Book review: 'Finding Chandra,' by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz

(Screen Grab From Levy Family Home Movies)
Sunday, May 16, 2010


A True Washington

Murder Mystery

By Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz

Scribner. 287 pp. $26

The frenzy over the 2001 disappearance of Chandra Levy cooled twice, first because of the Sept. 11 attacks, then because attention was diverted to the sniper murders throughout the Washington region. Police never arrested prime suspect Gary Condit, the congressman with whom Levy had been having an affair, and the case went cold.

But in 2007, editors at The Washington Post decided to revisit the case because they "wondered why the murder had never been solved, whether the homicide investigation had been mishandled, and if anyone would ever stand trial for the crime." They assigned the story to reporters Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz. Even if Horwitz and Higham were to fail to solve the case, their editors believed that at minimum, a reinvestigation would produce a law enforcement procedural that would both grip and educate readers.

They were right on both counts. "Finding Chandra," an expanded version of a series that ran in the paper in 2008, is a well-reported, well-written chronicle of a botched criminal investigation and its disturbing aftermath.

And Higham and Horwitz do seem to have solved the case. About a year after Levy disappeared, a hiker in Rock Creek Park spotted her remains. That portion of the park had been the site of previous violent assaults by Ingmar Adalid Guandique, an El Salvadoran immigrant who eventually went to prison for two of the attacks. Some police officials and prosecutors believed Guandique also assaulted and killed Levy. Those in charge of the investigation continued to focus on Condit. The case is still not closed, but Higham and Horwitz strongly suggest that Guandique killed Levy.

-- Steve Weinberg

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