The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Flatiron, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-14662-5
In this haunting hybrid of memoir and true crime account, Marzano-Lesnevich describes how a law school internship set her on a collision course with Ricky Langley, a pedophile and murderer, forcing her to contend with past trauma and preexisting prejudice. Langley was sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory, a sentence that was overturned after a surprising request for leniency by the victim’s mother. In an impeccably researched account, Marzano-Lesnevich explores Langley’s childhood, his repeated efforts to get help, suicide attempts, and a prior prison sentence, during which he told a therapist, “‘Don’t let me out of here.’” The author draws parallels to her own history of sexual abuse and the family members who failed to confront her abuser, and she recounts her later battles with an eating disorder and PTSD. Marzano-Lesnevich excels at painting an atmospheric portrait: a staircase becomes an ominous symbol, and a house’s peeling paint looks like “a skin worn by a creature who lurked underneath.” The dual narratives are infinitely layered, as Marzano-Lesnevich allows for each person’s motivations and burdens to unspool through the pages. Her writing is remarkably evocative and taut with suspense, with a level of nuance that sets this effort apart from other true crime accounts. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
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