UNFINISHED MURDER by James Neff

UNFINISHED MURDER

The Capture of a Serial Rapist
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A fast-paced reconstruction of the five-year crime spree of Cleveland serial rapist Ronnie Shelton and the case that put him behind bars. Neff (Ohio State Univ. School of Journalism; Mobbed Up, not reviewed) certainly avoids the journalistic excesses of the true- crime genre. He gathered documents ranging from private diaries to psychiatric evaluations as well as interviews to reconstruct the plentiful dialogue and interior monologue that advancs the story. He also gained Shelton's cooperation, so he's able dramatically to portray some of the rapist's life and thought. Neff writes in brief scenes: he cuts from women being raped in their homes to the rapist's childhood as a peeping Tom and a victim of physical abuse from his parents, to Shelton's adult life: at a nightclub, a wiry man with long, rock-star hair, fighting to protect a woman menaced by her boyfriend. Maybe, he thinks, he should become a cop to earn the respect of a father who had always thought him a sissy. Neff tries unsuccessfully to make drama out of the police on the case. Better is his focus on Shelton's many victims, fighting the lingering psychological horrors of the crime that has been called ``unfinished murder.'' Finally, the cops got a break, tipped to Shelton by a vague photo of his car taken by a surveillance camera at a bank where his used a victim's ATM card. Despite the testimony of Shelton's psychiatrist that he couldn't help himself, the young man was found guilty of 49 rapes and sentenced to 3,198 years imprisonment. In an epilogue, Neff recounts how he learned that many of the victims ``bonded into a remarkable sisterhood of strength'' and offers some more analysis of Shelton's twisted psyche, although he acknowledges, ``I cannot say for certain why he turned out the way he did.'' Competent and thorough--so thorough, in fact, that local color overwhelms any inquiry into the broader issues raised by Shelton's case.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-73185-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995




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