Review: The Forest City Killer – Vanessa Brown

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This reviewer has read numerous true crime books, primarily non-fiction. Oftentimes, they can be filled with over-dramatizations or they try to sensationalize the events covered. Not only does this tend to take away from the book itself, but it makes light of the events and the crimes – often murders – that occurred. That’s something that doesn’t happen with The Forest City Killer: A Serial Murderer, A Cold-Case Sleuth, and A Search for Justice by Vanessa Brown.

The Forest City Killer takes an in-depth look at a potential serial killer that made London, Ontario, Canada their hunting ground in the 1960s. Through the use of actual police files by Ontario Provincial Police homicide detective Dennis Alsop, Brown paints a picture of what life was like in the city during a time when young women and boys were abducted, raped and murdered, with the focus on one murder in particular: that of fifteen-year-old Jackie English.

A native Londoner herself, Brown is able to approach this book in a more personal and thorough way than most. Having gone to school and worked in the city, as well as traveled its roads, she’s able to offer a unique perspective and more local view. For example, while some street corners may seem just that, street corners, she’s able to provide more context, letting readers know if a street or area has a certain association with local residents. This helps to create a trust that Brown knows her stuff and actually cares about the content in which she writes about.

Along with Detective Alsop’s notes, Brown uses her own research to help cover the murders in as thorough a way as she possibly can. She also interviewed numerous people, including relatives of the victims, a potential suspect, and those who may have come in contact with the killer (or killers) themselves. By presenting these personal accounts, Brown is able to create a captivating narrative that blends fact with personal views in a way that doesn’t warp the story or sensationalize anything. This is oftentimes a very hard line to follow, but she does it well.

As well, Brown will sometimes interject her own opinions and theories alongside those presented by those involved in the cases. However, unlike some authors, she ensures this is done in a way that doesn’t push the reader in a certain direction, simply offering them another viewpoint to consider. This allows them to view all sides of the equation before coming to their own conclusions.

Pair all this with Brown’s stellar writing abilities and you’ve got what is without a doubt one of the best – if not the best – true crime books to be released in 2019. You don’t need to be from London to get sucked into all the twists and turns of the events and crimes covered. Brown presents everything in a way that’s easy to digest, and she covers all the pertinent information needed for one to fully understand the murders, while also providing context from the time. The Forest City Killer is a book every true crime lover needs on their shelf, and this reviewer highly suggests picking it up.

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