Brenna's Reviews > Chasing the Devil: My Twenty-Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer

Chasing the Devil by David Reichert
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Apr 12, 2009

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Read in April, 2009

Sheriff David Reichert, according to a variety of well-informed sources, made a damn fine detective. Unfortunately, he does not make a damn fine writer.

Sheriff Reichert details many aspects of what proved to be the definitive crime investigation of his entire career in law enforcement. Having gone unsolved for twenty years, the Green River murders of Washington State occupied much of his man hours - and his home life. For one prolonged period, Reichert "began to question the whole idea of human compassion," going so far as to ask his wife not to say "I love you" to him when "there was so much evil in the world and there were so many victims who would never hear those words again." His children, too, cried upon missing their father, who went out so frequently in search of a man he did not know, or could not recognize upon sight. The case became a tremendous burden upon him as a man, just as the families of the known victims - and those of the dozens of unexplained disappearances - demanded a resolution... while many citizens pressured local politicians to withhold the immense funding the investigation seemingly hemorrhaged (since the victims appeared to be "only prostitutes, runaways, and street kids").

Beyond the investigation of Gary Ridgway (the man ultimately convicted of almost 50 counts of premeditated murder, and suspected of dozens more) as the Green River Murderer, Reichert follows the dead end trails of other viable suspects of the day, reliving the crushing frustrations and heartaches of discovering that so much effort and time and hope had been placed in fruitless ambition. Twenty years of following leads, of coming within a proverbial hair's breadth of bringing justice for so many bereaved people, and then coming to terms with failure.

The solving of the case, needless to say, was not only an exercise in patience and perseverance, of foresight and forehandedness... but of great importance to countless people who had formerly lain awake at night, knowing that this murderer had tricked them all - and lived in limitless freedom just as if he were an upstanding citizen.

The writing of this book, though, does serve to emphasize Sheriff Reichert's ostensible discomfort with the written word. As charismatic and dedicated as he has proven to be within his chosen line of work, the book has a decidedly sophomoric tone. Written at almost a junior high school reading level, the tone of the book leaves the ultimate impression that the author's motivations include mere self-congratulation (or perhaps even financial considerations). After all, would not an official compendium on the case reveal all that the general public would need to know without such a popularly-written title?

Also, in certain respects, the writing does reveal some very real incongruities between what the author writes verses what he should actually be aware of within a legal capacity. For example, regarding Ridgway's legal team formulating a pretrial mitigation report (a legal necessity in potential corporal punishment trials - and especially so with the prodigious amount of research involved in each Green River case), Reichert asks, "Why would they begin this work so early in the pretrial period if they weren't worried about losing?" Any defense team worthy of the title would realize the eventuality of a mistrial - and costly retrying - of the case should the team be found lacking in preparation for such an unmitigated effort. And so should the Sheriff.

In another passage, Reichert describes his impatience when many weeks went by without another body being found to trace back to the Green River murders: "How long would we have to wait, I wondered, until someone just happened upon another body?" While Reichert's informal brand of writing tends to reach out to a greater cross-section of readers, and there is never any doubt of his own personal involvement with the case, there truly are times when a more sensitive statement would have been warranted out of basic respect.

Neither does Reichert pull any punches: He did not appreciate talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael's apparent exploitation of him, and of victims of violent crime, during an appearance on her show in the mid-1980s. Nor does Reichert buy into what he calls "that whole FBI mystique," openly criticizing celebrity FBI criminal profiler John Douglas, and referring to the whole Bureau as a glorified local police department. One feels that he is honest with his views and opinions, which does lend to the credibility of his remarkable story.

While not the finest writer to cover a true crime, Reichert's efforts as tireless detective and proud sheriff should not be debased.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Michelle I attempted to write my own review of this book, but I couldn't come up with the words to express my feelings as well as your review does.

Brenna Michelle wrote: "I attempted to write my own review of this book, but I couldn't come up with the words to express my feelings as well as your review does."

Thank you! You're very kind to say so. :)

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