Portrait of a Monster: Joran van der Sloot, a Murder in Peru, and the Natalee Holloway Mystery

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St. Martin's Press, Jul 5, 2011 - True Crime - 288 pages
7 Reviews

From a pair of New York Times bestselling authors with unparalleled access comes an in-depth account of the manhunt for Joran van der Sloot, one of the most reviled accused criminals in the world

In May 2005, Natalee Holloway disappeared from a high school trip to Aruba. Five years to the day later, twenty-one-year-old Stephany Flores was reported missing in Lima, Peru. Implicated in both crimes was one young man: Joran van der Sloot.

A twenty-three-year-old Dutchman, Van der Sloot has become the subject of intense scrutiny by the media and the public in the years since 2005. He was arrested and detained by Aruban authorities in connection with the Holloway disappearance, only to be released after questioning. In 2008, during a Dutch sting operation, he admitted to being present for Holloway's death---but later recanted his statement.

In 2010, on the five-year anniversary of her disappearance, a young business student in Peru named Stephany Flores disappeared, only to be found dead three days later in a hotel room---registered to Van der Sloot. He was arrested for the murder and confessed, but he later claimed he was coerced.

This is the first book to offer a probing look at the man tied to two of the most sensational cases of the decade. It draws from:

• Interviews with members of the families of Joran, Stephany, and Natalee

• Never-before-seen photographs of the crime scene in Peru, fingerprint files, hotel records, and more

• Internal communications between Interpol, the FBI, Aruban officials, and officials in Chile and Peru

• Never-before-seen police files from Chile, Peru, and Aruba

Portrait of a Monster offers an unflinching look into the workings of an international manhunt and a chilling portrait of an alleged killer.


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Q. What did you think of this book?
A. The authors gathered the facts available to them, and presented them in a back and forth manner, from Aruba in 2005, when Natalee Holloway disappeared, to
Lima, Peru, 2010, when Stefany Flores was found in the perpetrator's hotel room, deceased. But although it was not difficult reading, it was not that interesting.
Q. Why not?
A. There's nothing hidden or unknown. The sequence and outcome are obvious. This is not the fault of the authors, necessarily, since the story of these murders had already been told in the news media. But what was distasteful to me was the way these authors portrayed the family members of the victims, as if they were vilified saints and were simply doing what people are expected to do in such circumstances.
Q. Like doing what?
A. Grieving when they're supposed to, always thinking of their daughters. In the case of Natalee, her parents came to the island of Aruba themselves, separately since they were divorced, and tried to push the investigation as much as they could. In Dave Holloway's case, he attempted some amateur sleuthing by recording his talk with the Van Der Sloot parents. The authors don't delve into the very likely possibility of survivor guilt. These people, I think, felt guilt about losing their daughters, and, in fact, there is a real possibility that they did contribute to their deaths.
Q. How is that possible?
A. I don't know, through brain waves maybe. Why was Natalee out dancing when her friends decided to go home? Why was Stephany hooked on gambling? Do these sound like usual behaviors for young women, especially one with an 8-year scholarship through medical school waiting for her? The family members may not be the little grieving angels the authors made them out to be, but the authors don't dare go beyond their set boundaries: victim and suffering family members = good, perpetrator = bad. Yes, the perpetrator was bad. Joran is the personification of what an individual can become by following Ayn Rand's and Robert Ringer's philosophies. Looking out for #1. But the victims and their families were not all good, but we will never learn about that aspect of the case, not through this book.
Q. Well, these are pretty flimsy criticisms, blaming the victims. But what does it have to do with the book itself?
A. It's biased. The family members of the victims are lauded too much. To be fair, the authors did treat the Van Der Sloot parents well, also, although the cloud over Paulus never went away.
Q. Blaming the victims again are we?
A. I suppose you are right. I had no empathy for the Holloway mother at all. She struck me as a harridan carrying around a lot of guilt about her daughter, maybe going back to her divorce with Natalee's father. What do the authors say: They suddenly found themselves incompatible! Please, try to be a bit more honest. Why did Natalee's parents suddenly decide to divorce? And why did Beth, the mother, and Jug, the stepfather also divorce after all this running around in Aruba. I guess Beth never heard of forgiveness. I think she saw in Joran what she saw in herself. But the authors don't want to go there, but this side of the story should be told, the true story.
Q. So is the book worth reading, or not?
A. Yes, please read it and tell me if you get any of these impressions. I could be one voice only (crying in the wilderness, so to speak).
Q. You're not crying in the wilderness, you're crying in your cups, methinks.

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Section 1
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Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 15
Section 16
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Section 22

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 23
Section 24
Section 25
Section 26

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About the author (2011)

LISA PULITZER is a former correspondent for The New York Times. She is the author of more than a dozen non-fiction books, including the bestselling Stolen Innocence. COLE THOMPSON is the co-author with Catherine Crier of A Deadly Game, a #1 New York Times bestseller about Laci and Scott Peterson.

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