The Death of Anyone by D.J Swykert, 222 pages, Melange Books LLC, February 25th, 2013, Genre: Crime/Serial Killers, Adult themes. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
“The death of anyone lessens us,” we are told at the beginning. Indeed, Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 put forth the idea that there are a mere six degrees of separation between each human being, showing how much more intimately connected we are than we may perceive. Yet nightly, the wealthy, the powerful, the influential- they may sleep soundly in their beds, believing the horrors that touch the poor won’t affect them personally. They believe they can ensure it through neighborhood watches, gated communities, additional police protection, and security services. When one is not personally affected, one makes excuses for why more cannot be done to bring justice to victims of violent crime; the city budget won’t allow it, the police department is over budget, it won’t look good on a District Attorney’s record if he can’t convict.
The Death of Anyone is a graphic and gritty police procedural. Instantly, we’re pulled into the dark, tense world of homicide detective Bonnie Benham, a tough-as-nails cop determined to get the killer. A little girl from Ohio has been raped and strangled, her corpse left in a Detroit alley. Bonnie and her partner, Detective Lagrow, search missing persons and cold case databases for matches to the crime. They find two similar crimes spaced over a year apart, the victims both from the Sherwood Forest neighborhood of Detroit. Approaching the coroner, they ask her about the autopsies of the two prior victims and request that she do the autopsy on the current victim. She agrees and finds DNA evidence- the killer left sweat on the victim. The DNA doesn’t find a match and they’re turning up dead ends on canvassing. Lagrow suggests a method accepted in the UK- a Familial DNA match. The FBI can run a Familial DNA match. If a relative of the killer is in the system, this type of match would provide a lead. They request permission from their Lieutenant and the D.A.’s Assistant, Marion Johnson. Marion strikes the idea out because in America, this type of DNA testing has never been tested for use as evidence in court, and they don’t want to risk losing a conviction if the case is built on it and a judge throws it out. Once the child of a powerful person becomes a victim of the clever serial killer, all walls fall away, all resources granted to bring the killer to justice.
My favorite characters are the best developed- Bonnie Benham and Neil Jensen, her lover and fellow homicide detective. They are soul mates, both having struggled with addiction, both trying to be and do better, to move forward past the pain and self-blame of their pasts. They have some different interests but there is no denying the love and passion they find for one another. The love between them provides a warm light in Bonnie’s dark world. We have all hurt; we have all felt guilt and blamed ourselves, rightfully or not, for our mistakes. We want to prevent the suffering of innocents and deliver justice to the guilty. Bonnie and Neil were well developed and relatable.
After finishing this book, I was convinced that Familial DNA matches should be the norm in the United States, not the exception. Confronted with an ugly truth of our society- that money and position make all the difference in determining which crimes get solved- I realized how many more murders could be prevented if we shifted our priorities and treated every murder victim as though they were the child of a powerful person, as if nothing mattered more than bringing about justice, equally to all.
The Death of Anyone was an intense read with a heavy theme. This page-turning, quality story is not for the faint of heart. If you love police procedurals, don’t miss out on this one. I’d recommend this book to those interested in detective fiction, police procedurals, and serial killer crimes.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as is a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were;
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.