About the Book
This is the definitive story of the case against Jeffrey Epstein and the corrupt system that supported him, told in thrilling detail by the lawyer who has represented Epstein’s victims for more than a decade.
In June 2008, Florida-based victims’ rights attorney Bradley J. Edwards was thirty-two years old and had just started his own law firm when a young woman named Courtney Wild came to see him. She told a shocking story of having been sexually coerced at the age of fourteen by a wealthy man in Palm Beach named Jeffrey Epstein. Edwards, who had never heard of Epstein, had no idea that this moment would change the course of his life. Over the next ten years, Edwards devoted himself to bringing Epstein to justice, and came close to losing everything in the process. Edwards tracked down and represented more than twenty of Epstein’s victims, and shined a light on his network of contacts and friends, among them Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew.
Edwards gives his riveting, blow-by-blow account of battling Epstein on behalf of his clients, and provides stunning details never shared before. He explains how he followed Epstein’s criminal enterprise from Florida, to New York, to Europe, to a Caribbean island, and, in the process, became the one person Epstein most feared could take him down. Epstein and his cadre of high-priced lawyers were able to manipulate the FBI and the Justice Department, but, despite making threats and attempting schemes straight out of a spy movie, Epstein couldn’t stop Edwards, his small team of committed lawyers and, most of all, the victims, who were dead-set on seeing their abuser finally put behind bars.
This is the definitive account of the Epstein saga, personally told by the gutsy lawyer who took on one of the most brazen sexual criminals in the history of the US, and exposed the corrupt system that let him get away with it for far too long.
400 pages (kindle)
Published on March 31, 2020
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This book was a library loan. Yay libraries!
I’m not a big fan of courtroom drama. I mean, it is interesting and all, but it’s just never my bag of oats. I don’t really find lawyer-speak that captivating, or the like. I’m not someone who is all, “Yes! Let’s watch Law and Order SVU!” It’s just not part of who I am.
However, I recently watched a documentary about Jeffrey Epstein on Netflix, and I was wandering through my library’s online audiobook selection and saw this one. I decided to jump on it. To be honest, dear reader, I didn’t expect to make it past the first chapter. I just honestly did not think it would be interesting enough to keep my attention (re: I don’t find lawyer-ing that interesting).
I actually ended up blazing through this book, and while it is horrifying, and it is written by some lawyers about lawyer-ing, it is also a very captivating inside perspective in what it took to get someone as powerful as Jeffrey Epstein behind bars. While I did know some of these details, about 90% of this book came as a huge surprise to me.
First, I will say that the writing is really easy to sink into. It’s workman-style prose, but I don’t think anything else would be fitting. Nothing is jazzed up or pretty in this book (again, I don’t think that would be fitting). This is all very matter-of-fact, here’s what happened. Like I said, I don’t think anything else would be right. This is a very complex topic, and a very difficult one, full of emotional triggers, and absolutely overwhelmed by victims. So, for the tone of the book, I think the tone and style was right.
Furthermore, the author never gets overly bogged down in lawyer jargon, which is one big thing that keeps me away from fully appreciating lawyer things. Like, I get that the job is wonderful and all you lawyers are fantastic and all this, but I just find that so often the interesting bits of the story are flooded by information that is important for the career but not as much for the reader. I didn’t get that here. Edwards fills in information and gives background where needed, but he doesn’t go overboard, and there were only two or three times I kind of tuned out due to this sort of thing, which is a record for me.
Okay, so that’s out of the way. Let’s talk meat and potatoes, here.
Jeffrey Epstein was very, very wealthy and very, very connected and very, very powerful and taking him down was nothing short of an odyssey that spanned years, and so many countless hours. When Bradley Edwards was asked to represent Courtney Wild, he had no idea who she was and had never heard the name “Jeffrey Epstein”. From that point on, however, his world seemed to circle around Epstein as they played a cat and mouse game. Epstein used everything he had at his disposal to make bringing him to trial as difficult as possible for Edwards. From frivolous lawsuits, to potential bankruptcy, to hiring private investigators to trail Edwards and threaten his family, to really anything else you can think of, Epstein did it. However, there was always some weird respect that Epstein held for Edwards. It was a chess game, and I think Epstein probably liked the fact that Edwards was a person who played against him, and wasn’t cowed by his power.
On Edwards’ part, having to deal with all this stuff, as well as life in general (for example, one of the firms he worked for went belly up because the dude running it was a con man), must have aged him a million years. I cannot imagine the number of ulcers I would have if I was him. I was also really amazed by how many hours and hours and hours of research went into researching these women, gathering evidence, creating a case. Bringing readers through the process of gathering information, talking to victims and witnesses, and some of the trials they faced in doing that (people were terrified to speak out, as you could likely imagine, and many were being trailed and threatened by Epstein’s people, so they felt very unsafe) was a test all on its own.
Edwards does go into a bit of how Epstein operated here, how he lured girls with massages, had them bring others with them, and the people who worked for him in various capacities. He gives some victim stories, which are hard to read. Often, the women he preyed on were already beat up by life by the time he got them, and he knew just how to groom them to be and do what he wanted. He knew how to make them feel special. While Edwards never glorifies victim stories, I will frankly say that there were one or two of them that made me have to step away from the book for a day or two just to process what I’d read before I could move on.
There were also moments when I felt like I was reading a book about someone who lived on a different planet. For example, Epstein spent some time in the Florida correctional system, and it ended up being less a stint in jail and more of a vacation for him. He left every day, had meetings with people, had his own office in town, and an email address set up. People would fly him in girls, and the like. Then his sentence was done, and he left to go to his private island so he can talk to some IT guys about making an app that would help people like him find young girls without the cops finding out about it, and you know, that really took my breath away because wow… who does that?
Well, Epstein, obviously, but still.
And that’s really where Edwards came in handy for me. It was less about the courtroom drama and the legalese that went into getting Epstein, and more about how well this lawyer did with taking someone like Epstein and distilling him a bit. For example, I watched that Netflix documentary, and it was interesting, but I never really felt like I understood how he mentally maneuvered his way into thinking that any of this was okay. Sure, the guy was a sociopath, but still. However, Edwards kind of broke it down. In a few places of the book, he explained that to Epstein, there was nothing wrong with his attraction to girls, rather he saw it as a problem with the law. As long as women were capable of breeding, they should be given the option to entertain situations where such a thing was possible, and if they don’t, isn’t that a problem with the law holding back nature, rather than a problem with him raping and molesting underage girls?
The mental gymnastics there makes me blood curdle, but once it was explained that way, I understood a lot of Epstein and his sick, twisted, perverse, monied self. Edwards also spoke a bit about the “cult of Epstein” and how he groomed women into his way of thinking, and how long it took to graduate between various levels of his organization, from first massage, to traveling with him on international flights. He also spoke a bit about the people who were commonly attached to Epstein, like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, Harvey Weinstein and the like. It’s quite a long list. I think the man was connected to just about everyone, and he cultivated those connections, likely as a way to both threaten others (“I can destroy you. I know everybody.”) and a way to further his own business aims.
The one thing this book does not do, is talk about how Epstein got his money, or really what he did as a businessman/philanthropist that kept his coffers so full. He also does not speak much on what happened to his enablers, like Ghislaine Maxwell, after it all went down. She’s probably hiding in some hole somewhere, but in my mind, that woman is just as guilty as Epstein, and I think it’s damn near criminal that she’s not accessible/found/able to be brought on trial because she deserves it, as the facilitator who was often responsible for recruiting underage girls.
He does talk a bit about what happened to some of the victims after, and I daresay that life has not been easy on any of them, nor would I expect it to be. Some of them have found ways to move through this to the other side, and some haven’t. What, perhaps, haunts me the most is that there will likely never be a true accounting of just how many girls Epstein abused, nor will there ever be any true knowledge of just how wide his network was. Money and connections covered up his crimes for years upon years, and he was quite a world traveler, so I have a feeling that as horrifying as this is, it really is only the surface. Furthermore, I keep coming back to something I said earlier in this review: I feel like I read a book about someone who lives on another planet. This man was able to buy and maneuver his way out of just about every situation you could think of. Ultimately, that fact right there left me with the absolutely haunting thought, I wonder just how many other Jeffrey Epsteins there really are?
And I wonder if there are enough Bradley Edwards to catch them all.
So, very good book, but it did not leave me feeling resolved, and it did not leave me satisfied. Instead, while I’m glad I read it, I cannot stop thinking about Epstein’s victims, both the known and unknown, and I can’t stop wondering just how many other people in the world there are like him.
And where is Ghislaine Maxwell?