Mark Harris
August 06, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Widow's Web

Current Status
In Season
Gene Lyons

We gave it an A-

The subtitle of Widow’s WebThe True Story of a Little Rock Beauty Whose Deadly Wiles Led to Two Murders and Scandalized the Entire State of Arkansas — is a mouthful, and its full-to-bursting tone couldn’t be more appropriate for this fascinatingly overstuffed, splendidly detailed true-crime saga. The fast-talking, husband-killing villainess at its center, Mary Lee Orsini, could have been cocreated by Machiavelli and Al Capp. Subtle she ain’t. But as Little Rock authorities tried to connect her to the 1981 murder of her husband, her transparently ridiculous alibis and conspiracy theories were clever enough to fool a large chunk of the Arkansas power structure. Gene Lyons (an EW contributor) brings a bracing wit and a fine reportorial cynicism to his unlayering of a crime that spawned opportunism in the most unlikely places. A-

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