By DREW GALLAGHER FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
I never understood the appeal of real crime shows or books. My discomfort in stories (and it’s a discomfort rather than a disgust) even influences how I listen to songs or watch shows that have tangential connections. For example, I find it hard to listen to some Beatles White Album songs because of the way Charles Manson bastardized them to justify himself to his followers. Conversely, I love the end scene of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…”, despite the gratuitous violence, because in Tarantino’s story, Sharon Tate comes to life.
So “Catch the Sparrow” was not a book I would normally open, and it was probably due to a bait and a change in publisher that it caught my attention. The book is marketed as a woman’s search for her sister’s killer. It’s a compelling premise and possibly true in the literal sense, but author Rachel Rear never knew her half-sister. When Rear’s mother married Stephanie Kupchynsky’s father, Stephanie had been missing for years and the author never met her. This does not, however, minimize the persuasive effect of Rear’s book.
Stephanie was a dynamic music teacher in her twenties, apparently on the verge of marriage, when she disappeared. Her father and the small community outside of Rochester, NY were devastated and shocked by her disappearance. Police had little evidence or suspects at a time when DNA testing or databases were not readily available. The investigation languished and froze until years later, when two boys discovered bones in a stream at the edge of a farmer’s property. Stephanie was dead, but how she was killed remained a mystery.