Review: “The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central” by Christine Pelisek

Author: Christine Pelisek
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Genre: True Crime
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

“This upsetting account of a Los Angeles serial killer, written with passion by Christine Pelisek, an investigative crime reporter who spent 10 years working the case, blurts out a hard truth that no one wants to acknowledge . . . [She] tries to restore dignity to some of the victims by drawing sympathetic and carefully detailed life histories for each and every one of them.” ―Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review 

In 2006, Christine Pelisek broke the story of a terrifying serial killer who went unchecked in Los Angeles for decades. Two years later, in her cover article for L.A. Weekly, Pelisek dubbed him “The Grim Sleeper” for his long break between murders. The killer preyed on a community devastated by crime and drugs and left behind a trail of bodies―all women of color, all murdered in a similar fashion, and all discarded in the alleys of Los Angeles. 

The case of the Grim Sleeper is unforgettably singular. But it also tells a wider story about homicide investigations in areas beset by poverty, gang violence, and despair; about how a serial killer could continue his grisly work for two decades in part due to society’s lack of concern for his chosen victims; and about the power and tenacity of those women’s families and the detectives who refused to let the case go cold. 

No one knows this story better than Pelisek, the reporter who followed it for more than ten years. Based on extensive interviews, reportage, and information never released to the public, The Grim Sleeper captures the long, bumpy road to justice in one of the most startling true crime stories of our generation.

(via Amazon)

Review

TLDR; a well-written true crime book with some dips but otherwise decent pace. Provides a unique opportunity to hear insider perspectives from a reporter who closely followed investigations at the time.

The Grim Sleeper is a good standard true crime novel that touches on all the essential points for the genre in a captivating read. Written in 1st Person POV through the lens of her time as a former reporter, Christine gives readers an insider view on the series of homicides that took place in the depths of Los Angeles. Typical of many serial killers, the murderer preys on the poor and disenfranchised, attacking victims involved in prostitution, living in destitution and low income housing, and those with addiction to drugs such as crack cocaine. The disparity of police reaction in response to this violence against the majority black community in south central is contrasted with quick action when a wealthy white community is impacted. The author highlights community reaction to this apathy and perceived lack of urgency as a strong theme throughout the book, leading the reader to question “why wasn’t more done?”

There were some components of the story that I had mixed feelings on. I thought it was undeniably well-written (expected from a reporter turned novelist), and there was masterful tension leading up to the verdict. In other places, however, I felt the book wasn’t quite gripping enough to hold my attention and I became neutral about finishing the book. At the conclusion when I did complete it, although the rise towards the climax of the trial was well done I was disappointed by the ending.

Some of the author’s personal interjections also felt disruptive to the flow of the story with little value to compensate. But perhaps the most disappointing portion of the book on whole was the seemingly surface-level exploration of evidence once the Grim Sleeper is caught. Either there wasn’t much there, or it wasn’t described. Once you overcome that hurdle the victim statements at the end were powerful. Sharing their shattered sense of trust and security, bearing their broken hearts, the victims bring the powerful story to close. This is a good book for anyone who enjoys true crime, though it unfortunately does not make it to the top of my favorite true crime books.

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