The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

In the afternoon or early evening of June 25, 1980, two young women, Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero, were killed in an isolated clearing in rural Pocahontas County West Virginia. They were hitchhiking to an outdoor peace festival known as the Rainbow Gathering, but never arrived. Their killings have been called “The Rainbow Murders.”

For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted, though suspicion was cast on a succession of local men. In 1993, the state of West Virginia convicted a local farmer named Jacob Beard and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Later, it emerged that a convicted serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin had also confessed. With the passage of time, as the truth behind the Rainbow killings seemed to slip away, its toll on this Appalachian community became more concrete—the unsolved murders were a trauma, experienced on a community scale.

Emma Copley Eisenberg spent five years re-investigating these brutal acts, which once captured the national media’s imagination, only to fall into obscurity. A one-time New Yorker who came to live in Pocahontas Country, Eisenberg shows how that crime, a mysterious act of violence against a pair of middle-class outsiders, came to loom over several generations of struggling Appalachians, many of them
laborers who earned a living farming, hauling timber, cutting locust posts, or baling hay—and the investigators and lawyers for whom the case became a white whale.

Part “Serial”-like investigation, part Joan Didion-like meditation, the book follows the threads of this crime through the history of West Virginia, the Back-to-the-Land movement, and the complex reality contemporary Appalachia, forming a searing portrait of America and its divisions of gender and class, and its violence.

Title:The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780316449236
Format Type:

    The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia Reviews

  • Lori

    First and foremost, this book does not belong in the true crime genre. Lately I've seen publishers publicizing and categorizing their books in the most puzzling ways and this one takes the prize. To c...

  • Valerity (Val)

    This unusual blend of true crime and memoir is rather quirky and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. There are places it felt a bit sideswiped to me, then I’d go back to enjoying it once again...

  • Sandy

    Thank you @Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.**It pains me to say this but this is the first book I DNF in a very, very long time. Shortly after starting...

  • Jessica Jeffers

    I don't read a lot of true crime but I picked this up because I spent many summers in Pocahontas County when I was a teenager and my father moved to Hillsboro upon retiring in 2005. It's a place that ...

  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    2.5 starsIn the summer of 1980, an outdoor peace festival called the Rainbow Gathering was held in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero hitched a ride across the country ...

  • Cindy H.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Hachatte Books for providing me with an ARC of the true crime story - The Third Rainbow Girl. In exchange I offer my unbiased review. Emma Copley Eisenberg was quite ambitio...

  • Matt Jones

    I think what I enjoyed most about this book is that it seems to subvert, or in some way, complicate the true crime genre. Referring to The Third Rainbow Girl as true crime feels like too narrow of a d...

  • Jill

    2 starsTruly the strangest true crime book I have ever read. The author takes the reader on a long,rambling and at times bizarre trail of words. This book could have easily been cut in half. I wanted ...

  • Mallory (onmalsshelf) Bartel

    2 stars. Thank you NetGalley, Hachette Books, and Libro.fm for the Galley and ALC in exchange for an honest review. Note: The author identifies as queer and I am not sure of their correct pronouns, so...

  • Angela

    This book I didn’t like. I wanted to like it, but it was everywhere. First, the murders would be talked about, then the author would talk about herself, then it would go back in the past, then the f...