Tuesday, 25 September 2018

MURDER BY INCREMENTS: A CITY OWNED and KILLING COUSINS by O J Modjeska @OJModjeska

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads



How I discovered this book: I had already bought Book #1, because I'd read and loved GONE: Catastrophe in Paradise by this author, but then it appeared on the Rosie Amber's Book Review Team list; as a member of this review team, I said I would read it for Rosie's blog, too.  I bought the second book, about the killers, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, as soon as I'd finished it.  Thus, I am reviewing the books as one. 

Genre: True Crime (non fiction); serial killers.

This two part series, Murder by Increments, is about the crimes of the Hillside Stranglers, who made LA a frightening place to be in the late 1970s.  The first book, A City Owned, starts with a picture of what LA was like back then.  Such a clever way to start; to understand the lives of the victims and why Bianchi and Buono went undiscovered for so long, we have first to be aware of the culture of the time.  LA was a seedy place indeed, peopled by many who'd arrived seeking the Hollywood dream, only to be sucked into the underworld of prostitution, porn, drugs and crime.  The cops were overworked and jaded, with few resources; these were the days before the internet, before reliable criminal profiling, and before DNA databases.  Reading how carelessly they bungled the investigations, over and over again, made me think that crime solving had moved on very little in the hundred years since the London police tried in vain to identify Jack the Ripper.

O J Modjeska writes about the victims with great respect for each girl's short life, drawing a heartbreaking picture each time.   These are not just names, and the book is far from being just a list of heinous crimes.  Only towards the end of the book do Bianchi and Buono themselves appear, and by then I had to know the whole story; I went back to Amazon and bought Killing Cousins as soon as I'd finished A City Owned.  



I found Killing Cousins the most absorbing of the two books, as I am more interested in the psychological background of killers than the solving of crimes.  The drawn out trial was at times farcical, not only because of Bianchi's attempts to convince psychiatrists that he suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder, but because of the self-interest and prejudice of many involved.

'There were the cops who thought the lives of prostitutes were worthless, the officials who wanted to look good in front of the media, the shrinks seeking professional recognition, the prosecutors who assumed middle-aged women were crazy, and the politicians seeking office.  There was stupidity, there was self-aggrandizement, there was sexism and the tyranny of the herd.' 

This two-book series is everything that true crime should be, without being in any way sensationalised.  O J Modjeska has not only written a riveting account of the victims, perpetrators and law enforcement bodies, but also shown how very different attitudes in general were, only forty years ago; if just a few incidents had not taken place, a few people not spoken up, if a few jurors been swayed by the individuals who defended these two monsters, the outcome might have been very different.





6 comments:

  1. Thanks, Terry. Having worked as a forensic psychiatrist I was intrigued by this book, but I've been tryingto diversify a bit. Thanks for the review.

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  2. Good insight for readers, Terry. True crime is hard to write without sensationalizing or getting too close to the victim or the criminals.

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  3. Great review TT. A must read for me, I think!

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    1. Thanks all - I'd advised any of my fellow RBRT members to take this one! Really worth reading, and I bet you'll do as I did and buy the second one straight away!

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