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

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  130 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Dig deep into the unsolved murder of Jackie English and join the hunt for a serial killer

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
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Paperback, 360 pages
Published October 4th 2019 by ECW Press
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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 ...more
Krista
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-con, nonfiction, 2019, 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
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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
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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
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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.
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.
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
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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 ...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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Tiffany
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
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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
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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 ...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
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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
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Michayla (WaitingfortheSecondStar)
Very engaging and full of possibility. Not a good read if you want definitive answers! ;) I liked Brown’s narrative voice and the way she set up the story and the history. A few too many digressions to feel completely cohesive, but a good read for the true-crime fanatic.
Michayla (WaitingfortheSecondStar)
A big “Thank You” to ECW for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

The Forest City Killer is a true-crime book detailing the mysterious and unsolved murder of Jackie English in 1969--a disappearance and death that our author and many others believe was a single incident among several acts of a serial killer. With several people disappearing and turning up dead, the probability of such speculation feels high. Setting her book against a backdrop of small-town living, Brown
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Navarra
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
London, Ontario appears to have drawn a lot of interesting characters in its history and much was afoot there around the time of my birth in the same province. Vanessa Brown illuminates a true crime period of history that appears to have been kept relatively well hidden in general Canadian history. When I was learning the urban legend of the psychiatric escapee with the hook by campfire, I think that learning that a city not even 130 km from my hometown was a hotbed of serial killers might have ...more
Shelby
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
During the 1960s in London, Ontario (“The Forest City”), numerous young boys and women were kidnapped, raped, and murdered by the Forest City Killer. Some cases were thought to be connected, some weren’t. Although his identity remains unknown, Vanessa Brown has combed through police files, conducted her own interviews, and found missing links between cases that just may help reveal the FCK’s true identity.

As true crime is one of my favorite genres to read, I tend to be stingy with five-star
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Karissa Costa
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Someday, someone is going to write a book about the English case, as we are dealing with some of the wackiest people that existed."

This was a really deep dig into this case. A lot of ground was covered and at times I felt it was muddled, overwhelming and confusing with quite a bit of jumping back and forth between cases and dates.. but I suppose that is just the reality of this unsolved case and the author has definitely put exhaustive work into this collection of haunting facts, memories
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Jim Tracy
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It's not your usual crime story as the author is local to the area of the crimes and writes a lot about the area. She also inserts opinion and first person at times. Ultimately, however, it's some pretty weird and wacky stuff that makes for interesting reading. If you want a book about an open and shut case, this is not it. I would recommend fiction. This is a real life story where everything, in the end, doesn't get tied up in a neat little bow. It's thesis is a plea for ...more
Jeff Swystun
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is definitely a disturbing tale. It takes place in London, Ontario. I had honestly never heard of The Forest City Killer. Though not a huge fan of true crime, I recently finished listening to a podcast, Evil Has a Name. It was a fascinating examination of The Golden State Killer.

It is amazing how many serial rapists and killers operated with impunity throughout the 60’s and 70’s. Better policing and technology have had effect in the decades since. In Evil has a Name, the podcast rattles off
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Kirstin
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
Man... What to say about this book...

It reads really well. It respects the victims, and doesn't go into too much detail about the murders itself, just enough to tell you what happened. I will put a Trigger Warning: sexual assault, rape, murder, assault, harassment, and necrophilia are all in this book.

For me, none of it super hit until the epilogue. That last paragraph or two made it real.

I will also say that Vanessa balances well the good and the bad, the victims stories with her personal
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P.T.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Near the beginning of The Forest City Killer, Vanessa Brown compares London, Ontario to the fictional town of Twin Peaks. It’s an appropriate description, given what follows: a series of bizarre, branching stories that may (or may not) be connected to the body of a young girl found in the water.

I live in London, and I wasn’t aware of any of the dark history presented here—this city tends to forget or ignore things pretty quickly. It was chilling to see landmarks I visit regularly as the backdrop
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Sayo
Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book was informative and interesting, the history of places like Stanley Variety were very interesting to me as I use to live a few houses down from the old store.
It is clear that the author took the time to do her research and is well informed on the history of London Ontario.

However- she made a comment regarding the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses

"Even more frightening the unrepentant would go to hell"

It is wildly known that Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in hell or the eternal soul.
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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.