Disturbing, sometimes-horrifying story of true crime and justice only partially served.
Seattle journalist Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for the reporting on which this book is based—and deservedly. He made a complex story comprehensible (“The tributaries that feed a moment are vast,” he quietly notes) without ever losing sight of two fundamental truths. Carried over into this book, those two truths remain. The first is that the lives of two innocent women were irrevocably changed, and one’s ended, by the events of a summer night in 2009, when a young, mentally ill man entered their home and raped and stabbed them. More lives than theirs were changed, of course—as one person close to the case noted, “the victims weren’t the only ones killed.” Sanders interviewed a dozen or so of the principal figures in the case, from law enforcement officers to social workers and family members. The second truth is that the young man in question has not met with justice: he is being punished, to be sure, but mostly by being hidden away in a system in which he may be medicated but is almost certainly not being treated effectively for his illness. “One can see the combined downstream effects of a lack of preventive measures,” writes Sanders of Washington state’s lack of adequate funding and support for mental health care, even though mental illness is implicated in nearly half of all violent crime cases and costs the economy billions of dollars per year. The author’s opening pages are among the most immediate and breathtaking in modern true-crime literature, as evocative as any moment of In Cold Blood or Helter Skelter. That immediacy does not disappear, but the careening quality of the narrative settles into a somber, thoughtful consideration of the huge issues at stake in a single act of murder.
An exceptional story of compelling interest in a time of school shootings, ethnic and class strife, and other unbound expressions of madness and illness.