Cover Image: Blood on Their Hands

Blood on Their Hands

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
Interesting and well researched. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries on this case. This book was very well researched and thorough.

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Thank you for allowing me the advanced readers copy of this novel! I found this book very informative about the Murdaughs and all of the mystery, death, and deceit that surrounded them.

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I received an ARC via Netgalley for this book prior to its release 14 November 2023.
I have always found this case fascinating, and was excited to dig into this one. Unfortunately, I found it pretty repetitive and didn't provide additional information outside of the documentaries. If you haven't seen the documentaries, you may find it more compelling than I did!

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This book gives a fresh perspective on the Murdaugh case. It's written by Mandy Matney, journalist and podcaster, who was pursuing this case long before it caught the attention of the national media. At the time she was young and ambitious, hungry for something that was more than just clickbait. With the help of other journalists, she started connecting the dots between the boat accident, the death of Stephen Smith, the death of the housekeeper, the drug use, and ultimately the murders and fake murder attempt of Alex Murdaugh.

This book is also a memoir as it details Mandy's life as a struggling journalist yearning to be taken seriously as a female. She details her relationships with her family, boyfriend/husband, and the people she worked with, as well as the victim's families and friends that she came to know personally.

Parts of it come across as a little self-aggrandizing, however, you can't deny that her work contributed to making people sit up and pay attention to Alex Murdaugh's involvement. A lot of people would would have preferred to ignore that due to political pressure but she was willing to make some noise. Interesting read if you are looking for some of the behind the scenes info on how the Murdaugh case was put together in the press.

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Prior to reading "Blood on Their Hands", I had no idea who Mandy Matney was, had never heard or listened to her popular podcast. However, I had read several books about the Murdaughs and knew a lot of the basics of the case(s).

My first impression was that the author spent a lot of time establishing her credentials, then continuing to expound on them, to the point where I despaired that she would begin focusing on the Murdaughs. However, as I continued to read, I saw how her skill set and her on-the-ground network was able to provide information that the media was not picking up at the time, or was unwilling to report.

But, if you are expecting a "true crime" book, adjust your expectations. There is little discussion of the background of the Murdaughs and their dubious heritage of influencing the entire Low Country court system. There is no framework in which to place the deeds and actions of the Murdaughs. And, frankly, I grew very tired of the author's constant commentary about how her former bosses held her back, how she wasn't appreciated, etc. At the end of day, this book seemed to me to be more an accounting of those perceived wrongs. 3 stars.

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If you’ve never heard of the Murdaughs - run, don’t walk to get this book. Don’t google them, just get the book. Going into this completely blind (yes, I live under a rock) was an incredible decision.

Blood On Their Hands is written by the bada$$ Mandy Matney who lit a fire under authorities using her journalistic superpowers. The story of how she helped to expose crime in an area where it would normally get swept under the rug was incredible.

Since I went into this book with no previous knowledge of the story, I felt like I was immersed in the investigation. So many times I wanted to Google the outcome of the cases but made myself simmer in my sweat to get to the end.

I think the most important part of this book is the portrayal of the victims and their families. Matney’s integrity in protecting her sources is admirable and I found myself grieving injustices alongside these families. After finishing this book and looking up recent developments in the case - seeing the people listed in the book was absolutely surreal.

Check this one out if you enjoy true crime, procedurals, and journalism!

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I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Blood on Their Hands is the story of a journalist, Mandy Matney, and her experiences investigating the 2015 homicide of Stephen Smith, the 2019 boat crash that killed Mallory Beach, the 2021 double-homicide of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, and her discoveries of embezzlement and fraud that put Hampton, South Carolina on the map and made Alex Murdaugh a household name. Like much of America, I've been following this case since 2021, I've consumed a sizeable amount of media related to it, and I was really excited to read this book.

Based on the publisher description, I'd hoped for a true crime read similar to Jerry Bledsoe's Bitter Blood (my personal standard for aligning investigative reporting with popular press); I wanted a saga that intricately interwove the myriad stories and narratives that culminated in confessions and convictions. Matney was well-positioned to deliver this, particularly considering the intensive information she gathered as part of multiple investigations and initially produced on her Murdaugh Murders Podcast. Instead, the focus is Matney - her childhood trauma, workplace challenges, engagement in the online spaces where sexism and bullying thrive, perceived scooping by fellow journalists, and her subsequent mental health issues. Given the focus, this book would be better categorized as memoir rather than true crime, and the publisher description needs to reflect that distinction.

A few more concerns, beside the publisher description:
-- At one point, Matney plagiarizes an episode of The Office while referring to a source's Southern accent. She writes, "The Savannah accent was smooooth, like syrup coming out of your mouth", while The Office describes it as, "A Savannah accent, which is more like molasses just sorta spilling out of your mouth."

-- She also unnecessarily writes dialect to reflect the same source's accent (just once): "Raht is raht an wrong iz wrong." (Right is right and wrong is wrong.) This sort of writing is stereotypical, demeaning, and wrong, especially considering that Matney isn't from the South, and she only uses this dialect to reflect the accents of Southern people.

--Throughout the book, Matney positions herself as the hero of this story, and for a lot of reasons, her investigative reporting - particularly in the early days - was heroic. Matney was the reporter of record for the boat crash in particular, and she was/is an authoritative source on the Stephen Smith case as well. It makes sense that she she wants to prove her expertise on the topic - and many readers will likely be sympathetic. However, Matney self-aggrandizes a great deal; she unwittingly portrays herself as unable to accept any criticism (referring multiple times to "haters" and "trolls"), and she admits to being possessive over the dissemination of new information ("His Satterfield lawsuit should have been news I broke..."). Matney's desire to want to produce truthful and accurate information is laudable; at the same time, I wish she'd spent more time convincing readers of her case knowledge (and thus producing THE authoritative book about the Murdaughs), rather than regularly proclaiming her ownership of the story.

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I received this book in exchange for a honest review from NetGalley.

Having spent most of my life in South Carolina, I have a pretty good idea of what the good ole boy's system looks like. This book is not only an riveting piece about one of the biggest true crime stories to hit South Carolina ever but also a deep look at a system that allows men like Alex Murdaugh to thrive. A system that has allowed the white male upper crust of a society to have overwhelming say over the lives of the people around them and to be treated with a deference that is not earned. I really loved this book and its look at this case from a first hand point of view. Mandy Matney's voice is one of many highlighted throughout this book that is allowing those not born with blue blood in South Carolina to be heard.

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This was more of a personal history than the narrative nonfiction I had expected, which is fine, but the focus was a bit imbalanced. I did appreciate the insight into the process and admire the reporting behind it but the thread felt lost a few times, and the book more focused on perceived slights.

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At first I questioned why I was even reading this book, as I've watched all the documentaries about the Murdaugh case and didn't think there was anything new to learn. However, I really liked the perspective that Mandy offered. I have not listened to the podcast (I'm an audiobook person, not a podcast person) but I appreciated her point of view as the first journalist on the case. I enjoyed the part memoir / part true crime format.

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This book isn't what I was expecting. I was looking forward to the inside scoop on the Murdaugh case but this was more a memoir by the woman who was reporting on the family (before anyone else was). Still enjoyable but if you don't care about the author's catholic guilt or past unhealthy relationships, both are mentioned often, this book isn't for you.

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3.5 stars. I had not heard of the podcast that covers this case nor had I heard of Mandy Matney prior to reading this book. I was intrigued by this story and the history of the family with the financial scandals and prior murders that were somehow circling back to the Murdaugh's This book gave a thorough background of the family but also of Mandy's personal journey telling the story. Parts of this book I had to skim as it seemed repetitive and redundant. The personal experiences with her male colleagues didn't really do anything for the story of the Murdaugh's which is what I thought this was going to be. I didn't realize it was a memoir type book. It was still good, don't get me wrong, but would have been better without the 'woe is me' storyline.

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This was fantastic.

Matney's writing style feels real: you feel her pain, her frustration over the lack of progress in all of the cases she worked, the moment she starts to spiral downwards. But beyond that, her writing makes you feel empathy for the victims in this case: the ones who were collateral in Alex Murdaugh's thirst for greed and because of his ego.

So much of this reminded me of Michelle McNamara's "I'll Be Gone In the Dark" where you're given a rare look at the labor investigative journalists undertake and how much cases like these take their toll on the human psyche.

Thank you to Netgalley and William Morrow for the eGalley!

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A fairly green newspaper reporter learns facts can be stranger than fiction in investigative reporter's Mandy Matney's memoir, "Blood on Their Hands." With its subtitle, "Murder, Corruption, and the Fall of the Murdaugh Dynasty," Matney and coworker Liz Farrell shows you want it took to break the news on the infamous "family annihilator" Alex Murdaugh.

On March 2, 2023, Murdaugh was found guilty of fatally shooting wife Maggie and youngest son Paul on June 7, 2021. But that wasn't the first alleged crime committed by Murdaughs in the Lowcountry. One after another, the Murdaugh men had dominated rural law in South Carolina -- and no one dared to speak out.

Matney first learned of the Murdaugh dynasty when Paul allegedly crashed a boat in February 2019 after a night of drinking. He and five friends were thrown overboard, but only four survived. Thus, began the first of many legal battles for truth and justice surrounding a powerful family with legal ties stretching back generations. "Allegedly" because he was murdered because the case went to trial.

This also began Matney's four-year journey for facts, too. As much as the book is about the Murdaugh family, it's more about the hurdles, sexism and conspiracy. She recounts her move from traditional newspaper like the Island Packet to the digital news world of FITSNews.

With the help of Liz Farrell, a well-known area reporter, they began the hunt for facts through interviews, discoveries and Freedom of Information requests. Within a short while, Matney hit the top of the true crime podcast charts with "Murdaugh Murders Podcast." It's about shining the light on issues people are afraid to discuss," according to Matney.

As the duo scope out the details, they learn about the unsolved murder case of Stephen Smith, the millions of dollars missing from Murdaugh client accounts -- and the attempted "murder" of Alex Murdaugh. As Matney points out, when you mess with people's money, their response can be unpredictable.

The book follows Matney and Farrell as they plan out courtroom coverage and then discover what goes on behind bars through Murdaugh's phone calls to his son and other relatives. It explores the public's thirst for more "news," often not caring how reliable sources might be.

As word of the Lowcountry crimes spread, so did Matney's exposure to big news outlets. Some were pushy and abrasive; others were honest and true to the truth. All along, Matney said the victims, whether drowned teenager Mallory Beach, Maggie and Paul, and deceased housekeeper Gloria Satterfield.

"Blood on Their Hands" is less about the Murdaughs and more about a journalist who wants others to know how hard she worked to uncover secrets and how many people tried to stop her. In many ways, it's a "behind-the-scenes" reveal than a collection of "gotcha" moments. The book pulls back the curtain on the fatal state of newsrooms and newspapers, cutting corners and ignoring controversy in the never-ending push for social media views, clicks and likes.

Many of the facts regarding the Murdaughs have been hashed and rehashed. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, sprinkle bookstore shelves. Many were rush jobs with little resemblance to the facts of the case. And none looks at the circumstances through the investigative lens of true journalism like "Blood on Their Hands" does.

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I don't know...how I slogged my way through this book.

I feel like my first statement should be that this is NOT what I was expecting. I was expecting a book that encompasses the entire story of the Murdaugh's since there's no question that Mandy was one of the best, if not the best journalist investigating the family. However, the book I read was not that. It’s a memoir by a journalist who wants us all to know how hard she has worked to be successful and how many people got in her way.

I'm also going to give the disclaimer that I used to be a huge fan of Mandy's work because back when the murders occurred and the story was just coming out, she was the best and most unbiased source there was.... However, as she's risen in fame, I've noticed that both her team and her fans have become a little bit, dare I say, "cult-like." What was once unbiased reporting has given Matney a level of fame that I believe has begun to skew some of the work on the Murdaugh case. I know that as soon as I post this review, someone is going to try to come at me about this too. However, this is a review of Blood on Their Hands, not a bash Mandy Matney session.

The way some of the sensitive information was handled in this book made me cringe. I quite literally felt the need to reach out to people that I know who were mentioned in this book to make sure they consented to their story being used so openly (I'm sure they did, but coming from the general area, you tend to fear for your safety still no matter who might be behind bars currently). The fact that one person was quoted saying "my family would kill me if they knew I was speaking to a reporter about this," was incredibly concerning to me as both a reader and a person from the general area. Even if that person consented, knowing the area and how much corruption there is, it should have been handled more tastefully. That person likely still has family living there. Matney mentions the fear she and Liz felt when they visited where Stephen was found and discovered they were being followed. However, she had the ability to leave. Imagine if she'd been stuck in Hampton like so many victims of this story. Imagine if she’d been in Libby’s caregiver’s shoes in this story, a woman who was absolutely terrified to speak out for fear of retaliation.

The bashing of former employers frustrated me. I agree that Will Folks may not be the best guy out there, but I felt that Matney threw him under the bus and wrote him off completely when he really did give her a lot of good information and sources (by her own admission) during her time at FITS. Sure, she used that information and made her own way, but still. That didn't do this book any favors for me as a reader. It just made her come off as whiny, bitter, and selfish.

Much of Blood on Their Hands focuses on Mandy's rise from first moving to Bluffton (in what world is Bluffton a small town?!) to where she is now and the sexism she faced in the past. I agree that the issues facing journalists, especially those unwilling to let their opinions be bought, is important. However, that's not the book I wanted to read when I picked this up, nor is it what was advertised. On top of that, Matney came off as tacky and distasteful, making herself sound like the hero of the story when in reality, the people who were brave enough to speak to her (or some other form of authority) in the first place despite knowing the danger they could be in are the true heroes.

So much of the latter half of the book focuses on the trolls and people who didn't like her and again, that's an important topic, but it's not what I wanted to read about here. A lot of this book came off as a whiny and selfish (Did I mention whiny and selfish yet?) money grab, using the chaotic and twisted story to increase Mandy's fame (which I guess makes sense, but again, it's not what was advertised). There are so many passages in this book that made me want to throw it across the room because it was also extremely anti-men all the time. For example, Matney recalls what I consider throwing a tantrum because Eric Bland wasn’t giving her information, despite her self-given title of expert, because he was a man.

My overall feeling of this book is summed up well by Matney's old boss at The Island Packet. "You have the talent to write for the New York Times, but it's your attitude that's the problem."

The Murdaugh story is incredibly complex. We're talking generations of corruption, theft, drugs, etc. None of that was present in this book. There's barely any mention of Randolph III and zero mention of Randolph I or II. There's no mention of how this family made their fortune or the dichotomy that exists between the rich and poor in Hampton County. All of this is context that readers and followers of this story need to make sense of why things were/are the way they were/are in this story. There's no mention of any of the accomplices the Murdaughs had over the years or any explanation of how these stories intertwine or how they're relevant to the people still living in that area. For someone who has put so much time and energy into this saga and so much emphasis on telling the stories that matter, I would have expected this book to contain more of that than a superficial retelling of the first part of the story.

I felt like the stories of the victims of this real-life tragedy weren't given the justice they deserved. This book SHOULD have been more focused on the stories of how Hampton got to where it is, how we got to the point where all of this chaos happened, and most importantly, it should have focused on humanizing the victims of the story. Sure, it can be said that most of the victims in this story weren't innocent and that some were nearly as bad as Alex, but their stories are more important than the money grab that this book is.

Overall, I wouldn't have finished reading this book if it weren't for the fact that I'd said I'd review it. I was expecting a true crime book, not a memoir from a whiny reporter. I didn't really learn anything that I didn't already know from early episodes of the podcast and watching Alex's murder trial. For all the international attention that this saga has gotten, readers need more context to understand the story for all that it is.

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If you have followed this story, you need to read this book for the behind the scenes of what was (and continues) to go on. The author does an excellent job telling her story and how all the crimes were brought to light. Will not take you long to finish as you go page to page to find out what is happening.

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"Blood on Their Hands" is a memoir that journalist and podcaster Mandy Matney wrote after four years of reporting on Alex Murdaugh, his family, and their numerous related crimes. It details how she first became aware of the Murdaughs after Mallory Beach went missing as a result of the boat crash on Archers Creek, the mysterious death of Stephen Smith that many people felt was connected to the Murdaughs, the death of the Murdaughs’ housekeeper, and finally, the deaths of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh. With dogged reporting, Mandy Matney and a few other diligent South Carolina reporters would realize how everything led to the fact that Alex Murdaugh had been abusing narcotics and embezzling money from innocent people for years before his crimes caught up to him.

In the book, Matney shares how she was a journalist who had gotten her start right out of college as the editor of a small newspaper in a Missouri military town. This was a job with a big title and small salary to match, where she had to beg the corporate office for basic things she needed to do her job, such as a freelance budget for writers or a new camera. After a few years she moved on to a job as a digital editor of a newspaper in Illinois, with the goal of increasing the traffic and pageviews for the paper’s website. Facing many of the same frustrations she had been dealing with at her previous paper, Matney opted to look for a job in a warmer climate. The Island Packet in Hilton Head offered her a job as a digital projects producer.

When she first started her job at The Island Packet, she immediately saw a difference in their newsroom environment compared to places she’d worked in the past. She said there were “no burned-out reporters forced to work second jobs on the weekends. There were no disgruntled readers showing up at my desk to complain about typos. Instead, “there was a pervasive vibe of optimism and importance about the place.”

Matney had been at The Island Packet a few years when the boat crash on Archer’s Creek occurred, then working as the breaking news editor. It was reporter Liz Farrell who first alerted Mandy that she had an odd feeling about the story surrounding the crash involving six teens, one of whom remained missing. The boat crash had occurred in Beaufort County, near Parris Island while the passengers on the boat were all from Hampton County, which did not fall under the coverage area of The Island Packet. The reporters noticed there was no official press release available right away. They also couldn’t help but notice the online chatter about who was really driving the boat. This was the first time Matney and her co-workers heard the name Paul Murdaugh. She quickly became obsessed with learning as much as she could about the Murdaugh family, because the more she researched, the more she uncovered. But, as she writes, "The Island Packet had a strict rule that they would only print names attached to criminal stories when they were felony cases, unless the accused person was in a position of public trust.”

While reading her story, I developed a new respect for Mandy Matney. There were many roadblocks that she encountered along the way to uncovering all the pieces of this story, from sexist attitudes in the newsroom, power players affecting how her stories were covered or not covered, and having her stories taken away from her and given to male reporters at related, larger, corporate newspapers. Eventually she was wooed away from The Island Packet by FITSNews, a local independent new media outlet, where she continued her coverage of all things related to the Murdaughs. What she encountered along the way sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood film script, from anonymous sources contacting her, to online trolls sending her degrading messages, to being followed by law enforcement on dark country roads when she met with Stephen Smith’s sister, to Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys making fun of her in court. Her mental health took a toll while she was determined to see the story through.

She explains in the memoir that she first started the Murdaugh Murders Podcast because she had so much more information to share than she was allowed to in her daily news job with FITS News, and she didn’t know the ins and outs of how to produce a podcast well. Plus, she was doing it on a shoestring budget, with the help of her now-husband David. Reading this memoir, I believe people will understand exactly how hard she worked to get the podcast up and running, and she did it with a sense of urgency because the Murdaugh story was one that reporters from all over the country latched on to immediately. Quite frankly, she didn’t want to be scooped when she’d spent so many years cultivating her sources and doing her due diligence with local residents and law enforcement officials, and I believe readers will sympathize with that.

Eventually, Matney went out on her own to start her own podcast production company, figured out how to monetize her content, and reported on the Alex Murdaugh trial on her own terms. Along the way, she uncovered other crimes that needed to be covered in South Carolina and teamed up with an attorney to produce a separate podcast called “Cup of Justice.” This memoir provides a clear timeline of just how long it can take to get justice for victims, along with the resistance many journalists face when trying to uncover a story that involves as many power players as this one did.

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Mandy Matney became well known because of her podcast Murdaugh Murders, and I have listened to her for many hours, as I became fascinated of the story of the wretched Murdaugh family of South Carolina. Briefly, the Murdaugh family ruled the legal wrangling in the Lowcountry area for generations, with one patriarch after another being in charge of the legal system. By the time Alex Murdaugh ascended to the position, his family had totally dominated the legal landscape in the southern part of the state for 100+ years.

At the age of 52, Alex’s wife Maggie and their 22-year-old son Paul were found dead at the family hunting lodge. Paul had been in the middle of legal wrangling over the death of his girlfriend in a boating accident that happened while he was driving his boat drunk. Could that have been the reason someone wanted him dead? And Maggie? Is it true she was pretty much living separately from Alex, and contemplating divorce? And could Alex have done the awful double murder? And was he really a thief, drug addict, and possible dealer? This is an incredible story, told well by Mandy, who has probably done more investigative research into this classically criminal family than anyone. For true crime aficionados, this book is a must read. Trust me, even if you think you know everything that happened, Blood On Their Hands will give you more info. Well done. With thanks to William Morrow and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review, I give this one five stars for true crime writing.

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This is a MUST READ book! It is insightful, well written, full of mind blowing facts. At times you can't believe what Mandy and
Liz uncovered.

If you're going to read one book about this story, this is the book to read!! It's coming from the only source you can truly trust!!

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Join Mandy Matney on her journalistic journey into uncovering some of the darkest kept secrets in the Low-country of South Carolina. Through her tenacity to protect her story, her sources, and her own well-being, Mandy Matney battles the male-dominant, money-driven world of journalism and news to bring the secrets of the Murdaugh dynasty into the sunlight.
As a journalist first, podcaster later, and now an author, Mandy Matney brings the reader with her as she recalls standing up to her boss, protecting her integrity, connecting to victims, and reaching her goals. Her motivations and integrity never waver.
Blood on Their Hands is about so much more than the Murdaugh's and their fall in the Low-country. It's about a woman speaking out. It's about gaining someone's trust. It's about savoring the wonderful people and Spanish Moss around you. It's about shining the light on issues people are afraid to discuss. And it's about supporting on another in our journeys in this wild world.
I received this book prior to release to review and share. If you haven't already pre-ordered or at least put on your to-read list, I highly encourage you to do so! You won't want to miss this one!

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