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I recently stumbled upon a book in the Southwest section at Mesa Public Library. I’m always in search of good things (or at least semi-interesting things) to read and the title caught my eye: “Journal of the Dead: A Story of Friendship and Murder in New Mexico.” Intrigued, I pulled the book from the shelf and read the summary on the cover.
Not only is it a true story, but it also took place in the southern part of New Mexico. That was enough to make me want to check it out. The book is written by Jason Kersten, a writer for Maxim magazine. It tells the tale of two friends, Raffi Kodikian and David Coughlin, who embark on a cross-country adventure from Massachusetts to California, where Coughlin plans to move. In hopes of having one last hurrah, the duo set out to make memories, since they likely will not see each other much after the trip.
I don’t want to give too much away, but it all takes a wrong turn when they stop in New Mexico and decide to camp out for the night in Carlsbad’s Rattlesnake Canyon. They get lost, run short on water and cannot find their way back to the car. A few days later, help finally does arrive, but it’s too late. By that time, Kodikian has stabbed Coughlin in the heart, twice, killing him.
Kodikian then admits to police that he killed his friend and calls it a mercy killing, saying that Coughlin was in too much pain and begged Kodikian to kill him. He also said the duo made a suicide pact, but could not follow through with it.
The evidence at the scene suggests that the incident unfolded differently, and despite autopsy results and experts’ conclusions about how long Coughlin could have survived, Kodikian practically gets off scot-free. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison, but only served 15 because of good behavior.
The book is intense and thought provoking. Just when one begins to feel sorry for Kodikian, evidence is revealed that makes you wonder if there was a sinister side to this seemingly all-American boy-next-door type. The only person that can set the record straight is dead.
If you’re looking for a good, fast read, check out this book.