The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir
Booklist Reviews 2017 April #2
*Starred Review* As her subtitle implies, true-crime writer and essayist Marzano-Lesnevich here combines two genres, and the result is surprising, suspenseful, and moving. Ricky Langley, living in small-town Louisiana in 1992, is a convicted pedophile trying to turn his life around. He has been mildly successful—until he meets six-year-old Jeremy, whom he confesses to murdering; later the boy's body is found in the room Ricky rents. In 2003, Marzano-Lesnevich begins an internship at a Louisiana law firm that's working to convert Ricky's death sentence to life in prison. She is drawn to the law not only because her parents were both lawyers but because she doesn't believe in the death penalty and wants to defend those sentenced to it. Only after seeing Ricky's taped confession does she believe he deserves to die. He is a living reminder of abuse Marzano-Lesnevich suffered as a young child, and as she delves deeper into both her and Ricky's childhoods, she discovers further connections, and each story begins to bleed into the other. The subject matter is difficult, and the author doesn't shy away from graphic descriptions, but readers are rewarded with a book that defies both its genres, turning into something wholly different and memorable. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2017 April #1
During an internship in law school, Marzano-Lesnevich (public policy, Harvard Kennedy Sch.) viewed the videotaped confession of a man convicted of murdering a six-year-old boy and possibly molesting him. In an instant, though a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, she wished death upon Ricky Langley. Struggling to pinpoint this new, aggressive feeling, the author began to dig deeper into not only Langley's story but also her own, parallel in disturbing and heart-wrenching ways. Half memoir, half crime investigation, this book alternates among the present, past, and everywhere in between within each of their lives. Marzano-Lesnevich was the victim of sexual abuse by her grandfather, which her parents discovered and halted, only to remain silent on the matter. Descriptions of the murder and sexual abuse throughout are often graphic, and readers may be cautioned. The author describes the court case Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., which contends with the issue of fault—who or what is the initial cause for blame. She poses a greater philosophical and legal question of one's past and how that determines cause in an exquisite and thought-provoking comparison study.