With the holidays officially over and the New Year underway, I wanted to pick up something that deviated from my usual interests. I haven’t read much in the true crime genre, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to Green River Killer. I was aware of the true-life events that the book is based on, but my knowledge only extended to names and a few rough details. With that in mind, I picked up the book with a bit of trepidation.
During my initial read through, I found myself engrossed in one of the most heartfelt stories I’ve read in years. Green River Killer is based on the real-life investigation of Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer – a serial killer active in the 1980s. Despite its name, the novel focuses on the life of Detective Thomas Jensen, the lead detective involved in the case over its twenty-year investigation. The author, Jeff Jensen, is the son of Thomas Jensen and provides eye-opening detail and emotions often kept hidden from the general public. Green River Killer isn’t like the usual thriller; it is a deeply personal story of one man’s quest for answers.
The story flips between the heart of the investigation in the 1980s and its conclusion some twenty years later. The Green River Task Force investigates the initial killings in the past, and in the present they deal with the obtuse and forgetful killer as he works to help them find the bodies of his final victims. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the flipping of timelines, but Jensen’s tight writing quickly weaves the two timelines together seamlessly. More than anything, the author brilliantly captures the personality of Detective Jensen. His struggles with the killer, the investigation, and his own life are as painful as they are meaningful.
The art by comparison is chilling without being graphic which is a hard line to walk. The crime scenes aren’t glossed over, but the artist also doesn’t feel the need to shove the lens up against the bodies for you to marvel at the gore. There are also some clever transitions between timelines, like one jump between the 1980s and the 2000s where the artist uses the same framing with the same character; the only visible change being the wrinkles that comes with age. I do wish the graphic novel had been in color, and while I can understand the stylistic choice of keeping it black and white, I still feel color could have added another layer of depth.
As you scour the front and back covers of this book, you’ll see it adorned with the praise of many famous authors. That praise is well earned. Green River Killer is one of those transformative graphic novels that not only succeeds in its genre but pushes the envelope of the sort of stories one can tell. Equally a thriller about the horrors of humanity and a tribute to a man of unshakable conviction, Green River Killer succeeds at both. I truly cannot recommend this book enough.
Fans of the true crime genre will find one of the finest additions in years, and those unfamiliar with the genre will find a shining story about good triumphing over evil, not with blazing guns and platitudes, but through perseverance and dedication.
Creative Team: Jeff Jensen (Writer), Jonathan Case (Artist)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Click here to purchase.