Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: "True Crime Addict" by James Renner

With True Crime Addict, James Renner brings a lot of the same sense of foreboding and everyday evil to a true story as he did with his two novels, both of which blend psychological realism, suburban fairy tale and the banality of evil amongst strong, hyper original narratives. But this is a more personal book, some would say too personal. It came about at the right time. I have a lot of free time at work, and one of the things that I became fascinated with are writings and videos on unsolved murder. While I admit that a lot of the fascination with that is of the grim type, I do feel a sense of duty comes with it. At the very least, it gives me an incentive to keep my eyes open and be more aware of the cracks and caverns hiding in plain sight. Renner feels that same way, and this book, through two different stories, shows clearly and disturbingly how that obsession, especially inside a deeply moral and deeply troubled man, can nearly destroy a person. The first story told is the main story, and one I was fascinated by even before I was made aware of this book. In early February in 2004, UMass student Maura Murray crashes her car on a rural road in New Hampshire. After interacting with person nearby, a former truck driver named Butch Atwood, she disappeared before the cops came. The window between the conversation with Bruce and when the police showed up at the crash site is a mere seven minutes. Maura has not been seen since and no traces of what might have happened to her have been found. The second story is of James himself, which begins when he was ten years old, and a missing poster of Amy Mihaljevic, a girl who was abducted and murdered in his hometown of Cleveland, caused him to fall in love with the dead girl and lead to a lifelong obsession with unsolved and cold cases. His investigation into the case of Maura Murray, which begin in 2010, uncovers a dense of web of conflicting evidence about Maura’ motives, hidden fissures  within Maura’s family and his own manic desires to see justice doled out to victims of violent crime. I won’t get too much into the details of what Renner finds: it would not only spoilt the surprise, but I will say that Maura was no the all-American girl that the media, her strange father and even stranger sisters made her out to be, and by the end I feel I can make an educated guess of what MIGHT have happened to her on that New Hampshire road. We also get glimpses into Renner’s strange worldview, which he espoused on heavily in his novels The Man From Primrose Lane and The Great Forgetting and his current home life with his wife and troubled son and a brief interlude into his past and his psychopathic, pedophilic grandfather. There is lot to digest and mull over, but it is presented in brief, digestible chapters. And it helps that the details of this case, both sad and scary, are not something you are soon to forget. 
Rating: 5/5

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