Book review: The Michigan Murders
Now’s definitely the ideal time for a re-release of this 1976 true crime title, with the recent wave of pop culture interest in true crime stories. I go on true crime binges from time to time but I’d never heard of this case before. So for me at least, despite all events described taking place more than forty years ago, everything was new and a surprise. But I think the details and narration of some of the women’s personal stories would also be interesting to others already familiar with the story.
And it’s a total page turner. I opened it up despite being in the middle of another book and couldn’t put it down for the next two days. The majority of the book is concerned with the last days in the lives of several women who were murdered in the Ypsilanti area over a two year period in the late 1960s. It’s detailed and told in a very well-paced, engaging narrative style, despite some gruesome details and the overall unsettling topic. There’s some dated slang and unnecessary exclamation points when just telling the story would have been enough and that snapped me out of the story, but otherwise the material holds up well.
The last portion of the book, detailing the trial of the man convicted for the last murder but assumed to be responsible for all of those in the book minus one (more on that later) wasn’t as engaging. Reading word-for-word courtroom dialogue just wasn’t interesting, even though I’m interested in courtroom procedure and legal aspects. It was dry and there wasn’t much interpretation, and then an abrupt ending. Maybe it was a commentary on how quickly and relatively simply things could be wrapped up and finished after such an intricate and heart wrenchingly awful series of events over several years. Nevertheless, the bulk of the book was compelling, in a can’t put down- able kind of way. I particularly liked the sections that had to do with police procedure, how they can mess it up and what their reasoning in taking certain actions was. Also crazy to think how DNA has advanced since the events in the book. Not to mention technology…it’s strange to read about people narrowly missing each other without the aid of cell phones, a suspect seen using a pay phone, stuff like that. It’s a true crime relic of its times!
It would have been interesting if the publisher had included a foreword or afterword from someone connected to the case, another author or reporter (the book’s author has passed away) with an update on what’s happened post-conviction. Like for example addressing the issue of one of the murders in the book having since been linked to another person (who’s now convicted for it) through DNA evidence. But I was interested enough after finishing the book to look up the case and read more about it, and I guess that’s the result of an absorbing story. Emphatically recommended for anyone else as addicted to Investigation Discovery shows as I am (I need an intervention, I know.)
Advanced ebook copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Michigan Murders: The true story of the Ypsilanti Ripper’s Reign of Terror
by Edward Keyes
Published April 19, 2016 by Open Road Media, first published 1976