The Fact of a Body
PublisherMacmillan
Date Published28 July 2017
 
 
ISBN-101509805621
ISBN-13978-1509805624
Formathardcover
Pages336
Price£ 20.00

The Fact of a Body

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The true story of a law student whose work on the defence of a murderer and child molester causes her to confront her own family’s past.


Review

Law student Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is passionately opposed to the death penalty, until she takes up an internship at a Louisiana law firm and is set to work on the case of Ricky Langley, a convicted murderer and self-confessed child molester. As she watches his taped testimony, suddenly she wants him to die. Digging further into the case, Alexandria is haunted by apparent parallels between Ricky’s story and her own family’s past. The more she researches, the more questions she has, both about Langley and about what happened in her own family.

Part true crime, part memoir, this book explores how crime can touch anyone’s life, and how that experience of a crime can colour your perception. It’s a book about secrets, about how people construct the stories of their lives, and how facts change as stories are told and retold.

The two storylines – Langley’s and Marzano-Lesnevich’s - are told in alternate chapters until the end of the book when they converge. Moving between them gives the book great pace – don’t start reading it at night or you won’t sleep until you’ve finished it. The author shapes her material with a skilled hand, drawing the reader into the narrative and delivering a number of shocks along the way.

Many true crime accounts can be dry – a bare retelling of the facts – but here the story is fleshed out with imagined scenes and conversations. Descriptions of people and places are poignant, the word choice as careful as a poet’s. Yet the author is careful to show where she’s inventing and at times breaks into the narrative to show her hand, and she provides details of her sources for each chapter at the end of the book. She includes details of the crimes Langley committed, presenting them plainly and without voyeuristic dwelling on the horror.

The author details how her investigation into Langley’s life and crimes meant reading and analysing over 30,000 pages of court transcripts, witness statements and expert reports. She has distilled this into a compelling, intelligent and proficient narrative.

Reviewed 08 August 2017 by Kim Fleet