Review: “Mad City,” Michael Arntfield

Pros: Fascinating and detailed
Cons: Rambling in places
Rating: 4 out of 5

Michael Arntfield’s Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is the story of Linda, who spent most of her life trying to get justice for her murdered college friend. It’s also the story of the evolution of police procedures and understanding of serial killers, and an indictment of many of the actions taken (and not taken) by police past and present.

The beginning in particular rambles round and round quite a lot, and could have used a lot of trimming. Sections rocket back and forth in time and in focus. In general the book is wordy and tends to obscure its points rather than enlighten them. However, it is fascinating to read Arntfield’s take on things like victim-blaming, and how police tend to stick blame onto any convenient caught serial killer so that they can close cases. He does, however, do a good job of pointing out time periods when police really didn’t have the scientific understanding or resources to do what they can today.

It’s depressing that Linda almost certainly knew who killed her friend, and kept the police informed of each bit of progress she made, yet the man died of old age without ever having been looked at seriously by police.

[I]f the general public knew just how many murders are solved due to luck or silly mistakes and oversights made by offenders with respect to leaving physical evidence or not keeping their mouths shut–versus cracker jack sleuthing the way it’s done on TV–people generally would be horrified and never leave their homes.

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