is a simple society matron, who is accused of master-minding a heinous crime and put on trial as well. A fiction writer who made up a story of this complexity would be hailed a master storyteller, but Thompson worked from interviews, research, and trial transcripts and made up nothing, yet he spins a story that is compelling and revealing of Houston in the 1960s—or at least of one segment of Houston society, presided over by a smothering father who felt he could control his tiny world, at least where his daughter was concerned.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Whitt

    This true crime story covers the typical elements that precede the act of murder. The hunger for power and control is fueled by greed, lust and revenge that drives desperate people to unimaginable acts. It's a detailed analysis of the motives of a troubled family and prominent businessmen sinking to the level of gangland reprobates to satisfy their insatiable desires. The twists and turns along the way deliver surprising results all the way to the last page in this Edgar Award winning tale.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom Swift

    One of the best true crime books that I have read. Winner of the Edgar Award for non fiction in 1977. Full of rich characters and the basic elements of a murder mystery.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    One of the benefits of the e-book publishing boom is the reissuing of old, out-of-print books. Several books by the late author Thomas Thompson have been published in e-form and I just reread two of his classics, "Richie", and "Blood and Money". I had read both books when they were originally published in the 1970's and I found they have both stood the test of time. I'm going to review them together; both are true crime books but they differ in scope. One, "Richie", is a very personal story of o One of the benefits of the e-book publishing boom is the reissuing of old, out-of-print books. Several books by the late author Thomas Thompson have been published in e-form and I just reread two of his classics, "Richie", and "Blood and Money". I had read both books when they were originally published in the 1970's and I found they have both stood the test of time. I'm going to review them together; both are true crime books but they differ in scope. One, "Richie", is a very personal story of one family, which is torn apart by one son's use of drugs and his death at the hand of his father in a final horrific scene. The other, "Blood and Money", is a sprawling tale, set in Houston, and is the story of many people who are touched by a woman's death and the murder of her husband a couple of years later. I've read three classic true-crime books. They are Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", Norman Mailer's "The Executioner's Song", and Tommy Thompson's "Blood and Money". All three books feature the crime in the first part, and the after-events in the second part. In "Blood", the first part is the life and death of Joan Robinson Hill, a legendary Houston society beauty and equestrian. Adopted as an infant by oilman Ash Robinson and his wife, Joan had been through two short marriages before meeting and marrying Dr John Hill, a young plastic surgeon just establishing a practice in Houston. Rarely has there been a more mismatched couple and the marriage soon soured after the birth of their only child, Robert. Joan Robinson Hill died in very murky circumstances - possibly abetted by her estranged husband - and her father, who adored her more than anything else in his life, vowed revenge on Dr John Hill. The book's second part is about the murder of John Hill, in front of his third wife, his son, and his mother, and the cast of characters involved in that murder. It is this part that Thompson's writing shines. The plot and execution of the Hill's murder involved some of the strangest "characters" you'll ever read about. From Marcia McKittrick - the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold -, to her sometime boyfriend, Bobby Vandiver, who carried out the murder, to Lilla Paulus, the Houston matron with the bad, bad past who set up the assassination, and to the lawmen who worked the case and the lawyers that defended and prosecuted McKittrick and Paulus, Tommy Thompson brings the characters to life. The reader feels as if he's there, with Dr Orrin Staves, who loses his pistol to Marcia McKittrick in a funny scene and then tries to walk off with the weapon when he's testifying in court. The man just wants his gun back...even if it now evidence in a murder trial! But if Thompson's characters are beautifully written, so is his writing about the city and society - high and low - of Houston, which almost becomes a character. Thompson's book is about people - good and bad, high and low, moral and immoral - who find themselves bound together in the death of a woman and the aftermath of that death.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Nehamen

    I notice that my average rating on books is almost a perfect five. There's a reason. I only rate books I finish and I only finish books that thrill me. Blood and Money, similar to Serpentine, is not a complex story but it is a great way to spend a couple days sitting out by the pool on vacation. I'm not giving it a 5 for it's deep meaning or stylistic presentation. It's just a great story of a little too much parental love.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

    This true crime book is chilling, particularly if you grew up in River Oaks like I did and went to Christmas parties in the house where everything happened. I'm not much into the true crime genre, but I highly recommend this book for people who are... and even people who aren't, now that I think about it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bobbie

    I read this many years ago but because I was slightly acquainted with Dr. John Hill, he being a doctor on staff at the small hospital where I worked as a nurse, I found it fascinating. I still think of this case every time I drive through River Oaks on Kirby Dr. I'm sure I have forgotten much of the book since, but for anyone interested in true crime novels I would recommend it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Beers

    A true story of a beautiful Houston heiress who was murdered by her plastic surgeon husband in 1969. Joan Robinson Hill was a glamourous socialite who lived in River Oaks and was a fixture at the moneyed horse show circuit on her Beloved Belinda. This is a searing portrait of money, power and murder.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trin

    A compelling, if overly long, look at a Texas family's descent into tragedy and murder in the late '60s/early '70s. Lots of larger than life characters and a story so bizarre, it has to be true. By the end, though, I was just exhausted: at some point the narrative had begun to feel like misery porn. I'm off to cleanse myself with a novel about chefs.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    "Some men steal and kill...because they think they are too ugly to do anything else." I expected more from this. I loved the first two acts, but the third left me wanting. The courtroom drama just wasn't dramatic. Or maybe I just didn't care enough about Bobby, Lilla, and Marcia. It wasn't their story.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    This book was way too long! It started to seem like I was never going to finish it. But if you can get past the ridiculous sexism, which I guess is a reflection of when this book was written, the writing isn't bad. (The author actually refers to a woman as a "prize colt". 🙄) The story is fascinating, though the outcome is somewhat unsatisfying.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Suz Saunders

    This is the gold standard for true crime books. I read the first edition when it was published in 1976. I still have that first edition 41 years later, and have re-read it several times over the years. Recently a Kindle edition was released and offered at a discount, so I snapped it up. I wondered if I'd be disappointed to read it again after all this time. I wasn't. This book stands the test of time. Thompson is a master of the material, and writes perceptively of a passel of Texas characters as This is the gold standard for true crime books. I read the first edition when it was published in 1976. I still have that first edition 41 years later, and have re-read it several times over the years. Recently a Kindle edition was released and offered at a discount, so I snapped it up. I wondered if I'd be disappointed to read it again after all this time. I wasn't. This book stands the test of time. Thompson is a master of the material, and writes perceptively of a passel of Texas characters as varied as high-powered and high-living oil men, an ambitious young doctor from poor rural beginnings, society matrons, debutantes, a heroin-addicted prostitute, street cops and detectives, and regular people doing their best to scratch out an honest living from day to day. He writes almost lyrically of Joan Robinson Hill, the woman at the center of all the fuss. Her untimely and sudden death set off a chain of deadly consequences because her father was obsessed with nailing his son in law for murder, and frustrated that he couldn't bend the legal system completely to his will. Although he sure bent it somewhat in his direction. I'm glad this is on my Kindle because one of these days I'll probably punch it up when I'm looking for something to read, and immerse myself again in hot humid Houston, the doomed Joan Robinson Hill, and all the other people we meet in this book. By the way, in the early 1970's I lived in Houston, near but not in River Oaks. My daily commute to work was along Kirby Drive, where I often noticed the house on a corner lot that sat at an aggressive angle, aligned neither with Kirby nor the side street, but facing the corner. I had no idea until I read the book that it was the Hill house where so much of the story took place, including the murder of Dr. Hill. (I was young, working full time and going to school four nights a week. I rarely watched TV or even read the newspaper.) But every time I start reading Blood and Money I remember my little apartment and driving past that house so often.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    This book is a must-read for anyone fascinated by true crime. Originally published in 1976, this is a second edition. The events detail the life of Joan, born to a rich, spoiling and doting father, Ash Robinson in Houston Texas. We follow lightly thru her younger years, which helps to paint the picture of her father’s overbearing concern and love, a borderline obsessive behavior. Joan has trouble staying married in part due to her father’s behavior. She ends up marrying a young man, John Hill who This book is a must-read for anyone fascinated by true crime. Originally published in 1976, this is a second edition. The events detail the life of Joan, born to a rich, spoiling and doting father, Ash Robinson in Houston Texas. We follow lightly thru her younger years, which helps to paint the picture of her father’s overbearing concern and love, a borderline obsessive behavior. Joan has trouble staying married in part due to her father’s behavior. She ends up marrying a young man, John Hill whom Ash doesn’t like at all but supports thru school, home, vehicles, etc., so the young man can gain solid employment and care for Ash’s daughter in a manner she had become accustomed to. The excitement begins in 1969 with the untimely and suspicious death of Joan. Thru numerous interviews, articles and police reports, Thompson weaves an intricate tale that just won’t quit. It becomes more and more murky, and all along the reader is wondering how does this father keep the energy to doggedly pursue his daughter’s murderer? I recommend this read to anyone interested in true crime, old-time Texas oil barons and the juicy gossip that followed them and their lifestyles. Just when you think you’re starting to figure it out, another wrench is thrown in the system. Once you finish, you’ll want to Google and follow up on what happened to the principle players. A good, thorough and captivating read. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Open Road Integrated Media and NetGalley for making it available.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher M Simonton

    I've been long infatuated with this story and finally got around to reading this book. Lilla Paulus was my Grandfather's adopted cousin (she was adopted as an infant by his aunt and uncle), so I grew up hearing about this saga. I thought I had an idea of how crazy this story was, but this book provided many more details I had never heard. Some of the family stories about Lilla and her wild and crazy early-adult years put another interesting twist on the tale and made it that much better for me t I've been long infatuated with this story and finally got around to reading this book. Lilla Paulus was my Grandfather's adopted cousin (she was adopted as an infant by his aunt and uncle), so I grew up hearing about this saga. I thought I had an idea of how crazy this story was, but this book provided many more details I had never heard. Some of the family stories about Lilla and her wild and crazy early-adult years put another interesting twist on the tale and made it that much better for me to read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    This true crime is very interesting, especially if you know Houston at all. The descriptions really take you back there! I have family who knew the family and that made it even more interesting. The house still sits prominently on a corner lot in River Oaks.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Haning

    Great true story! Very much worth reading. Tedious in places. I rememberparts of this trial in my early teens. Ash Robison was a great father!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    This nonfiction story of murder, prostitution, the socialite world of Dallas, Texas, and family ties is a very complicated story and written by one of the best journalists that Texas had in the 1970s. Davis "Ash" Robinson and his wife had one child (whether adopted or by surrogate is unknown) named Joan, and Ash doted on her. She was well known in the high class equestrian world of Texas and won many, many competitions. One evening, she was with a friend at a nightclub and saw a handsome young m This nonfiction story of murder, prostitution, the socialite world of Dallas, Texas, and family ties is a very complicated story and written by one of the best journalists that Texas had in the 1970s. Davis "Ash" Robinson and his wife had one child (whether adopted or by surrogate is unknown) named Joan, and Ash doted on her. She was well known in the high class equestrian world of Texas and won many, many competitions. One evening, she was with a friend at a nightclub and saw a handsome young man who just happened to be studying for his license in plastic surgery. His name was John Hill. Joan told her friend she wanted to be introduced, but her friend had misgivings, as she thought the pair was a complete mismatch. And they were. John loved classical music more than anything, so much so that he had a music conservatory added to their home which cost upwards of $750,000 - and he had no interests in horses whatsoever. As a result, the couple, although they had one child, Robert, rarely spent any time together at all. I suppose it was inevitable that John started having a serious affair with another woman, and he planned to marry her. Joan would not give him a divorce, and she and her father drew up a contract which John signed, saying that the affair would be ended, and all would return to 'normal'. Of course, it did not. In fact, during the coming months, Joan started having gastric pain and weakness, and other health problems. It seemed to me as if John was poisoning her, because he was bringing home pastries for himself, Joan and two of her female house guests, and John was adamant about who was to eat each one. As a result, Joan ended up in the hospital, and the doctors not knowing what was wrong with her, were at a loss as to how to treat her. She died, and John had the funeral home pick her body up before an autopsy could be done. In fact, the body had to be exhumed before an autopsy was performed, and the results of that were inconclusive. Ash swore up and down that John had killed his daughter; and not long after she died, he married his mistress. Soon that relationship went sour also, and John Hill ended up marrying for a third time. John also had custody of Robert which upset Ash (the land and oil tycoon) to no end. John and his third wife, Connie, seemed to get along fine, but one evening a masked gunman broke into their home and the ensuing scuffle between John and the intruder left John dead. John had gone to trial for the murder of Joan, but it was a hung jury, and the next trial was not to be set for some time. With John dead now, law enforcement started looking into family relationships and heard rumors that Ash had put a contract out on John's life. All of the events which happened from this point on, are not only complicated, they are fascinating in their detail. Thompson did a great job in portraying each one of the characters involved in this whole mess; there was another trial set for a friend of Ash's, Lilla Paulus, who knew Joan; her daughter Mary and Joan had been good friends at one time. Apparently, Lilla was married to a bookie and owner of four houses of prostitution in Galveston, and Lilla herself had worked as a prostitute, and even forced Mary to sell her body starting at the age of four. As a result, the mother and daughter hated each other, and Lilla threatened to kill her and her husband more than once. Lilla appeared like a dowdy grandmother, stating she was dying of cervical cancer. This story is just almost unbelievable in its ugliness and its portrayal of endless greed on several peoples' part. I was hooked from the beginning. Since the book was written in 1976 and won the Edgar Prize, I am surprised that I had never read it, but anyone looking for a nasty, sometimes humorous, and always fascinating true crime story will enjoy this story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Clem

    When Steven Spielberg signed up to direct the movie Jaws, he read the novel as part of his preparation. He then came away with an astute observation. The book, he stated, made the majority of the characters so unlikable, that you ended up rooting for the shark. I felt that way a bit after reading this gruesome, sad, true-story. I had a very hard time liking any of the characters. The center of this true story is Ash Robinson. Ash is an ambitious, wealthy oil man who finds his niche in the city of When Steven Spielberg signed up to direct the movie Jaws, he read the novel as part of his preparation. He then came away with an astute observation. The book, he stated, made the majority of the characters so unlikable, that you ended up rooting for the shark. I felt that way a bit after reading this gruesome, sad, true-story. I had a very hard time liking any of the characters. The center of this true story is Ash Robinson. Ash is an ambitious, wealthy oil man who finds his niche in the city of Houston, Texas during the oil boom of the 1930s and 1940s. This is a man who does not suffer fools gladly, and you get the impression that he would step on his mother’s neck if he could make a quick buck doing so. Ash and his wife can’t have children, so around this time, they adopt a (some say Ash’s illegitimate) baby girl. The little girl’s name is Joan. Ash becomes mightily smitten, and spoils her mightily. Living in the uppity River Oaks subdivision (where the richest of the rich live in Houston), Joan, not surprisingly becomes a bit of a spoiled brat. With her rich Daddy doting all over her, she’s soon becomes an expert at horse riding and quickly amasses a room full of trophies and ribbons as she grows into adulthood. After one competition, Joan and Ash are repulsed that she only wins second place, and she throws her ribbon in disgust at a hotel porter. In addition to being very rich, she’s also quite attractive, so she finds herself being courted by a bunch of young rich men that are drawn to her despite her filthy mouth and chain smoking tendencies. Her first two marriages quickly fail, yet one gets the impression this is because wealthy Ash doesn’t want to share his trophy daughter with other men, and interferes quite heavily. Such is the life of the rich and famous. And then she meets John Hill. John is a young up and coming plastic surgeon. Living the life of the rich and famous is just what such an ambitious young man needs to further his career. Soon Joan and John are married. At this point, Joan now becomes a victim with John taking center stage as a bizarre, off-the-wall manipulator. The marriage falters after a few years. Almost overnight, Joan goes from being slightly sick to becoming deathly ill. By the time Joan is taken to the hospital, she’s dead. For obvious reasons, Ash is convinced that his monster son-in-law killed his beloved girl, and a man with this much power and clout will stop at nothing to bring about a murder conviction. At this point in the narrative, the story has the appeal of a Peyton Place drama, but once the detective work and murder trials begin, the book does get a bit bogged down with too many details. Despite much of the evidence, John is never convicted of killing his wife. His new wife, Anne, is a bit of a weird-duck, and seems almost as unstable as the rest of these bananas. Anne and John’s marriage goes off the rails as well, and she testifies that John told her that he actually did kill Joan. Hearsay and proof are two different things, however. So then John moves onto wife #3. Things finally seem to be going well, until they come home from a vacation and find an intruder in their house who shoots and kills John. A random act of violence? Or a ticked-off wealthy father-in-law hiring an assassin to get revenge? Here’s where the narrative again changes. Now, the focus on the book is finding John’s killer who managed to escape the scene of the crime. As the case progresses, we find ourselves no longer within the sheltered wealthy community of River Oaks, and instead, immersed in a world of prostitutes, pimps, runaways, and drug addicts. Good detective work finds the people who actually pulled the trigger, but then they (and we) want to know ‘why’. In other words, “Was Ash Robinson behind this?” So we then proceed to a long, lengthy trial where the author seems to relive every single detail of the trial and the alleged connection. Again, the story is good, but it almost feels like we’ve moved on from Peyton Place to a rerun of Law and Order. I felt this was a very satisfying read, albeit a tragic one. I was reminded again how having gobs of money can never make anyone truly happy. Even without the murders and deaths, you’re left to believe that the people, had they lived, would have had a very shallow existence. This book was the rage in Houston when it was released in 1976 (about 7 or 8 years after the incidents occurred), and it might not have the same appeal now that it’s been 40 years later, but it’s still a very good, yet sad read. NOTE: John Hill’s second wife Anne actually wrote an account about John and Joan several years after this book was released. The book was much more cookie-cutter, but I read it as a 15-year-old for a High School Civics class, and I found it very good as well. That book was called “Prescription Murder” and is since out of print, but one might find it with some digging. Unlike this book that tends to paint Anne as loopy as a loon, you definitely don’t feel that way about her after reading her own account. Strangely, she seems to hint that John, being a plastic surgeon, faked his death, received extensive cosmetic surgery, and ended up moving to Mexico incognito. There was even a television mini-series based on the book called “Murder in Texas” starring Andy Griffith and Farrah Fawcett.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This is a true life story of murder, money, and obsession. Joan Robinson was the beloved adopted daughter of oilman Ash Robinson and his wife Rhea. Joan was the apple of Ash's eye -- pampered in a way that seems conceivable only in the oil-rich boom days of 1930's Houston. She became a front page item -- known for her equestrian skill and over-the-top socialite lifestyle. She quickly ran through two marriages, ultimately settling down with plastic surgeon John Hill. She died at age 38 under questi This is a true life story of murder, money, and obsession. Joan Robinson was the beloved adopted daughter of oilman Ash Robinson and his wife Rhea. Joan was the apple of Ash's eye -- pampered in a way that seems conceivable only in the oil-rich boom days of 1930's Houston. She became a front page item -- known for her equestrian skill and over-the-top socialite lifestyle. She quickly ran through two marriages, ultimately settling down with plastic surgeon John Hill. She died at age 38 under questionable circumstances, leaving her distraught father, Ash to obsess over her death. His wrath was focused squarely on husband #3, John Hill. Hill is the next to die -- murdered, also under questionable circumstances. The narrative is divided into three parts: Joan's life and death, John's life and death, and the ensuing investigations and trials. The story is bizarre, leading one to muse that sometimes you can't make this shit up. This book won the prestigious Edgar Award and is often mentioned in the same breath as Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". It's an interesting story -- a well written narrative that expertly frames the event in time and place.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Camden Hoeffner

    In depth That is probably a blessing and a curse. This is probably one of the most in depth true crime stories I have ever read. In today's day and age, I could definitely see it as a podcast coming out in weekly snippets of tantalizing info of the father who was obsessed with his daughter. As it is, the book is almost cumbersomely long. I found myself forcing myself to keep going at times. It is thorough, for sure, but I wonder if the thorough-ness was entirely necessary. Either way, great story In depth That is probably a blessing and a curse. This is probably one of the most in depth true crime stories I have ever read. In today's day and age, I could definitely see it as a podcast coming out in weekly snippets of tantalizing info of the father who was obsessed with his daughter. As it is, the book is almost cumbersomely long. I found myself forcing myself to keep going at times. It is thorough, for sure, but I wonder if the thorough-ness was entirely necessary. Either way, great story and one I was not familiar with even though I am from Texas!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Cull

    I read this as a teenager since I live in Houston where the story takes place. I read it again for a book club where the month of October was "local stories". I forgot how long and drawn out the book was. It's a tragic story. In the book club, some feel that the author writes the story to make you think that her husband was guilty and that Ash is guilty of having John killed. Only Lila is jailed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    The story was very interesting with a lot of twists and crazy turns. The book dragged a little bit and I found the author to drone on about details that didn’t matter to the story. He probably could have told the same story in a lot less pages.

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