It took 30 years for justice to catch up with the serial killer dubbed “The Grim Sleeper” by LA Weekly, where crime reporter Pelisek (now at People) covered the story. In her first book, she follows the case from her first article in 2008 to its final day in court in 2016.
Starting in the 1980s, Lonnie Franklin Jr. picked up women on the streets of Los Angeles, mostly prostitutes, killed them, and dumped their bodies back on the streets. As each murder was discovered, police came up empty-handed in their search for enough clues to point them to a suspect. Eventually, they were able to take advantage of improved DNA testing techniques to find Franklin and prosecute him. Pelisek takes readers through the investigation step-by-step, and she also delves into the details of the women’s lives. The author paints each victim clearly, and she palpably captures the pain of the families left behind. Readers will find this mostly absorbing book to be a quick, if not necessarily easy, read. However, in two sections the author risks losing the interest of readers who are not devoted fans of true crime. She rightly covers each suspect in the long search for the culprit, but she does so without the tension that would allow readers to feel as though each man could be guilty. This makes the revelation of each subsequent suspect feel anticlimactic. During the trial portion of the book, Pelisek loses the thread of her narrative by delving deep into the background of each lawyer involved. While one lawyer’s eventual dismissal and possible ethical issues are certainly part of the story, each lawyer’s education history and hometown are not. Ultimately, the tangential information slows down the narrative and moves the focus away from the case.
True-crime fans will greatly appreciate Pelisek’s detail and determination, but some will find the minutiae overwhelming.