I first decided to request an ARC of A False Report by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong when I included it in my list of March 2018 releases I was looking forward to. In reality, it’s not the sort of book you look forward to picking up, as it obviously focuses on an extremely heavy topic.
Reading this book was an educational and eye-opening experience that solidified and deepened a lot of what I already knew about the difficulties that victims experience in reporting rape. It obviously comes with huge trigger warnings with regards to rape and violence. The authors don’t pull any punches in terms of tackling all the frightening details, but I think that for those who can stomach it, A False Report is a very important read.
A False Report by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong
Publication Date: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Length In Hardcover: 304 pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.3
Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists tell the riveting true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the detectives who followed a winding path to arrive at the truth.
Based on investigative files and extensive interviews with the principals, A False Report is a serpentine tale of doubt, lies, and a hunt for justice, unveiling the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today–and the long history of skepticism toward rape victims. Marie’s story. The topic of false reporting in rape cases is approached in the book primarily through the story of a central victim – a young woman named Marie. I found her account obviously heartbreaking, but also a really useful portrayal in an informative sense of the different kinds of pressure that can lead a woman to retract a rape claim. Marie fights against her own sense of shame and embarrassment, her destabilizing past, her absence of family support and pressure from loved ones to recant, and the misconduct of police that make her feel more like a criminal than a victim almost from the very beginning. It’s jarring to see how many times society fails Marie in her efforts to be heard and helped, but it also really effectively communicates the compounded injustice that violated women experience when they are not believed and are pressured to take back their accusations.
A look at a serial rapist’s mind. Going into reading this book, I knew it would tackle the difficult topic of women who get accused of falsely reporting a rape (typically unjustly so). I didn’t realize that the book would also be a gripping true crime narrative involving an absolutely frightening serial rapist who is followed throughout multiple crimes he commits on innocent victims. As someone who finds accounts of the minds of extreme criminals just as riveting as they are disturbing, I was both horrified and interested to learn more about the rapist’s modus operandi. The authors were able to interview the rapist for the book and as much as his actions are absolutely disgusting, as an example of how twisted the human mind can be I found learning about his thought-process oddly educational. The reader hears directly from him how he chose his victims, stalked them and attacked them. It makes for a very chilling read.
Learning about the history of rape investigations. I found the statistics the authors provided on the actual extremely low incidence of false reporting when it comes to rape, and the history of police misconduct in this realm both frustrating and informative. It was very interesting to see which elements of police work were effective in uncovering Marie’s attacker and which others were willfully or involuntarily misused. From more recent successes like detectives wielding a proper understanding of victim psychology, advances in DNA evidence and effective collaboration between nearby police departments, to failures that were typical of past investigations like the bullying of rape victims, leveraging of old-school beliefs about the realities of rape and improper handling of evidence, the authors cover a lot of ground in revealing the different ingredients that make up a proper and an improper rape investigation.
Might be too graphic reading for many. This book really did justice to its difficult topic in execution, clarity and quality of writing. There’s not much that I would change about it or things that I can find to criticize. There were no slower parts in the narrative, no areas of confusion and nothing really that didn’t work for me as a reader. While I was reading it, however, I realized that for a majority of readers, the addition of the serial rapist true crime element in the book and the graphic nature of rape accounts would prove to be much too horrifying to stomach. In some ways, because the message of the book is so important, I wish that the authors had pulled back a bit on the gory details. It almost felt weirdly voyeuristic at times – like that level of detail might not have been necessary to make the author’s point or even thoroughly appall the reader. Basically, if you’re susceptible or impressionable, this book may be much to scary for you.
Hard-hitting and moving look at rape investigations in America that is a chilling but worthwhile read on an important topic.
Have you read A False Report? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
You can also read my other recent Just Read reviews, including for contemporary fiction novel The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang, historical fiction title The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin, nonfiction picks The Stowaway by Laurie Gwen Shapiro and Evicted by Matthew Desmond, and Isabel Allende’s new novel In The Midst Of Winter.
Please note this post contains affiliate links from Book Depository. Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.