Book Review: Anatomy of a false confession: The interrogation and conviction of Brendan Dassey

AuthorLee E. Ayers-Preboski
Published date01 June 2023
Date01 June 2023
Subject MatterBook Reviews
wind up bringing metal to the recycling centers that buy used metal. These places allowed Stickle to
f‌ind his subjects. Some people refused to talk but others were more forthcoming, and his book con-
tains brief prof‌iles of some of the people he interviewed as well as color photographs that illustrate
various aspects of his topic.
In short, this books contribution is substantive. It is the f‌irst ethnography to explore metal thieves
and their crimes. It originated as a dissertation project, and the book bears a strong resemblance to the
dissertation. This is a ref‌lection of a trend in publishing, whereby publishers offer junior scholars
opportunities to publish their revised dissertations as books early in their careers. Typically, these
manuscripts receive minimal editorial attention; often the author is responsible for formatting the
manusript according to a set of standards that make it easy to typeset. In general, copies are
priced around US$100 and printed individually when they are ordered, with the expectation that
they will be sold primarily to libraries.
What tends to get lost in this process is scholarly publishings traditional emphasis on theoretical
contributions. It is all very well to write about a substantive topic that has been neglectedto write
the f‌irst book on a topic. But readers have the right to ask So what?to ask what the book adds to our
understanding beyond the conf‌ines of the books topic. And so, we might ask how knowing about the
lives of scrappers and metal thieves increases our larger understanding of criminology: How are the
substantive f‌indings related to bigger issues?
One possible answer would be to locate metal theft within the literature on property crime. While
Sickle refers to a few familiar concepts (Matza on drift, Sykes and Matza on techniques of neutral-
ization), there are many other conceptual roads not taken, such as more systematically examining
metal thefts social organization, or comparing it to other forms of deviant work. A second approach
might consider scrapping and metal theft as a very literal instances of what Hughes called dirty work
ways of disposing of refuse. At the lower end of the scrapping hierarchy, Stickle f‌inds people who
have very little, trying to make something from what no one else wants. In India, this is work per-
formed by Dalits; here, untouchability may lack a theological rationale, but the management of waste
is an issue that all societies prefer not to face. A third issue, which Stickle does say a bit about, is the
role of the recycling industry in supporting metal theft by turning a blind eye to nature of the mate-
rials they buy.
In other words, this book delivers some interesting information, but the reader winds up wishing
that the topic had been explored a bit further.
Joel Best
Cicchini, M. (2018). Anatomy of a false confession: The interrogation and conviction of Brendan Dassey. Lanham, MD:
Rowman & Littlef‌ield Publishing Group, 238 pp. $32.00. ISBN: 978-1-5381-1715-6.
Reviewed by: Lee E. Ayers-Preboski ,Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016819871993
Author Michael D. Cicchini is a practicing defense attorney in Wisconsin. Cicchini takes
the reader through the process of a true crime framework and what is also the basis for the
Netf‌lix documentary Making of a Murder. The shortfalls of the American Criminal Justice
System are blasted. The book, broken into seven parts, starts with a disclaimer independent
and unauthorized exploration of the legal, evidentiary, and ethical issues in the court cases of
Book Reviews 263

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