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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

The Third Rainbow Girl

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐

"In the afternoon or early evening of June 25, 1980, two young women, Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero, were killed in an isolated clearing in rural Pocahontas County West Virginia. They were hitchhiking to an outdoor peace festival known as the Rainbow Gathering, but never arrived. Their killings have been called “The Rainbow Murders.”

For thirteen years, no one was prosecuted, though suspicion was cast on a succession of local men. In 1993, the state of West Virginia convicted a local farmer named Jacob Beard and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Later, it emerged that a convicted serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic named Joseph Paul Franklin had also confessed. With the passage of time, as the truth behind the Rainbow killings seemed to slip away, its toll on this Appalachian community became more concrete—the unsolved murders were a trauma, experienced on a community scale.

Emma Copley Eisenberg spent five years re-investigating these brutal acts, which once captured the national media’s imagination, only to fall into obscurity. A one-time New Yorker who came to live in Pocahontas Country, Eisenberg shows how that crime, a mysterious act of violence against a pair of middle-class outsiders, came to loom over several generations of struggling Appalachians, many of them laborers who earned a living farming, hauling timber, cutting locust posts, or baling hay—and the investigators and lawyers for whom the case became a white whale."


The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia is a true crime novel by Emma Copley Eisenberg.

I went into this with high expectations after having read I'll Be Gone in the Dark. Because of that though, I was ultimately disappointed when this didn't turn out how I was expecting it to.

I went into this wanting and expecting a true crime book (as it is marketed), and what I got instead was Eisenberg's life story with a dash of true crime. I really didn't care to hear about anything but the true crime aspect, so the fact that this was mostly biographic decreased my enjoyment of this significantly.

So, if you go into this expecting a book that is purely true crime, it's best to leave this one alone.

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