Luc Sante, Evidence. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992. Pp. xii, 99. $40.00 hardback, $16.00 softbound.

Death really is different.

Death commands our attention in a way that other human suffering and injury, however deeply it may move us or shock us, does not. If you doubt this, consider that if O.J. Simpson had been accused merely of beating or harassing his former wife, and not of killing her, his case would have received only a tiny fraction of the attention that it has attracted. This, tragically, is not conjecture: Simpson did beat and harass Nicole Brown Simpson, but, until she and Ronald Goldman were murdered, that fact barely made a dent on the public consciousness. Though there may be an element of truth in the trial lawyer's quip that a murder case is essentially an assault case with one fewer witness, it is a distortion, for the magnitude of murder overwhelms the similarities.