Catch the Sparrow

A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder

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Pub Date 01 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2022
Bloomsbury USA, Bloomsbury Publishing

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The gripping story of a young woman's murder, unsolved for over two decades, brilliantly investigated and reconstructed by her stepsister.

Growing up, Rachel Rear knew the story of Stephanie Kupchynsky's disappearance. The beautiful violinist and teacher had fled an abusive relationship on Martha's Vineyard and made a new start for herself near Rochester, NY. She was at the height of her life-in a relationship with a man she hoped to marry and close to her students and her family. And then, one morning, she was gone.

Around Rochester-a region which has spawned such serial killers as Arthur Shawcross and the “Double Initial” killer-Stephanie's disappearance was just a familiar sort of news item. But Rachel had more reason than most to be haunted by this particular story of a missing woman: Rachel's mother had married Stephanie's father after the crime, and Rachel grew up in the shadow of her stepsister's legacy.

In Catch the Sparrow, Rachel Rear writes a compulsively readable and unerringly poignant reconstruction of the case's dark and serpentine path across more than two decades. Obsessively cataloging the crime and its costs, drawing intimately closer to the details than any journalist could, she reveals how a dysfunctional justice system laid the groundwork for Stephanie's murder and stymied the investigation for more than twenty years, and what those hard years meant for the lives of Stephanie's family and loved ones. Startling, unputdownable, and deeply moving, Catch the Sparrow is a retelling of a crime like no other.

The gripping story of a young woman's murder, unsolved for over two decades, brilliantly investigated and reconstructed by her stepsister.

Growing up, Rachel Rear knew the story of Stephanie...

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ISBN 9781635577235
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Featured Reviews

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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This was a good true crime biography about a woman investigating her own step-sister’s disappearance. There were many suspects in this cold case by the time the author was deep into the many files the police and others had given her. She interviewed everyone that she could find from Stephanie’s life that would agree to talk with her. Many thought that she looked like the sister or a twin of the murdered young woman she had never gotten to meet. Very haunting and stays with you, like it did in so many who knew Stephanie or investigated the case. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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I am a long time reader of all things true crime. I started reading this genre when I was around 13, beginning with The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story by Ann Rule, So suffice it to say, I am well versed in true crime. So when I read the synopsis, I figured this might be a good to add to my never ending collection of not only books but true crime books.

I was very intrigued by the story. A young woman cut down in her prime by a maniac. Who could have murdered such a well liked person? Stephanie Kupchynsky seemingly disappeared in 1991. She was a violinist and teacher who had fled an abusive relationship and had ended up in Greece, New York. She was dating again and everything seemed good for her. Rachel Rear, the author, is her step-sister, although they never met. Her mother married Stephanie's father when Stephanie had already been missing for 6 years. Rachel was 20 then after Stephanie's bones were found in 1998, she was determined to find out who had murdered her. She does a really good job of describing how she started to investigate and how she spoke to everyone involved not only in the case itself but of Stephanie's life when she was alive. The book goes into how the town was a place of dysfunction and corruption, something that most likely played into not only her death but the inability to find her murderer sooner. I felt there was a bit too much time spent on this topic and a lot of filler here and there but overall the story itself was interesting.

What I did not like was all the social justice, man hating, feminist rhetoric that I read in parts of the story. I am so tired of reading about how woman are always the victim and all mean are out to get all women. Women can be just as evil, especially to other women and sometimes even children. Honestly, had I known this author had written a book supporting the murderous Planned Parenthood, I would not have chosen to read this book. Because of the women are always the victim mentality coursing through the story, I am giving this book 4 stars., based solely on the topic.

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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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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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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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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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*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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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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