Brooklyn resident Cutter Wood shakes up true crime genre in new book

“Love and Death in the Sunshine State” has been called “a smart, engrossing true-life noir that weaves meditations on love and the literary life, all set amid the palm trees and seedy motels of Florida’s steaming coastline” by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. While the book is set in Florida, its author, Cutter Wood, lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He will appear at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene on April 17 for the book launch.

Image courtesy of Algonquin Books
Image courtesy of Algonquin Books

Refracting a provocative story of love and murder through a lens clouded by ambiguity, Wood’s remarkable debut is, like Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” a searing blend of the documentary and the literary. As Wood embeds himself in the investigation of the mysterious murder, he comes to explore not only the circumstances leading up to a woman’s death, but the darkness that can lead love down a dark path.

The crime at the center of the story is the murder of Sabine Musil-Buehler, the owner of a local motel on Anna Maria Island off Florida’s gulf coast. Wood, freshly graduated from college, was a guest at the motel just a few months before it was set on by the police, who begin digging up the beach.

Three men are named persons of interest — Musil-Buehler’s husband, her absent boyfriend and the man who stole her car. Wood returns to Anna Maria and is drawn steadily deeper into the case. As his personal investigation advances — an investigation that soon goes well beyond mere facts — he finds himself driven to understand the intimate details of a relationship and how they could lead to murder.

“In 2008, I was launching myself into a relationship with the woman who would eventually become my wife,” Wood writes about the genesis of “Love and Death in the Sunshine State.”

“We had moved in together, I was terrified at the daily struggle to simply be pleasant, and when I learned about the story of William Cumber and Sabine Musil-Buehler, I felt I recognized in this man an attitude different only in degree from the one that I was feeling. I felt I had to learn how a relationship spins to pieces in such a dramatic and fatal fashion … At its center — and this I think is where it differs crucially from other books in this vein — the book is an attempt, via narrative, to understand the impulse to hurt or even destroy, the ones we love.”


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