Book Review: Furious Hours

05.07.2019 | Knopf
Rating: 4/5 stars


Years after Harper Lee penned her novel, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, she found herself entranced by the true crime case of an Alabama serial killer. Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher, who was accused of murdering five of his family members in order to collect insurance money on them in the 1970s. With the aid of a savvy lawyer, Maxwell was able to escape justice for his crimes until a relative took matters into their own hands. Maxwell was shot and killed at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murder was acquitted with the assistance of the same lawyer who fought for Maxwell. Harper Lee sat in the courtroom where this killer was set free. She would go on to spend years attempting to bring to life this complicated case in print, but never managing to accomplish this goal. Casey Cep has brought Lee’s vision to life.

FURIOUS HOURS is equal parts true crime and biography, diving into the case of Reverend Willie Maxwell and Harper Lee’s life. I absolutely enjoyed how these two stories manage to stand alone, but when linked together become a work of nonfiction delight!


The first section of FURIOUS HOURS focuses on Reverend Willie Maxwell and his murderous schemes to collect life insurance on his relatives. Cep not only taught me about Maxwell, but also educated me on a variety of other relevant nonfiction topics. I loved the entire explanation about how life insurance came to be. The explanation of 1970s Alabama also truly helped to set the stage of this story and bring it to life. Cep clearly did her research and it showed in how seamless the investigation in Maxwell felt.

The rest of the book focuses on Harper Lee’s life, which I had no idea would play such a large role in this book. I loved getting to know about the author who wrote one of my favorite childhood books. Lee’s life was nothing short of interesting to read about, ranging from her family, personal experiences, her work with Truman Capote, and her struggles to recreate the success of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. 

FURIOUS HOURS went above and beyond my love for true crime and expanded into biography territory to create a fantastic read!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

A huge thank you to Casey Cep for gifting me a copy of her book!

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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