Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Cold case sleuth, Vanessa Brown, constructed a brilliant true crime novel about a string of mysterious killings in London, Ontario, known as the "Forest City." Brown is a London resident and combines her fascination with the unsolved Forest City Killer murders and passion for books and writing to create a brilliant true crime novel.
London is a sleepy Canadian town that suffered horrible, sexually driven murders in the late 1960's and 1970's. Young women and men were randomly abducted, raped, and murdered. Their bodies disposed of like garbage, left to be found by their grieving loved ones. Homicide Detective Dennis Alsop worked the cases for years, trying to uncover who the mysterious serial killer (or killers.) The entire town lived in fear for years as unsuspecting people fell victim to the Forest City Killer (FCK.)
Brown did extensive research on the killings related to FCK, as well as similar murders in nearby towns. Other than Brown, most people do not think all of the murders are related, but Brown does a great job explaining the consistencies between each murder. Anywhere from the location the victim was last scene, to details of the murder, and the body disposal site. Brown researched Detective Alsop's old case files, as well as witness statements, and current statements she got from witnesses and relatives of the victims. Brown honed in on one of the first FCK related murders and spider webbed her research from there.
The murders were chilling and seemed completely random. The kind of thing that could happen to anyone. The family members of many of the victims are still grieving and have not stopped trying to uncover the mystery of their loved ones death. Much of the DNA evidence obtained from the scenes cannot be analyzed today, because of degradation, etc., but Brown does an excellent job providing realistic and probable reasons.
The story gets a bit convoluted about 1/2 of the way through. A woman who claims she and her family saw one of the victims the night she was killed becomes an entirely different story. She comes forward as a witness, but claims she started receiving threatening calls and letters, feared for her life, and at one point, was attacked. The story gets very strange from there on out, and is a bit confusing at times, but nevertheless, is extremely interesting.
Writing true crime, especially for an unsolved case from 50 years ago, is a huge challenge, but I enjoyed Brown's style of writing. One thing I wished was that she wrote chronologically about the murders. She started with the FCK murder that sent the town into a tizzy, then went back and forth in time to other murders she believed were connected. Jumping around in the timeline got a bit confusing, as well as how the story spun off with the bizarre witness and her story. It was interesting, but confusing, and it became a bit convoluted.
Most of her witness statements were interesting, but did not generate anything new for the case. I was hoping that at the end of the book, Brown uncovered new evidence or atleast a lead that current day Detectives could follow up on. That is not how the story ends. This book is more a compilation of the FCK murders and a summary of the investigation and ensuing aftermath.
All in all, it was an interesting true crime read, and I rated it between ★★★.5 and ★★★★. Brown's writing is clear and concise, which kept me turning the pages. I look forward to more true crime novels from this author and ECW Press.
***Thank you to ECW Press and Net Galley for the digital ARC, in exchange for an honest review.***