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THE FOREVER WITNESS

HOW DNA AND GENEALOGY SOLVED A COLD CASE DOUBLE MURDER

A well-paced true-crime procedural that offers new twists on old methods of police work.

A cold-case hunt for a killer brought down by old-fashioned gumshoe work and lots of modern science.

In 1987, Canadian couple Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook traveled from Vancouver to Seattle to purchase furnace equipment for his heating business. They made their way across the Olympic Peninsula, which, Humes writes ominously, “would take them through some of Washington State’s most remote and sparsely populated terrain.” They never made it home, both murdered by an unknown person fleetingly seen along their path. It took decades for police detectives to arrive at a suspect, working with what the author terms an “unlikely source,” a “self-taught genealogist” who worked with the PBS series Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and who sussed out the killer’s identity by building a family tree. There were plenty of choices at first, including serial murderers such as the Green River Killer and Spokane Serial Killer, that needed to be narrowed down, but it took a paper cup carelessly dropped from the chief suspect’s truck to make the link to familial DNA. After the suspect was arrested, his mother-in-law said flatly, “I’m not surprised in the least,” for what emerged was a typical portrait: a bullied child, bright but disaffected, a “man at times consumed by anger yet desperately seeking approval.” The author then shifts the scene to a second arena in which the prosecuting attorney was working to establish “a coherent narrative that explained what happened, when and where,” and then trying to prove this with three-decade-old evidence. With side glances at other cold cases, Humes serves up a detailed but not overburdened exercise in investigative and legal logic that would have seemed ironclad save for an unforeseen technicality. About that, he writes, “finality is elusive in the justice system,” ending his book on an inconclusive note.

A well-paced true-crime procedural that offers new twists on old methods of police work.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4627-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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