This story appears in the April 2016 issue of Playboy. Subscribe

Q: Do you feel you arrived at an indisputable truth about your subject, or did you end up with more questions than answers?

Years after an unthinkable murder, a small town decides whether to raze the crime scene.
“I came away with a multitude of questions, some of which haven’t yet been resolved and may never be. I didn’t try to tie this story up into a bow. It’s ambiguous and messy by nature, and tailoring it down to a neat thesis would be dishonest. I hope that by leaving things open-ended, I’ve given readers space to engage more directly with these questions, to come to their own conclusions.

“Still, I don’t think you can spend this much time on an in-depth investigation and walk away with no new insight. I found, for example, that there’s a difference between learning about a crime on paper and meeting the perpetrator or walking into the crime scene. Those visceral experiences leave you with more than an impression. They have the power to change your view of the world on a fundamental level. Often, when I’ve searched for a conclusion, I’ve encountered a new query in its place. Instead of discouraging me, this constellation of questions has given me unexpected hope.”

The author investigates her own rape, finding connections with the perpetrator’s family.
“What I learned is everyone picks up burdens along the way in life, but most of us try to carry them alone. We keep them to ourselves, whether out of embarrassment or fear, or a kind of polite reticence. But if all of us keep wearing a cheery mask, telling the world that we’re fine, a party all the time—the Facebook lie—then we’re doing everyone a real disservice. It makes us all feel like we’re so alone. We need to tell our stories, both for ourselves and for other people.

“For me, telling my story didn’t bring peace or closure. I learned a key lesson: The rape will always be part of who I am, and I can’t change that. I will never, ever be fearless. But it gave me something better: I am open instead of closed. I want connection. I want to hear the stories.”

A classroom murder leads to a damning look at the way our system sentences minors as adults.
“I spent close to seven years writing this book. I began with a question about why a young man who killed someone at sixteen could be sentenced to life in prison with only the hope of parole after fifteen years. My research into how we arrest, judge, and sentence our juveniles who commit crimes took me to more questions about our justice system. I became convinced that our laws need to catch up with our knowledge.

"It is unconceivable that in some states, children as young as twelve are tried as adults. Through the story of Karter Reed, I aim to educate people to the danger of treating juveniles as adults, and ultimately to advocate for changing outdated laws. Neuroscience and behavioral research have shown us that kids are not "little adults;” and policies such as those that spawned the “tough on crime” movement do not reduce crime. It is not only the so-called non-violent juvenile who needs our attention, however. Recent Supreme Court decisions have stated that children who commit even the most heinous of crimes are capable of change.“

A reporter delves into his past to confront the tragedy of his brother’s childhood murder.
“I suppose I wound up with a little of both, although I don’t know if there is such a thing as indisputable truth. I do think, though, that one of the main reasons I wrote the book was to feel a better sense of who my brother was as a person, and I’m grateful that I achieved that for myself.

"I hope that people connect with the book, and find something meaningful to apply to their own lives. Even though my family’s experience is extremely rare, everyone faces unexpected challenges that feel insurmountable. Perhaps by reading our story, others can be inspired to not only survive but grow from their own trials.”

Translated from the Swedish, this stranger-than-fiction story of a trio of bank-robbing brothers is told by a fourth brother from the fringes.
“This is my truth, my way of looking at what happened to my brothers. The truth is very much subjective, and must be. The questions became even more afterwards, and would have regardless of whether I had written this book or not. The difference is that if you write a book that has the starting point in your own life soil, it is like growing questions in a greenhouse. They will find you faster, force themselves at you and create trouble, but now and then one you will also find an answer that is there just because the book was written.” — Stefan Thunberg (who co-wrote the book with Anders Roslund under the Svennson pseudonym