Thursday, April 9, 2020

NetGalley ARC | Mayhem: Unanswered Questions About the Tsarnaev Brothers, the US Government and the Boston Marathon Bombing


I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

From goodreads:
Mayhem goes a long way toward answering questions that still linger about the notorious Boston Marathon bombing, such as: Where were the bombs made? And what had been Tamerlan Tsarnaev's relationship to the FBI? This page-turning narrative casts a spotlight on the US Government's relationship with the older Tsarnaev brother as his younger brother, Dzhokar, continues his efforts to have his death sentence commuted.

The federal government may be forced to confirm a longstanding relationship with Tamerlan and its decision to shield him from investigation for the Sept. 11, 2011 ISIS-style triple murder of three friends. As they infamously did with Whitey Bulger, federal agents appear to have protected Tamerlan because of his value as a paid informant. Mayhem is a substantially revised and updated first paperback edition of Michele R. McPhee's earlier book about the bombing, Maximum Harm.


I thought I knew all there was to know about the Boston Marathon bombing but this has really opened my eyes to aspects that I knew nothing about. I am kind of torn on what to think, because it is  100% possible and even absolute that there are many things our government has and continues to hide from the public. This book does not come across as one that is full of conspiracy theories, because of the sheer amount of exhaustive research and fact-finding that was necessary in order to present the information. And yet, why was this information not pressed by the media when it became known? Was it because the media was told not to report on it? Or have they reported on it and I just missed it because I rarely watch television and/or don't remember at the time?

And honestly, if these are the documented facts and the FBI is unwilling to comment on anything, can it really be called a conspiracy theory?

It is unfathomable to me that someone can appear on not one, but TWO terror watch lists, and still be allowed to travel internationally from NYC to areas of known terrorist training camps. How does this even happen? And without a passport! Yet this is exactly what Tamerlan Tsarnaev was allowed to do and I can't figure out why, unless there was someone or a group of someones who needed him.

I remember the horrifying footage looping for days on end, the photos and chaos. I also remember this day very clearly because an acquaintance/friend and her boyfriend were in Boston that day for the marathon. Luckily her boyfriend had already finished the race before the bombs went off and I was relieved to see the Facebook post confirming that they were safe. Even having those memories, the author does a fantastic/awful job of taking the reader back to that day; fantastic because it feels like you are there, awful because it is something I never want to experience and my heart aches for those who are forever scarred by that day. I think it is important though, that the author does such a superb job in relaying all the details, the shattered windows, people crawling across the glass to reach loved ones, injured bystanders trying to help others and not even knowing they themselves are in dire need of medical attention, the body parts lying around and survivors having to take stock of these parts around them, the smoke and noise, the screams and cries of the injured and the dying, it is all there because people need to remember how horrible this day was. I recall someone saying at the time that it was not THAT big a deal in the grand scheme of things because only three people died. I was honestly aghast at that thought and still am to this day. Tragedies need only be tragedies if hundreds or thousands are killed? Give me a fucking break. So, the details are crucial here. Nothing is done to sensationalize the scene, and victims are treated with the utmost respect. I was in tears reading about the officers who stood guard for hours beside the bodies of the dead, ensuring they were never alone. People need to be reminded what happened, and that so many lives were changed forever.

Near the end of the book the author poses the most pressing questions that remain unanswered to this day by the FBI. Among those questions relates one regarding US citizenship that the elder Tsarnaev was so desperate to achieve. He was a boxer who trained and won several titles. He wanted to compete at higher levels but could not for the US team, due to not being a citizen. Two separate incidents are recounted where Tsarnaev was summoned to take the citizenship oath, only to have it pushed back. The author makes the point several times that this could have been the turning point that drove him away and into the arms of the jihad. This is no way makes anything these terrorists did okay, let me be very clear. But the FBI has some questions to answer on what transpired, though I think we all know we will never get those answers.

In the synopsis provided by goodreads, a triple homicide was mentioned. There are many signs that point to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and a friend who was subsequently killed by the FBI when they were taking a statement from him and he suddenly attacked the agent in his home, as being involved, and Tsarnaev himself being the perpetrator. Several who knew the victims pointed fingers his way, and yet he was never investigated and the case remains open to this day. It is speculated in the book that because Tsarnaev was an informant at the time for the FBI, he was shielded from being investigated despite all those who brought his name up. In the grand scheme of things I would not be surprised at the FBI looking the other way over these brutal murders of men who were felons and drug-dealers, men who were all but disowned by their own families, because the FBI had bigger fish to fry so to speak - and Tsarnaev was part of assisting in that frying.

So, the most important question of the entire book comes from a survivor of the bombing, who asks the author, had Tamerlan Tsarnaev been investigated for the triple homicide, would the Boston Marathon bombing have happened?

Highly recommended.


  1. i know nothing but the basics about the bombing, this book sounds like the one to read to learn more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. It was really shocking to learn so much of this information. And it did not feel like a 'conspiracy theory' in any way, which I am usually wary of. I think the most telling thing is the FBI's refusal to answer any questions about the whole situation, and the oddities surround Tsarnaev's citizenship applications. The victim's families and the survivors deserve to know the truth, even if the public at large never gets it.

  2. My goodness, I don't know what I was doing in 2013 but somehow this incident made no impression on me. I completely agree that our government (and most others) keeps plenty from its citizens.

    1. Really?? I suppose I recall it more because of the connection I had to the event. But I definitely remember the manhunt for the brothers and how insane it all was. There is also talk of other accomplices, and where the bombs were actually made and such. it is a very interesting book.

  3. Thank you for this review, this book sounds really interesting - I’ve added it to my TBR. I don’t know much about the Boston Marathon bombing, but clearly need to learn more.

    1. I was very surprised about so much of the information presented in the book. The more I thought about it, I remember there being the big question of investigators not knowing where the bombs were made but it was also never really addressed much and the media seemed to be fine with not pursuing that aspect. I am not huge into conspiracy theories, but the author does not present the information that way, as so much of this is verifiable. Some of it, however, depends on how much truth there is to what some witnesses have said. If you get a chance to read it, I would love to know what you think!


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