Cover Image: Catch the Sparrow

Catch the Sparrow

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Member Reviews

"Catch the Sparrow" is a beautifully written true crime investigation of the murder of the author's stepsister, Stephanie. Author Rachel Rear, whose mother married the widowed father of Stephanie, dives both into her family history as well as the history of Stephanie, policing in the upstate New York area, and violence against women broadly. What's fascinating is that while the book is true crime, it has a lyrical quality--singing like the sparrow in the title, one might say. The book closely connects the story of the author with her "ghost sister," in her words, but it could be an ode to all women who face the same issues. 


Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for an unbiased review.
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I will be haunted by Catch the Sparrow, for the rest of my life. 

This is an insane true crime about a woman on a path to find out what happened to her step-sister, Stephanie. How far would you go to seek justice for a loved one? I know I would search until the end of time until I had the answers I was looking for. Having a sister, I really connected with this novel. 

There were soooo many potential suspects that I believed each one could have been involved. I was so invested in this story that I found myself googling Stephanie's case after almost every chapter! 

Five Stars!
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Rachel had grown up in a household where there were secrets. Her mother had married her stepfather after his daughter Stephanie had gone missing.
Rachel made it her business to try and relive Stephanie's life to find out exactly what happened. She had never met or known Stephanie and although it was decades later, Rachel wanted to investigate it herself.
I did not find this book to my liking, but did read it to the end.
I do thank the author, publisher and Netgalley for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Overall, this was a decent book. The story was interesting.
I think it just dragged at the end. There needed to be a bit more brevity when it came to getting the confession from Laraby. Far too many details were included that I just don't think were needed.
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A gripping and unique recounting of a murder, told from the perspective of the victim's stepsister who never met her. Part true crime, part memoir, part meditation on a dysfunctional American justice system, it is a gripping account of a murder left unsolved for nearly two decades. Highly recommend.
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Catch the Sparrow: A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder, by Rachel Rear, is the type of true crime book that focuses more on the victim and those affected by her murder (of which the author is one) than on the murder itself. Even the part where we revisit the police investigation we do so as much through the eyes of those who knew her as through some cold detailed recounting of the police reports.

I realize some people read true crime mostly for the sensationalism many such books use in their presentation. Admittedly there are some that I read for that reason, though they are often the ones that I enjoy the least. But to address some horrible misstatements I've seen, I want to say a few things. First, when someone has been around a close family member of a murder victim and has had people often say you resemble that person, you have far more than a peripheral interest, especially when that victim's father becomes your stepfather. Second, the book, from the subtitle through every book description I have seen makes clear that this is as much about Rear coming to terms with feelings she admits to not fully understanding as it is about the murder and investigation. So the author is not "inserting" herself into either the story or the investigation. Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing. Finally, Rear never even implies that she is solving the crime, she knows, and lets the reader know, that it has been solved. She is investigating so that she can learn the facts of the case, as well as people's views and feelings, most of which had not been made public. Every single true crime writer, hell, every single writer of both fiction and nonfiction investigate what they are writing about before writing. This is not something strange or unusual. Some people seem to just have a negative reaction to a book about human feelings, says more about them than the book. Anyway, back to the book...

In the broad genre of true crime I have always found myself wishing for something more or different. Some books have every detail and are interesting in that sense but I don't sense any real narrative or any real humanity. These are interesting but not engrossing reads for me. There are ones that read like a novel but often forget to include some facts that help the reader to understand what happened and why. These are usually great reads but leave me with gaping holes in my understanding of the details of the case. Then there are ones that keep the narrative going while making sure to include the details that are essential to understanding the crime, and usually the investigation, itself. These usually have the humanity put back into the victim and, most of the time, some humanity put into the murderer as well. Most of Ann Rule's books fall, I think, in this category. These are both good reads and satisfying as far as understanding the crime. Rear's book falls into this last category. She brings all of the information from the investigation into the flow of the narrative(s). Being a stepsister not only brings the personal aspect in but gives her access to people and opinions an investigative journalist might not have had. Admirably she also gives some attention to understanding how the murderer became the person he did. And understanding the town, with all of its dysfunction, is important in understanding why the timeline dragged on for so long.

I mentioned multiple narratives above, so let me explain. Rear is taking us through her investigation with her rather than simply telling us what she learned. I enjoyed this aspect because it let me see how this was affecting her life and how Stephanie's friends and relatives were dealing with their grief well after the fact. Then there is the narrative of Stephanie's life, of which the murder is but part. I like this approach because it didn't just make her more real but showed that while the murder is what many who didn't know her think of it is her life in its entirety that is both important and remembered by those who knew and loved her, flaws and all.

I would recommend this to any reader of true crime, no matter what type you prefer. By virtue of there being a murder there is some sensationalism involved, so those who like that will find some of it here, though not overblown or the main feature. The human element runs throughout the book, from the victim and the murderer to friends and family of each. The narrative(s) make the book read very well and the details of the investigation, both immediately and after it became a cold case, are weaved into the story nicely.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Rachel grew up in the same town as a woman who disappeared.  The woman's father was a teacher at the school that Rachel attended and later in life, he married Rachel's mom.  

After many people compared them by looks, years after Stephanie disappeared, Rachel set out to find out who murdered her step sister, whom she had never met.

Catch the Sparrow has many suspects and I kept wondering if we would ever know who killed Stephanie.  We knew that she had died as the book begins with young boys finding her body.

In the end, we do find out Stephanie's story, which had been solved by the police.

Catching the Sparrow is definitely not the kind of book that I typically read, but it captured my interest.  I have to say "get a dead bolt" is stuck in my mind, and I will be making sure that my children's homes have them.
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I need to preface this by saying choosing adjectives for true crime books is a difficult and delicate process. It's like reviewing 9/11 things; it feels weird saying they're 'good', or 'enjoyable', because though I have a vested interest in true crime, it's still a rough, dark, heavy thing. 

That said, I thoroughly appreciated the gargantuan amount of research executed by the author. It shows, as does the care and love. For me, it came off as mostly unbiased, mostly neutral. I try to go into true crime blind and that was the case here - I had never previously heard of Stephanie nor those involved and/or suspected in her case. For that, the author does an excellent job at laying out every minute detail available and doesn't reveal the outcome until the very end. The book is very well written with a constant, easy flow. There are harrowing, brutal moments that I felt were handled sufficiently.

If you're a true crime buff, I recommend this read. Rear took exceptional diligence sharing her step-sister's story, bringing awareness of more than just Stephanie's murder.  

Superficial things; I liked the title before, but I love it after finishing. I think the cover is clever (and I like the chosen font).
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This was a well-written and very personal true crime read about the cold case of a missing young woman, the author’s step-sister. I easily became invested in this tragic story, as the writer navigated a background of sadness, family dysfunction and vulnerability. She beautifully communicated the complexities and struggles of a young woman trying to find her way in the world, only for it to be brought to a brutal end. She emboldened Stephanie’s resilient and vivacious character, through the people that loved her, bringing her to life and telling her story. A thoughtful, emotional, and worthy read.
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*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review*

This book was extremely fascinating to me. If I were the author I feel as though I'd be extremely interested in what happened to my step sister as well, and Rachel's journey to not only get every fact she can about the case but solve the mystery of who her sister really was was very interesting. So many people involved and interviewed that have nothing to do with the case but everything to do with who Stephanie was, and I really appreciate the dedication that went into this not just being another true crime novel where the victim is secondary to the mystery. I also appreciated that pictures were added in where they fit in the story and not just gathered at the end, because it made it easier to picture what Rachel was describing (or to see what she was describing in some cases). This is a pretty good read for fans of true crime.
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Five stars for the most comprehensive investigation on a true crime murder story. It was one I won’t soon forget. Rachel Rear investigates her stepsister’s murder from many years ago. She had never met Stephanie but from an impressive amount of interviews with everyone that knew Stephanie the reader will finish this book feeling like they knew and lost an old friend. 
    The crime was committed and solved over 25 years ago but the author really delves in with research and interviews. The murderer is unmasked mid story and the hows and whys will make it feel like an episode of “ Making a Murderer”. A fascinating reveal of a criminal mind, it was hard to read at times and it took me a month to get through. 
    The descriptions were so detailed and the book very well written. I finished the story feeling like I knew Stephanie. There is a lot of background information. I finished the book feeling like I knew the victim, her murderer,and many family members . It is a story that will be on my mind for a long time   Truly impressive investigative journalism.
  Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read for my review.
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This book was long. Well researched but I was disturbed the entire way through the book that the author kept comparing herself / aligning herself with her dead step-sister, because she never knew her when the step-sister was alive. That factor was crept for me. It was as though the author had a need to put herself in her dead step-sisters shoes.
I appreciated the research and the backstory on characters involved. But the author’s continuing to tie herself back to a person she never met was weird.
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This is a crime that should never have happened and one that remained unsolved for nearly 2 decades when the most obvious suspect was in plain sight. I was unaware of the major crime in the Rochester area and the major corruption in nearby policing. An interesting read. 3.5 stars.
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An incredibly unique blend of personal and objective. Rear does a phenomenal job walking through the timeline of her step sisters murder. Each suspect and person involved in the case is laid out with extreme attention to detail and a thorough investigation. 

The amount of factors that tie into how Stephanie's murder went unsolved for so long is sadly not unique. Even so, the journey and historical breakdown of this town and a few others that Stephanie inhabited were extremely interesting. The amount of interviews and people included in the novel really emphasized how one person can impact so many and created a better big picture.

Rear did not shy away from showing the full truth, the good and the bad, of each person revolving around Stephanie and including Stephanie herself and Rear's late stepfather. Rear highlights the true complexity of each person and does justice to the full story of Stephanie's life and death.

While I was fully engrossed in this book from the beginning, there is some extremely ableist sentiment near the end of the book regarding the person who is talked about then which did not sit well and in fact cheapened the integrity of that part of the book for me. If I understood it correctly, it was not even necessarily the opinions of Rear but those of the officers involved in the case but there was some nuance that needed to be added after the fact to balance that. Many other places Rear adds the nuance, this instance was a large hole to miss for me.
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When Rachel Rear's mother married Jerry Kupchynsky, Rachel gained a step-father and a mystery: a missing step-sister whose disappearance would go unsolved for over two decades. Rachel bore a strange resemblance to the step-sister she never met and found herself living in her shadow. As an adult, she set out to learn the true story of what happened to Stephanie Kupchynsky.

This is a dark, heavy story of the many ways broken men hurt women, and it's a story of how police corruption can stand in the way of finding the truth. I see some reviews that criticize Rear's loose connection to Stephanie Kupchynsky and how she inserts herself into the story, but I think it's a smart and honest way to approach this heartbreaking story. She also acknowledges flaws in the true crime genre and writes openly about why she chose to tell this story the way she did.
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The fact that this book is written by the stepsister of the victim who never actually met the victim is interesting. I learned about Stephanie as the author did. I really enjoyed this book and am happy that the perpetrator was found, despite the fact that he was never convicted of the crime since he died.
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This true crime read takes you on a journey.  The author tells the story of the woman who would’ve been her step-sister.  This brings a personal element, yet the author remains focused on the finding the truth and not letting personal stories impact where this story leads.

She tells the honest story of Stephanie.  And like many of us there are many places to look at the time of her disappearance.  With so many possible leads and a police unit that had issues of their own, this case makes you wonder what is next and will this family ever get answers?
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I remember when this murder took place and I lived and still live in the Town of Greece. I thought the book was well written, although sometimes repetitious. The author was on a journey to find the entire truth of her step sister and I don't understand why some reviewers seem to take issue with it. She does a very thorough job and I believe that Stephanie would be very proud of her. The book includes pictures. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publisher for an e-arc in exchange for my honest opinion.
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4 stars
Catch the Sparrow - A Search for a Sister and the Truth of her Murder
by Rachel Rear 
Rachel Rear has written a fascinating book about her stepsisters disappearance and murder, the effect it had on her life and all of those who knew Stephanie Kupchynsky. This is a book about the intricacies of how corruption in a police station and the pure evil of a murderer add to the horrors of a missing woman. 
Rear has managed to make her stepsister, a woman she never actually met, as a multi-faceted woman who deserved so much more from her life. The amount of research Ms.
Rear did into both Stephanie and the killer's life are evident, which in turn makes this a compellingly good read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.
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I love true crime and I dived into this one head first. I shouldn't have dived so quickly.
The premise is that the author had a tenuous "step' sister who disappeared.
The author begins the book with the discovery of Stephanies body in the woods by a creek by 2 young boys.
The next chapter is the author INSERTING herself into the investigation.
The author goes on about how in 2015 she was SERIOUS about finding out what happened to her "step" sister.
I grew weary of the author CONSTANTLY saying how alike her and Stephanie were. Lets be clear, they never met, did NOT know each other and I believe the author projected alot onto Stephanie.
The biggest issue that I have with this book is that the author begins to "investigate" in 2015.
THE MURDER WAS SOLVED IN 2012!
She is looking to cash in on something she is VERY REMOTELY apart of. 

For me, this book fell flat. VERY FLAT!
Too much of the author grandstanding and basically saying that she was instrumental in solving this crime when in fact, it had been solved.

I do not recommend this book for any true crime fan.
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