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True Crime Addict and Missing Maura Murray

Hi, this is Stacie Frobenius from Kansas City with my BookByte in the It’s A Mystery To Me series.  I chose True Crime Addict, How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, by James Renner.  

The book showcases Renner’s investigative skills when he decides to look into the disappearance of a young UMass student.  Renner spent time as an investigative journalist and it’s obvious he has a natural curiosity needed for that career choice.  

His other talent is obviously writing.  The highly acclaimed fiction work The Man from Primrose Lane was the first of Renner’s books I read and enjoyed.

The book True Crime Addict is broken down into short chapters that help organize the information making it easier for the reader to follow.  Investigations are like spiderwebs; each lead branching out in its own direction.  Sometimes much of what is learned isn’t useful.  He starts out his investigation reviewing every media account of Murray’s disappearance.  

As a former journalist, he shares with us the following: “Every article you’ve ever read is a little untrue.  I guarantee it.  And still, you don’t go trying to solve a cold case without first reading everything that has already been written about it, even if you know it’s a bunch of bunk.”  Renner shares every detail of his investigation, allowing the reader to sit in limbo wondering if the information is relevant or not.  

In chapter 28, Consider the Red Herring, he gave me something to think about when I’m processing crime scenes.  Renner explains “A ‘red’ herring is a herring that has been cured in brine, making it particularly smelly.  A journalist in the 1800s claimed you could drag red herrings away from your trail to divert any hounds that were tracking you.”  

While the original use may have implied it was done with intent, most red herrings in an investigation are just the bunk-information that ends up being distracting.  Is it often true? Yes.  Is it related or useful?  Not always.  Talented investigators are able to cut through the red-herrings and find evidence and information that is accurate and useful.  In the book, Renner throws a lot of theories at the reader taking them for the same roller-coaster ride he went on. Sometimes he offers his thoughts on if something is a red-herring and other times he lets the reader decide.

The openness with which Renner tells the story of his own thoughts woven through this investigation makes the book feel like we are reading his “dear diary” book.  Had he left this aspect out and only talked about what he found while researching, the story would’ve fallen flat.  

My other book recommendation about the investigation into BTK along with this book do so much to showcase the amount of time, effort, and money that just one investigation can consume.  Those in law enforcement usually end up having health issues because of the consuming nature of such a demanding career.  Personally, I can connect with Renner’s obsession with wanting a mystery to solve.  

Toward the end, Renner shares the following with the reader. “I am a decent man.  But I could have gone the other way.  If my mother had not shown me kindness, I could have been really dangerous.  I feel it in my bones.  

And let’s not beat around the bush: These mysteries I write about, they serve a very specific purpose, don’t they?  They fulfill an obsessive need to understand violence, a compulsion to hunt.  I hunt bad guys.  But, if things had gone just a bit differently…” He leaves the thought unanswered.  For me, it draws a nice parallel between the people featured in my other book choice, Lt. Landwehr and Serial Killer BTK.

So does James Renner solve the case of Maura Murray? Where did she go after wrecking her car in rural New Hampshire in 2004?  Is she dead and not found? Or is she alive and invisible in this world?  You will have to read the book to find out.  I sure hope that Renner, a self-proclaimed True Crime Addict will someday pick up another mystery to solve and take us on that ride too.