- Mass Market Paperback: 582 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks (July 15, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312953240
- ISBN-13: 978-0312953249
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Gainesville Ripper: A Summer's Madness, Five Young Victims- The Investigation, the Arrest and the Trial (St. Martin's True Crime Library) Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 1995
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Ryzuk also does a superb job of painting a complete picture of events from several different angles, having interviewed many of the victim's friends and relatives, as well as others involved in the investigation. Some of the events are repeated in the book, but it's for this purpose that I believe this approach was worthwhile. Her use of a timeline during the events leading up to the crimes builds suspense and takes the reader along on a fateful ride with doom.
I have driven by the 34th Street wall memorializing the victims hundreds of times, but only after reading this book do I feel like I have a sense of who the victims all were. They are no longer five semi-anonymous names painted on a wall, but clearly distinguishable lives with different goals that, sadly, will never be achieved. My only complaint is that the personalities of Sonja Larson and Christina Powell do not come off as vividly as did those of Christa Hoyt, Manny Taboada, and Tracy Paules, which may have to do with the willingness of those left behind to talk, but that's only my speculation. By walking us through the victims' relationships and daily events leading up to the killings, Ryzuk almost breathes life into the victims again. Friends and families of the victims are also explored, and their anguish is palpable.
The author does not neglect the killer, though. I came away with an even better sense of his motivations and the life events that led up to the events of August 1990 than I did after reading his own account, co-authored by Sondra London. This is saying something, as this book does a far more insightful job of exploring Rolling than does the killer's own account, which seems like a alter-ego-explaining manifesto scattered with a few short mentions of the killings in detailed, almost mechanical fashion. For those interested, the accounts in this book of the murders themselves are clearly and more fully explored, from Rolling's initial selection and stalking of the victims, to the commission of the heinous acts, to the discovery of the bodies, his subsequent events and beyond, including the arrest of a "red herring" suspect that left the city breathing a premature sigh of relief. I am left disgusted by Rolling's need to murderously dominate, then eliminate, to make up for his own inadequacies as a human being.
There are facts in the book regarding the killings and the investigation I have read elsewhere that were nowhere mentioned in London's account. Also, Ryzuk captures the essence of Gainesville and the University of Florida campus so clearly that it feels as if I were back there again myself. It is by comparing this lovely, generally serene southern town, once again filled with all the excitement of a new fall semester, to a living nightmare of horror at the events and fear of the unknown that even greater impact of the events are realized.
There are only a few small inconsistencies as far as references and places, but most would only be picked up by a native (e.g. the victims were not "five University of Florida students" but four UF students and one SFCC student, "Union Reitz" vs. the correct "Reitz Union," a lake that is not really in front of Marston Science Library, and things of this nature). Other than that - a full, multi-angled, incredible account. I couldn't put it down, and am filled with an even more profound sadness about the murders than I was when I actually lived across the street from where Manny and Tracy met their fates.
Truly tragic, and I hope that, if nothing else, readers get to know and remember the victims as extinguished bright young lights on the verge of their creating their own futures. For many in Florida, the healing will not begin until Rolling meets his fate.
A lot of things are also repeated. The first thing you get into in the book, is the killings. That pulled me in right away. The beginning was good, then when it got into the life of the killer, that was also good. Then after about 200 pages of that, you want to put it down. I'll give this 3 stars because it wasn't trash but it wasn't a good read either.