Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Runaway Devil (Book Review)

"The most disturbing outcome of the trials is that neither JR nor Jeremy Steinke ever took responsibility for the death of Jacob.  Only they know for certain what happened in that house, and one of them is not telling the truth."

The book club genre for this month was true crime.  Honestly, I've not read very much of this genre.  That may have to do with the fact that I'm generally a very fiction-heavy reader (reading 2 of them at the same time as this book) and if I am reading about a true crime, it is usually involving an air crash incident.*

*Sidenote:  If I could do it all over again, I would totally be an air crash investigator.  Mayday is my favorite TV show, and I think my personality as someone who is ridiculously organized and meticulous (read: anal retentive) in their work would lend itself well to that type of career.  But I never pursued the sciences as actively as I should have.  *sigh*...

 I wanted to pick a book about a Canadian crime, and I ended up choosing Runaway Devil: How Forbidden Love Drove a 12-Year-Old to Murder Her Family by Robert Remington and Sherri Zickefoose.

The story of Runaway Devil was a really big case in Alberta back in 2006, when 12-year-old JR and her 23-year-old (!) boyfriend planned and carried out the murder of her parents and little brother in their Medicine Hat home.

While obviously this was a disgusting crime, I want to focus mostly on the quality of the investigative writing and the style of the book itself rather than passing too much judgement on the individuals involved in this real-life horror story.  Remington and Zickefoose are both journalists who covered the story for the Calgary Herald.  And while the journalistic writing style often falls prey to sensationalism, in this case the authors have managed to do a pretty good job of avoiding the melodramatic.  Which is challenging considering the subject matter of forbidden (not quite) teenage love and family murder.  Remington and Zickefoose do an excellent job of discussing the backgrounds and lives of the murderers equally, and provide many different perspectives and sources in their analysis of the crime, ranging from court records to social media postings and recorded conversations.  The book is not a difficult read from a vocabulary standpoint, but from my experience true crime books don't tend to be exceptionally difficult in their language.  The book is for the most part put together in a sensible chronological fashion, and there weren't too many places where I was confused about which point in time they were referencing.  I also appreciated that they included photos of the parties involved (excluding young offenders) and provided an update on the situation as far as it was available when the book was published.

So while true crime is not my usual choice in genre, I felt that Runaway Devil was a generally well-written investigative look at a truly horrible multiple murder.  I would recommend this book to fans of the genre, or those with an interest in crime and current events in Alberta.

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