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Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk Hardcover – International Edition, September 6, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a gripping journalistic style, novelist Godfrey (The Torn Skirt) recounts the story behind a horrific murder in a small British Columbia town. One November night in 1997, 14-year-old Reena Virk was savagely beaten and drowned under a waterway bridge. From a small East Indian community, Reena was alienated from her family and spent her time desperately trying to find a place with a tough crowd of teenagers, several of whom had been in trouble with the law. But one of the girls held a grudge against her, and Reena apparently was lured to her violent end by a promise of friendship. Seven girls and one boy initially were charged with assault. Two were convicted of murder: Warren Glowatski, now serving a life sentence, and Kelly Ellard, who was found guilty in 2005 after three trials. Godfrey is careful not to make judgments, but her informed writing reveals a remorseful Warren, an unrepentant Kelly (who denies her guilt) and other psychologically damaged members of the group, sharply etched, whose casual brutality, enabled by drug use, led to a brutal and senseless death. Godfrey's account contains some recreated dialogue but overall is meticulously researched and harrowing to read. B&W photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Godfrey approaches a brutal crime in an unlikely spot the way a novelist would, by tracing, first of all, how the victim and persecutors came to be in that place, through all the tangled byroads of families seeking a better life. In November 1997, the body of a 14-year-old girl, whose family had emigrated from India, was found in the waters off Victoria Island in British Columbia. The victim, Reena Virk, had been beaten to death. Seven girls and one boy, all high-schoolers, were charged with the crime. Godfrey follows the case from discovery through verdict at trial, seeking to answer the one question the trial testimony could not: Why did a gang of mostly well-off teens commit casual murder? Her interviews with all the principals, ranging from the police scuba team that found the body through prosecution and defense attorneys, suburban families, teachers, and the accused themselves, bring this case disturbingly alive. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; First Edition edition (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002000679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002000673
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,552,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book was incredible. To use an accurate cliche, I couldn't put it down. As I read, I felt as though I came to know each "character", and while I definitely didn't like each one, I felt as though the author was presenting me with an understanding of their separate motivations. Godfrey managed to weave together a complex subject involving more than two dozen people, a confusing night, a morass of lies and gossip and denial, somehow bringing it all into the light. I kept wondering how long she'd had to research, and how many people she must have interviewed during the course of the writing. Godfrey writes of jealousy, love, vanity, fear, violence, and tragedy in an understandable way. She also keeps the reader in suspense, revealing each bit of this real-life plot slowly so the reader experiences the tension, uncertainity, and need to know that many of the (unfortunate) real-life particpants must also have felt.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This really was such a good book. As others have said, I really never wanted to put it down. I find there is a lack of information on what happened to Reena Virk, and any searching results mainly with focus on the trials of Kelly Ellard. This book provided not only details on the sad crime itself, but insight into Reena, her family, and all of the other teenagers who either participated in or witnessed her death. I was most surprised in the kind and strangely forgiving nature of the Virk family.

I really enjoyed Godfrey's writing style; the book did read like a novel, and you can definitely tell she has done her research and created a very detailed and realistic outline of what happened. From small details, like one girl's use of Nivea cream and Reena's eagerness to share her favourite songs with a member of her family, to the prosecutors and defense lawyers as well as frustrated police trying to deal with scared and angry young teenagers, every character and situation was "brought to life", as cheesy as it sounds.

Again, it is difficult to find much information on the Reena Virk case, and this book is perfect for anyone wishing to know the story and the people, as confused and confusing as they seem to be. It's one of the best "true-crime" books I've read, and it contains vivid insights into the awkward, gossipy and, in this case, often cruel world created by these young teenagers.

Being bullied, wanting to fit in, wanting your peers to view you in a certain way are all things that people of this age feel and experience, and Godfrey effectively captures that atmosphere in this book. The only hollow part is the question that even those convicted of the crime can't answer: why this horrendous crime happened, committed by people so young.

Beautifully done, in my opinion.
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By Andie on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I am also a reader who couldn't put this book down, which hasn't happened to me in a long time. I credit Rebecca's writing for pulling the reader right into the case, so much so that I was left feeling deeply emotional about the whole thing. I am grateful that this book exists, it adds an extra dimension to the sound bites we've seen in the media-- but most importantly, it honours Reena's memory.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not going to argue that this case was well-documented here. You got a feel for the victim and alleged criminals, even felt as though you knew them. The crime was unspeakable, especially considering how small a thing it was the victim died for.

What most find a strong point--the fact the novel was written like a fictional piece--is what I believe to be the failing point. At times I put down the book only to realize that I still didn't believe this to be a "true" crime story. It seemed TOO fictional; sometimes TOO in touch with the players. To be honest, I enjoyed this as a piece of fiction, not as a fascinating documentary of a senseless murder--and that is not something I particularly look for in this genre.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first few pages of this book really drew me in. Unfortunately, the rest of it let me down.

One problem is that, as others have noted, Godfrey introduces too many people. For instance, on page 9, we meet a teenager called "Nevada." She appears on the next six pages. We don't read her name again until 288, where we learn simply that she does indeed still have red hair. Given that there are already several suspects and a victim, plus their families, we don't really need the extras.

But worse than the confusion is the very selective editing of the truth.

The author clearly spoke at length to most of the kids involved, and tried to really get their side of the story. But the sympathy she tries to evoke for them is at odds with their actions. Not only did they tacitly condone Reena's assault by not stopping it or, later, offering her help, but they kept quiet about what had happened despite hearing rumors she was dead and noticing her absence. At the trials, said they didn't remember the violent assault -- yet they easily recalled details about what people were wearing that night.

Notably, Godfrey dwells on the media portrayal the girlfriend (Syreeta) of one of the suspects, as cold, yet leaves out at least one major reason for that perception: On the witness stand, Syreeta said Reena's murder was "not a very interesting subject."

Also, Godfrey neglects to bring race into the discussion at all. This must be a conscious choice, as it was widely reported that Syreeta testified her boyfriend beat up Reena because other "east Indians" had beat up his friend. How do you write about this case and never once discuss race?
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