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The Forest City Killer: A Serial Murderer, a Cold-Case Sleuth, and a Search for Justice

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3.70  ·  Rating details ·  669 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Fifty years ago, a serial killer prowled the quiet city of London, Ontario, marking it as his hunting grounds. As young women and boys were abducted, raped, and murdered, residents of the area held their loved ones closer and closer, terrified of the monster -- or monsters -- stalking the streets. Homicide detective Dennis Alsop began hunting the killer in the 1960s, and h ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published October 4th 2019 by ECW Press
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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Valerity (Val)
London, Ontario, aka Forest City and the setting of this particular book, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s as it follows a string of tantalizing unsolved murders there which left some believing that there was a serial killer plying his trade. It gives a good account of the murders it goes into, giving background detail and a good amount of local color. Some happen in small towns very nearby, but seem to be obviously linked. There are good debates about different suspects that Detective Als ...more
Krista
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, can-con, nonfiction, arc
Perhaps because of its unique social geography, the degradation of mid-sized city economies, or the silo effect of the city's makeup, London seemed the perfect place for sex traffickers, drug dealers, and serial killers. They stopped here on their way through, as Ontario's superhighway 401 connects us easily with Detroit and Toronto. The Forest City was made a safe haven for the worst criminals by the covered eyes and ears of our citizens. Londoners can be remarkably incurious people.

My husb
...more
Tom
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book seriously suffers from discontinuous story lines. It puts forth the theory that a string of sexual murders in the 1960s in London Ontario were all committed by one individual. I found it unconvincing and frustrating to read. It seems to be more an outline or notes for a book rather than finished work.
Christine
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

If you are American (and maybe if you are not), Brown’s book is going to remind you on some level of the Golden State Killer. Which is strange because the only thing that the two books have in common.

Brown’s book details the unsolved killings of young people, mostly girls, in London Ontario that occurred in a period starting the 1960s. While Brown does work as a bookseller, she is also a knowledge local historian. She brings a local’s knowledge to the story, and th
...more
Brandon
The Forest City Killer is the story and investigation of the disappearance and subsequent murder of Jackie English, a resident of London, Ontario in 1969.

Having read, reviewed and interviewed the author of Murder City, a book about both the murders in her hometown of London, Ontario between 1959 and 1984, bookseller and author Vanessa Brown’s curiosity about the unsolved murder of Jackie English inspired her to dig deep and write her own book focusing specifically on English’s mysterious death.
...more
Jon Recluse
Jun 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
3.5 stars
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
London, Ontario earned its nickname ‘The Forest City’ during its establishment in 1826, when it was little more than a village among the trees. Today, London is a mid size city with a population of about 400,000 that spreads out along the River Thames. London is a community much like any other, but from 1959 to 1984, the town was said to have had more active serial killers than any other locale in the world. It was reported by criminologist, Michael Arntfield in his book Murder City, that there ...more
Amie's Book Reviews
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Researcher Vanessa Brown grew up in London, Ontario, Canada and resides there to this day. It is in her beloved city where she owns and operates a used book store and as an avid local historian, she has authored and/or edited several local history books. London, Ontario is also known as "The Forest City" hence the title of this book.

I have a keen interest in True Crime, biographies and historical non-fiction. It is because of this that I was drawn to THE FOREST CITY KILLER.

Also, since I live i
...more
Tiffany
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindleowned, arc
I received an ARC from Netgalley called The Forest City Killer by Vanessa Brown. This is a true crime about a serial killer and rapist operating in Canada in the 1960s and early 70s. Vanessa Brown is not a journalist but a citizen who lives in the same area where the serial killer was targeting victims. She interviewed surviving family members, read detective's notes, and even tried to interview potential suspects.

Unfortunately, this case is still unsolved which made me feel very unsatisfied wit
...more
Jeanette
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Strange and quirky. Also overlong and all focus is on London Ontario rather than the specifics listed within the title, IMHO. I considered a two star rating as tangents relative from arson fires to car style head lights rove all over the place. Organized only by dozens of cases in this particular place during this late 1960's to about a decade later period.

But I went with the 3 stars because the soup to nuts confusion is exactly apt to that pre forensics proofs period during which all these murd
...more
Cassandra Struble
I had never heard of The Forest City Killer until this book. It follows a string of murders and disappearances in and around a small town in Canada.
This book gives detailed information into a lot of the cases. It tries to show connections between them all, but that gets a bit muddied up by not knowing who actually committed the crimes. It also follows the notes from Detective Alsop, so it gave some insight into the investigation. She also brings up some of the DNA samples, but then mentions how
...more
Shauna Roth
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
As a true crime reader, I was very surprised to learn about the Forest City murders. I appreciate the fact that the author put these unsolved murders back into the public eye. This is the first advanced reader copy that I have read that was draft-like in presentation. It required a little more focus as I was reading it. Captions for photos would be inserted in the middle of page and footnotes also in strange placements, as well as sentences ending mid-sentence, to be picked up later on, but thes ...more
Jen Juenke
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am really struggling with this review. I feel that in some parts the author did a GREAT job. Covering Jackie's murder.
Then in other areas, I feel the author spent too much time on the crazy lady who framed Glenn Frye.
I completely understand that the author does NOT know who the Forest Killer is/was....but I felt that there could have been more emphasis on the victims, the stuffed tissues in the throats of at least 2 victims, whether or not there was other unsolved murders around Canada with t
...more
Peacegal
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a haunting, impassioned story of a cold case and a writer's commitment to justice for the victims. As with all violent crime of the pre-DNA testing era, you get so frustrated reading about the wealth of evidence the murderer left behind and how pretty much nothing could be done.

I hope this book works in the way I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK did and renews interest in a partially-forgotten cold case, leading to the conviction of the murderer.
...more
Brandon Forsyth
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think Goodreads erased my original review - suffice it to say that this is empathetic, feminist true crime in the spirit of Michelle McNamara that raises some interesting questions about these cases in particular and the way cold cases are investigated in Ontario in general.
Christina McLain
Jan 03, 2021 rated it liked it
In the 1960's, London, Ontario was a sleepy city of 160,000 people with a prestigious university and a thriving arts and cultural community. It was also, and would be until 1984, the serial killer capital of Canada. Between 1959 and 1984, 29 murders, mainly of young women and children, occurred in the city. Thirteen of those killings have been linked to a trio of men convicted of their crimes, but the remaining deaths remain, officially at least, unsolved. This book written by a native Londoner ...more
Marguerite Giguère
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a very interesting book. I did find it a bit confusing to read some of the time because of all the stories that were mixed up together. It did make me really sad to read about all those murders and also gave me nightmares... Especially since I live in London. I really hope that those cases will be solved some day to bring justice to the victims and their families.
Nikki Stafford
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An astonishing look at a series of murders in what feels like small-town London, Ontario, "The Forest City Killer" is a fast-paced, remarkable read that makes you rethink the idea that the world was a better, purer place in the 1960s. Author Vanessa Brown has meticulously compiled each of the dozen murders that happened in this Southwestern Ontario city, pulled out new clues that I hadn't read before, and managed to string them all together and point out links between them all, along with sugges ...more
Laura
May 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars.

As far as I can tell, Vanessa Brown is not a trained detective or journalist. And it shows. She veers wildly from case to case, theory to theory, then jumps back to the story of a person she last mentioned over a hundred pages ago. Her (non-chronological) narrative is so scattered that even if she did find any worthwhile evidence while researching this book, it's lost in the mire of all the minutiae. She also had a tendency towards paragraphs that were only a sentence long, as though t
...more
Erin
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was really excited to read this book. I had high hopes. But it was incredibly boring and cluttered with WAY too much unnecessary detail. We don’t the need the detailed backstory for every single business in the area.

This book would only be interesting for true crime enthusiasts who live in London, Ont. And even then that might be a stretch.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Forest City Killer: A Serial Murderer, a Cold-Case Sleuth, and a Search for Justice by Vanessa Brown is a highly recommended examination of cold cases and the likelihood that a serial killer is the culprit.

Fifty years ago, a serial killer prowled the quiet city of London, Ontario, making it, unofficially, the serial killer capital of Canada. Young women and boys were abducted, raped, and murdered, beginning with the 1969 murder of 15-year-old Jackie English. Homicide Detective Dennis Alsop s
...more
Shara Greensides
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
The story was very interesting to me, especially because I live in the city this took place in. I did find it a little hard to follow at times with there being so many names introduced at once. The organization of it was a little confusing as well since the links between people would sometimes be mentioned before that person was introduced. I also feel like a lot of the author's personal details that were added in were unnecessary. The footnotes were also distracting. I would rather the informat ...more
Rachael
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Forest City Killer details a set of events so chilling and mysterious that I found myself sitting up at night, afraid to go to sleep. Vanessa Brown writes with compassion for the victims and their families while also maintaining a ruthless hunt for truth and fact (difficult though it must have been considering some of the police work in the cases). While non-Londoners with a taste for true crime will undoubtably appreciate TFCK, it truly hits home for us who live in the Forest City.
Michel
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
The fairest City Killer takes on a chilling journey into London’s recent past as a seedy hunting ground for the Forest City Killer. The events in the book are grotesque and captivating, and Brown does her best to honour the stories for the families who survived them. I came away with a better understanding of the city and the resilient people who lived here in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Sarah
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. I hadn't heard much about this case until recently so I was interested in reading the book, some may say it is similar to the Golden State Killer. While it was an interesting read, there was a few downfalls, there was too many footnotes and couldn't interview many of the witnesses. Overall though still a decent book. ...more
Cynthia Millar
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I quite liked this book. It's well written and feels as though Vanessa and I are just having a conversation about it all. I cant wait to read another one of her books ...more
Rebecca Bomasuit
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had a bit of a hard time getting into it, but wow, it sure picked up and was deeply disturbing and intense at times. A couple of typos in the text, which always makes me shudder. Erie St in Stratford is spelled incorrectly in the book as “Eerie” and another time it says “family remember” when it should say “family member”. But, putting that aside, I became very invested in this book and want to know who the FCK is/was.
Dominique
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was difficult to read due to the Kindle formatting. Footnotes would appear in the middle of a paragraph and were often incomplete.

I found the topic of the Forest City Killer fascinating. However, I had great difficulty following the storyline. It seemed to hop, skip, and jump around quite a bit. The author draws some strong conclusions which seemed to be based on conjecture rather than evidence, including drawing connections between cases that are most likely unrelated. The author indi
...more
Natalie Hébert
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brown weaves a coherent narrative from the many threads she has gathered over the course of her investigation. The details of London, Ontario in the 60s & 70s make the setting another important witness to the many murders Brown recounts.
In The Forest City Killer Brown builds a compelling case that justice has not been served for the victims and their families. Her tender treatment of those left behind is contrasted effectively with the brutal details of each death. A gripping read that leaves y
...more
Adam
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is akin to “Ill be Gone in the Dark”, but not as well written and, perhaps, not even about a real person. The author gives a history of a number of murders in London, Ontario (Canada), that she believed to be connected. The victims are of both genders and range in ages from teens to senior citizens. Some are found in parks, some in bodies of water, some in their own cars. Some are strangled with hands, some smothered, some killed with blunt force trauma, and some killed in an unknown m ...more
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A freelance writer, editor and local historian, Vanessa Brown is the author of The Grand Old Lady: A History of Hotel London and London: 150 Cultural Moments (written with Jason) which was published by Biblioasis in 2017. She is also a murderino, and wants to remind you to stay sexy and don't get murdered! Her latest book, The Forest City Killer, will be published with ECW in 2019. ...more

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