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A Death in White Bear Lake

A Death in White Bear Lake

The True Chronicle of an All-American Town

On Palm Sunday, 1965, a little boy died of peritonitis in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He was three and a half years old, and his name was Dennis Jurgens. Barry Siegel's extraordinary book is the true story of Dennis, his adoptive parents, Lois and Harold Jurgens, his natural mother, Jerry Sherwood, and the many others in the town of White Bear Lake and elsewhere whose lives were touched by them.

It is also much more than that. Here is a vivid portrait of a community deep in the American heartland that won an "All-America City" award in 1965, within days of Dennis's death: its storekeepers and craftsmen, its schoolteachers, housewives, and civic boosters, gathering cheerfully to celebrate birthdays and holidays and the pleasures of the woods and lake-picnicking in summer, sledding, skating, and ice fishing in winter. Here is the picture of a time we remember as full of innocent beliefs, bright hopes, and boundless possibilities. Here, above all, is a book about how decent, normal people—people like us—acted, or failed to act, at a critical moment in their lives. Here are people who have never stopped wondering what they could or should have done to save a little boy's life.

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Praise

"A masterfully depicted true-crime tale...This perceptive analysis of the case by a Los Angeles Times reporter is stirring."
   —Publisher's Weekly

"Fascinating, exhaustively documented... a work of compelling narrative force and enduring value."
   —Andrew Vachss, The New York Times Book Review

"A distinguished entry in the annals of crime documentary."
   —The Washington Post

"Fascinating reading."
   —Detroit Free Press

"One of the most startling nonfiction books of the year."
   —Digby Diehl, Playboy

"A modern horror story in which the monster wears a mask—the mask of normalcy."
   —The New York Times Book Review

"An exhaustive account... This documentary is far more terrible than the fiction of Stephen King. It is chilling in its exactness and precise in its details."
   —Star News, Pasadena, California

"Siegel doesn't spare the reader. He goes into ugly, horrible detail, thus even emphatically indicting a society that looks the other way."
   —Kirkus Reviews

"Engrossing."
   —The Union Leader, Manchester, New Hampshire

"Siegel tells the tragic saga of Dennis Jurgens in painstaking detail without sparing any of the pain. If ever anyone needs to be convinced that child abuse cuts across sociological lines, this is the book to read."
   —The San Diego Union

"To read it is to stare steadily through the windowpane at the vicious underside of middle-class respectability."
   —Omaha Metro Update

"[Siegel] tells a great deal about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances."
   —The Boston Herald

"Telling detail...and crack research...[fill] Barry Siegel's book. But those are not the only authorial virtues displayed. There's the book's very structure, which keeps the revelations coming, one right after the next. Then too there's its restraint. Siegel lets the players damn themselves as they reminisce about the case... And Siegel manages, despite the widespread national publicity the case received, to keep suspense high."
   —The Washington Post Book World

"This is a haunting story about ordinary people caught in a web that allows a terrible act to go unpunished for two decades. Barry Siegel is one of the finest reporters we have. He does not stop where others do; he keeps probing deeper and deeper until he strikes gold—that place where we come face-to-face with ourselves."
   —Sara Davidson, Author of Cowboy

"Remarkable...Engrossing...[Siegel] gives you just enough at each turn to keep you reading, but not so much that you stall in this immensely shocking material... The court drama is gripping and its conclusion just right."
   —Minneapolis Star-Tribune


Bantam, Hardcover, June 1990, ISBN: 978-0553057904
Ballantine Books, Paperback, November 2000, ISBN: 978-0345487179