Attacked while asleep in a tent during a cross-country bicycle trip, the author returned to Oregon years later to investigate the crime and to search for the assailant, who was never apprehended.
The June 22, 1977, attack was grisly. A man drove his pickup through the tent, backed over Jentz and her college roommate Shayna, then went after them with an axe. The author, now a screenwriter, did not see the attacker’s face, only his oddly neat cowboy attire. Shayna, who sustained a life-threatening head wound, continues to have no memory of the assault. Jentz is relentless in her pursuit of Dirk Duran (a name that, like others in this account, she has changed), a strikingly handsome but volatile young man who lived near the crime scene, a roadside park called Cline Falls. Some local people suspected Duran because of his unstable, abusive behavior, but, for reasons that the author explores, the police did not investigate him closely. Jentz did. With the help of two committed friends, she interviewed many who knew Duran, including co-workers, relatives and women he’d abused. Eventually, she pieced together not only the details of the crime but also Duran’s twisted, vicious history. In one striking scene, years after the attack, Jentz goes to watch Duran’s trial on another charge. (The statute of limitations had expired in her own case.) He knows she’s been on his trail, and their eyes meet. The author is meticulous about detail; she read countless newspaper articles, court and hospital documents; she drove up lonely, remote roads to find people who might provide only a single nail for the edifice she was erecting. But her overlong account should have been substantially trimmed, and the frequent passages of pop psychology are amateurish.
An emotional piece of investigative work, vitiated in places by prolixity and psycho-clichés.