Zenith Man
February 24, 2024

Book Review

Zenith Man

reviewed by Carolyn Scott


In 1997, when Alvin Ridley was accused of murdering his wife Virginia, the author McCracken Posten, had just recently lost his bid for US congress and was trying to rebuild his law practice in his small Georgian hometown of Ringgold.

Alvin was an reclusive outcast in their small town, reviled for his eccentricity, paranoia and litigious nature. People didn’t understand his literal ways of answering questions and interpreting information given to him. No one in town, including Posten, had even known that Alvin was married and rumors soon spread that Alvin had been keeping his wife a prisoner in his house.

Known locally as the Zenith man owing to his previous job as a seller and excellent repairer of Zenith TVs. Alvin lived in the house that belonged to his parents, now in a dilapidated state owing to the lack of upkeep. He still owned his TV shop and at one time had lived above it, but had also allowed it to run into disrepair since he lost his Zenith franchise following a legal dispute that obsessed him for the rest of his life.

Alvin would prove to be a very challenging defendant to work with and Posten had his work cut out trying to collect evidence for the trial. It would be a year before Alvin even let him into his house to see the room where Virginia died and where Posten would discover a treasure-trove of evidence about the person Virginia was. Alvin told the police she died during the night from an epileptic seizure, something she had a long history of, and he had tried unsuccessfully to revive her before leaving the house to find a phone to call for help. However, his unusual behavior at the time and the fact that no one knew he had a wife caused suspicion and the DA’s office proceeded with a murder trial.

Posten writes a captivating and often humorous account of the courtroom drama of Alvin’s trial. He must have had all the patience in the world to deal with such a difficult and frustrating client, one he struggled just to get into court each day, along with his suitcase of cockroach infested evidence.  As well as being a captivating read, this is a heartbreaking depiction of a man poorly tolerated in his home town at a time when people had little understanding of neurodiversity. However, it was heartening to see people eventually warming to him and developing more compassion for he and his wife as the trial progressed. What really shines through is how Posten doggedly believed in Alvin’s innocence and love for his wife and how deeply he cared about clearing his name. As the saying goes truth is often stranger than fiction and this blend of true crime, courtroom drama and great story telling will appeal to most readers of good mysteries and suspense.

With thanks to Kensington Books via Netgalley for a copy to read. 

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