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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ann J. Lane
Wizard and Glass
Stephen King, Dave McKean
River of Blue Fire
Tad Williams
Richard Ford
Progress: 36/420 pages

True Crime Addict / James Renner

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray - James Renner

When an eleven-year-old James Renner fell in love with Amy Mihaljevic, the missing girl seen on posters all over his neighborhood, it was the beginning of a lifelong obsession with true crime. That obsession led Renner to a successful career as an investigative journalist. It also gave him post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2011, Renner began researching the strange disappearance of Maura Murray, a University of Massachusetts student who went missing after wrecking her car in rural New Hampshire in 2004. Over the course of his investigation, he uncovered numerous important and shocking new clues about what may have happened to Murray but also found himself in increasingly dangerous situations with little regard for his own well-being. As his quest to find Murray deepened, the case started taking a toll on his personal life, which began to spiral out of control. The result is an absorbing dual investigation of the complicated story of the All-American girl who went missing and Renner's own equally complicated true-crime addiction.

True Crime Addict is the story of Renner's spellbinding investigation, which has taken on a life of its own for armchair sleuths across the web. In the spirit of David Fincher's Zodiac, it's a fascinating look at a case that has eluded authorities and one man's obsessive quest for the answers.


”Closure is for doors.”

James Renner is a fascinating guy. He was told by his psychologist that his results to the MMPI test were “very similar to those of Ted Bundy, the serial killer” but that he also tests as very smart so he should be able to channel his darkness into socially acceptable work. He has a tendency to get fixated on things—sometimes those things are missing women. He flings himself into the investigations under the banner of “it takes a psychopath to catch a psychopath.”

He believes in sharing his thought processes and all the data that he collects as he pursues the question of what happened to Maura Murray. It’s a compelling and fascinating story and quite a number of people who regularly followed his blog become associate investigators with him, and he comes to refer to them as his Irregulars, giving a nod to Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, this public sharing also attracts its share of nut bars, one of whom has the nerve to publically threaten Renner’s son. He manages to find a place of calm, but reports his feelings: “I knew him for what he was: a crazy man only pretending to be dangerous. And he had no idea who I really was: a dangerous man working really hard not to be crazy.”

There are so many things that just defy belief—things that Renner refers to as fearful symmetry. Coincidences, strange synchronicities, things that verge on the paranormal. Renner doesn’t limit himself to just Maura’s case. He also throws in details from other cases that he has investigated, including his own family history, which has horrors of its own.

It’s a wonder that Renner is as well-balanced, albeit medicated, as he is. His intelligence does seem to be mostly keeping him out of trouble (though his temper does get the better of him more than once). He writes one hell of a story that sucked up two evenings and made me resent the necessity to do laundry or feed myself. I’ll be searching out more of his work asap.

Often, I think that I would like to have coffee with certain authors. This time around, however, I think I am just as glad not to know Mr. Renner personally. No offense, if you run across this review Mr. Renner, but I already have enough darkness in my life.