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Someone's Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe Hardcover – October 16, 2009
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With a journalist's flair for language and a historian's eye for detail, Silvia Pettem takes her readers through all of the twists and turns of a real-life murder mystery spanning fifty years, leading from an exhumed grave in Colorado to San Quentin's gas chamber. Someone's Daughter―replete with frustrating dead ends and tantalizing breakthroughs―is a compelling and accurate glimpse into the world of cold-case investigations. (James C. Oleson, J.D., Ph.D., criminologist and crime policy chief)
Cold case investigations, by definition, require digging into the past, but not all are as thoroughly researched as Someone's Daughter. This Jane Doe case documents a unique partnership between law-enforcement, the forensic community, and a historian who worked together―and got the job done. (Frederick A. Bornhofen, Chairman of the Board and Case Manager for the Vidocq Society)
Silvia Pettem is a real-life Agatha Christie. (Frank Bender, forensic artist and co-founder of the Vidocq Society)
Silvia Pettem has written a book the reader will remember long after the last page has been turned. The power of her writing left me shaken and in grief for Jane Doe. I am already looking forward to her next book. (Roy Hazelwood, retired FBI profiler and author of The Evil That Men Do and Dark Dreams)
Someone's Daughter is a lot of fun. Pettem puts you in right in her detective's gumshoes on almost every page, and you can't help but absorb some of her emotional connection to the case. ...[T]his well-written, exhaustively detailed investigation has helped bring a notorious Boulder cold case out of deep freeze. (Daily Camera, (Boulder))
Highly recommended reading! (Defrosting Cold Cases)
"Silvia Pettem has written a book the reader will remember long after the last page has been turned. The power of her writing left me shaken and in grief for Jane Doe. I am already looking forward to her next book."
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I love true crime - books, movies, documentaries, tv shows. I find them fascinating. I especially love cold case studies. To apply modern knowledge and technology to a cold case is very exciting. This book did not disappoint. And what's even better is that this is a regular citizen who became interested in a Jane Doe. She used whatever method she could to figure out who Jane Doe really was. Her learning curve was steep, yet her goal was simple: figure out the young lady's name. The author gained so much more from her time working on this case, and so does the reader.
The biggest hurdle the author faced was "a decades-long practice of routinely destroying records of unsolved homicides and missing persons." This is the biggest hurdle most cold case investigators face. There are other sickening truths about the way our society treated victims, treated criminals, and treated evidence that the author reveals. "For evil to flourish, all that's needed is people to fail to act." This quote really sums up most cold cases. The statement really stuck with me.
The best things about this book are:
-it is absolutely thoroughly researched, an immense amount of attention to detail
-it is presented in a readable, not clinical, manner
-the author's passion is contagious
-the author sheds light on other missing women from that time period
-a really wonderful depiction of Boulder, a neat time capturing of the timeframe when she is working on this
I am in awe over the author's patience and diligence during this tedious process. The families who gained from the author's work are right to be grateful.
Definitely read this book if you are interested in cold cases, true crime, or historical pieces. Read this book if you enjoy gaining an education from what you read. Read this book if you appreciate great writing, great research, and tremendous passion.
I enjoyed and appreciated "Someone's Daughter" so much, I felt only a slight hesitation giving it five stars. But I do have two criticisms of the book. The first is a quibble, really, but worth mentioning: The author has a tendency to set off individual words and sometimes clauses with commas when commas are not warranted.
My second criticism involves a major SPOILER. The SPOILER is in play until the end of the review. Stop reading now if you do not wish to learn this major SPOILER.
As a key participant in the search for the identity of Jane Doe, the author had several working theories down through the years as to her identity. At least three young women-- one from Nebraska, one from Canada, a third claiming to be from Texas-- are mentioned as possibilities. Each of these is investigated in great detail, particularly the third. But as real-life events unfolded, none of the three turned out to be Jane Doe. The book had already gone to press when the identity of Jane Doe was finally learned without a doubt, but this updated edition of the book includes only a brief epilogue explaining this. Given that the book is ultimately about Ms. Pettem's righteous obsession with learning who Jane Doe was-- not merely her name, but the fullness of her identity, who she was as a human being-- and given that she spends so many pages exploring the lives and meeting the families and friends of the women she initially posited as a match for Jane Doe, it is troubling that, once the correct woman is identified, the book devotes only one hasty chapter to offer what amounts to a thumbnail sketch of her story.
The fault I find with the ending is brought into sharper relief by the wonderful qualities of the rest of the book. It's a great read, and Ms. Pettem is a fine writer, a gifted researcher, and best of all, she has a great heart for humanity. You will feel you went with her on her years-long journey to sift through the dark secrets of Colorado's past, and you will feel you met some generous and interesting and maddening folks along the way. But, sadly, you will have to look elsewhere for a fully orbed exploration of the woman who ultimately turned out to be Boulder Jane Doe.
I found it to be a really good book. It does wander a little, but the intent is to show how things that don't seem to be connected or helpful are. It's also eye-opening, and sad, to see how many "Jane Does" there are out there. The author and a lot of people put in time to help find out who this one was, which I found to be worth the read. The author also acknowledges that some of the people who go missing did so for their own reasons, and comes to understand that the questions can go much deeper than just "who is Jane Doe?" It's also interesting how many old records did and did not survive.
There is some attention paid to who the suspected killer is, but by the time the search began, the person who is presented as the most likely suspect had already been executed for other crimes.
If you are interested in missing persons or true crime in general, I think this is definitely worth reading.