01 November 2011

Review: Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case

In the 1980s, Seattle, Washington, was one of the most dangerous cities in the country. The reason? A serial murderer, dubbed the Green River Killer, had killed more than 80 women, leaving their naked bodies to rot in the woods. After a decade of work, the local police remained stymied in the investigation and, in 1990, put Tom Jensen in charge of the case.

Despite dead ends and false leads, Jensen never gave up hope in his quest to find the killer. He dedicated his career to the case, and his perseverance paid off. After a 20-year investigation, the detective finally heard Gary Leon Ridgway confess to the murder of dozens of prostitutes. Jensen sat across the table from Ridgway for 188 days in 2003, until he had the definitive proof he needed to put the Green River Killer away for life.

Jeff Jensen, senior writer for Entertainment Weekly, knows just a little bit about this case; he's the son of retired detective Tom Jensen. In Green River Killer: A True Detective Story, Jeff teams up with illustrator Jonathan Case to tell the story of Tom's journey to find the killer and give 84 families some peace and closure.

I don't know at what stage the designers or authors decided to go with the stark black-and-white drawings that make up this graphic book, but it was a brilliant move. The murders, the frustration of the police force, and the creepiness of Ridgway come across cleanly. The addition of color would have sensationalized the crimes and investigation, making it more difficult for the reader to connect emotionally. (Click the scan to see it full size; it's p. 27.)

Some of the more interesting aspects of the police work have to do with the incredible changes that have occurred in the last 30 years in terms of computers, DNA analysis, and forensics technology. Thanks to the long duration of the investigation, by the time Ridgway was caught, more than one crime scene had been transformed from woods to parking lot, the result of urban sprawl, increasing the difficulty of finding clues.

If the book has a flaw it's in the abrupt jumps in time from the present (2003) to past episodes in both the detective's and Ridgway's lives. Regardless, the story is fascinating, and it's easy to root for Tom Jensen. You'll read this illustrated history in a single sitting.

According to Jeff Jensen, The Green River Killer was "not intended as history or memoir." It is perhaps best read as a tribute to his father's career and to remind readers:

The Green River Killer's victims were prostitutes, but to their families they were daughters, sisters, and mothers.
This is something that Detective Tom Jensen never forgot.


Published by Dark Horse Comics, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062049698
'
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: B

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

22 comments:

Sandy Nawrot 11/1/11, 6:23 AM  

I've been hankering for a GN so when I saw this reviewed (by Nicole?) I ordered it from the library. If this case interests you at all, you should read Ann Rule's book about it. She spends alot of time addressing the dedication of those investigators.

Julie P. 11/1/11, 6:33 AM  

I so want to read this! I read the Ann Rule book and another one about this case! Fascinating!

bookspersonally 11/1/11, 6:45 AM  

Sounds like an intriguing story- how fascinating to tell it as a graphic novel. The illustrations look like they would perfectly capture the mood - and suggest maybe the classic noir detective tale, as well? Love the quote you shared.

bermudaonion 11/1/11, 7:47 AM  

Boy, do I remember when all that was going on. I used to be a true crime book nut, so this totally intrigues me.

Beth Hoffman 11/1/11, 8:51 AM  

I'll have to get this for my husband, I think he'd love it!

Swapna 11/1/11, 9:01 AM  

I'm glad you enjoyed this one as well! I thought it was very well done.

Zibilee 11/1/11, 9:20 AM  

Though true crime isn't really my genre, and I haven't read a lot of graphic novels, after reading your review and Swapna's the other day, I think I need to pick this one up. It sounds very interesting and like something that I could really sink my teeth into. Great review today! So glad that you liked the book!

Daryl 11/1/11, 1:01 PM  

I love true detective stories ... going to add this to the list/pile

Jenners 11/1/11, 2:27 PM  

I didn't realize until you mentioned it that this was illustrated. How different! This is something I'll have to look at further.

Anita 11/1/11, 5:08 PM  

I haven't read a graphic novel, and this is the second great review of this book, so I may have to pick this one up. At one time I was very interested in true crime stories, Bundy, etc.

Vasilly 11/1/11, 7:39 PM  

Now you're giving me GN recommendations! :-) This sounds like an amazing read. I'm adding it to my tbr list.

Elizabeth 11/1/11, 7:54 PM  

What a beautiful header. Love your blog.

Elizabeth

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

Meg @ A Bookish Affair 11/1/11, 8:44 PM  

I'm definitely intrigued...

softdrink 11/1/11, 10:17 PM  

I never would've expected true crime to go GN.

SuziQoregon 11/2/11, 3:59 PM  

I moved back here in the middle of the hunt for the Green River Killer and the speculation that grew each time another body was found. I've read a lot of Ann Rule's true crime books because so many are about things that happened in the Pacific Northwest, but not the one about this. I have yet to read any Graphic Novels but I did buy one this week. I may have to find this one because your review really has me intrigued.

picky 11/3/11, 3:47 PM  

Really interesting choice. I really enjoy graphic novels/memoirs/bios (in fact, I reviewed one today), so this is an interesting development. True crime in graphic form. Very interested. Plus, this sounds like a fascinating case. Great review!

Margot 11/3/11, 5:23 PM  

I recall following this case. I like the idea that Jensen's son wrote this as a tribute to his dad. I also like that it's in graphic novel form. I'll look for this one.

Cathy 11/5/11, 1:47 PM  

I, too, have read Ann Rule's book on the GRK. The last time Denis and I were up in Washington state, we were coming back from a day spent taking a dozen friends to Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainer. We passed an area with a *huge* police presence and people digging holes in a field. Seems that the GRK had told them where some more of his victims' bodies were buried. :-(

Irene 11/6/11, 12:21 AM  

I don't usually read GN but this sounds good. Thanks, Beth.

Kris 11/8/11, 8:22 PM  

I read a review somewhere about this one and was wondering if it was any good. Glad you enjoyed it!

dog eared copy 3/24/13, 1:47 PM  

Way back in November of 2011, when you first posted this review, I was immediately intrigued and bought a copy. As is par for the course in our house however, the book got lost in the stacks.... until now. I picked it up and read it this morning and was absolutely fascinated. I only had the dimmest of memories concerning these events so it was all really new to me. I, too thought that the choice of black & white illustrations was perfect. The choice gave a journalistic feel and credibility to the story. Thank you for bringing this title to my attention :-)

Better later than never,
dogearedcopy/Tanya

dog eared copy 3/24/13, 1:47 PM  

Way back in November of 2011, when you first posted this review, I was immediately intrigued and bought a copy. As is par for the course in our house however, the book got lost in the stacks.... until now. I picked it up and read it this morning and was absolutely fascinated. I only had the dimmest of memories concerning these events so it was all really new to me. I, too thought that the choice of black & white illustrations was perfect. The choice gave a journalistic feel and credibility to the story. Thank you for bringing this title to my attention :-)

Better later than never!

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