Review: “Who Killed Johnny Gill?”

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Time for another book review, this time by a newer author, Kathryn McMaster. I try to read books that are really diverse, and I also don’t like reading the back first, as for me they give away too much of the book. I am less interested in reading things because I know that I will like the topic, than I am about reading well written books. I have been known to walk into a library and take home 10 books that I like the look, the feel, the size, the font of, and even the picture on them, having read nothing at all about them. Then when I am home and comfy in my reading corner, I start at the top of the pile and if they haven’t grabbed me in an hour or so then I move onto the next book. I am sure that that is somewhat unfair, as I have also persisted with some books (usually on the recommendation of others with similar book taste) and was glad that I did. But I do prefer to not have to work hard well into the book in order to enjoy it. I love the journey more than anything but of course the topics really make a difference too, and I don’t enjoy repetitive topics.
So I guess that that means that if I review a book, then you can know that it is one that passes that first very important filter 🙂
I should say up front that I love true stories. I also love Historical Fiction … which is kind of the same, as the true parts are the History bits, and are what make it so interesting and the fictional characters are what bring the truth parts together. True crime, with History thrown in however, is always going to draw me, as the characters are also very true, and need to be to keep the facts right … but you still need to keep me past that first crucial hour or so.
Who Killed Johnny Gill” was an easy draw for me, and I was in from the beginning. I don’t want to spoil any of it so I won’t say what happens, but the things that really struck me were the way that Kathryn has clearly done her homework! For me, true crime stories are tricky and I am not sure that I would ever be brave enough to write one. You need to do your research and you need to do it really well! … I don’t want to be the one to check, but this book certainly feels as though every stone has been unturned.
The other thing that I felt Kathryn did really well was she made me feel empathy for the characters and I loved the way that she brought them all to life. I hope that if the real people were able to jump forward over a century and read this book about themselves, they would feel that they were portrayed well. They had depth and colour, which can be really hard to do when they lived so long ago. I kept wanting her to side with some of the characters, I wanted her to be biased towards the good guys and cold about the bad guys but she does a great job of remaining objective, sticking to the facts alone, and letting the reader come to their own conclusions, without coming across as cold or bland.
In the world of modern day CSI on almost every TV screen around the world, we can be so desensitised to truly horrendous crime, and forget that it happens every single day, to real life people, and not only now, but since time began. Humans have been murdering each other since Cain murdered Abel, and not just in anger and not just by knocking them on the head. Throughout the book I kept having to remind myself that this story really actually happened. And that it happened in such a way…
You will also enjoy this book if you are interested in the science behind the CSI of the day, the technical and physical tools and procedures of the day, and what the professionals had access to. “Who Killed Johnny Gill?” was a good read to the end 🙂
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