review: The Man in the Monster by Martha Elliott



Thank you to NetGalley and The Penguin Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Much appreciated!

Official Synopsis
An astonishing portrait of a murderer and his complex relationship with a crusading journalist

Michael Ross was a serial killer who raped and murdered eight young women between 1981 and 1984, and several years ago the state of Connecticut put him to death. His crimes were horrific, and he paid the ultimate price for them.

When journalist Martha Elliott first heard of Ross, she learned what the world knew of him— that he had been a master at hiding in plain sight. Elliott, a staunch critic of the death penalty, was drawn to the case when the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned Ross’s six death sentences. Rather than fight for his life, Ross requested that he be executed because he didn’t want the families of his victims to suffer through a new trial. Elliott was intrigued and sought an interview. The two began a weekly conversation—that developed into an odd form of friendship—that lasted over a decade, until Ross’s last moments on earth.

Over the course of his twenty years in prison, Ross had come to embrace faith for the first time in his life. He had also undergone extensive medical treatment. The Michael Ross whom Elliott knew seemed to be a different man from the monster who was capable of such heinous crimes. This Michael Ross made it his mission to share his story with Elliott in the hopes that it would save lives. He was her partner in unlocking the mystery of his own evil.

In The Man in the Monster, Martha Elliott gives us a groundbreaking look into the life and motivation of a serial killer. Drawing on a decade of conversations and letters between Ross and the author, readers are given an in-depth view of a killer’s innermost thoughts and secrets, revealing the human face of a monster—without ignoring the horrors of his crimes. Elliott takes us deep into a world of court hearings, tomblike prisons, lawyers hell-bent to kill or to save—and families ravaged by love and hate. This is the personal story of a journalist who came to know herself in ways she could never have imagined when she opened the notebook for that first interview.

It’s telling that midway through the first bit of this book – which I found to be about as imbalanced a portrayal of this subject as possible – I actually grabbed my phone to take a photo of my Kindle.

My husband gave me a strange look, naturally and asked what I was doing.

“Making sure I don’t forget this part. It made me so angry I’m afraid I’ll black it out due to rage.”

For posterity, this is my photo:


Let me just repeat that here: Michael Ross was a brutal rapist and killer, but I also met another side of him – a caring, thoughtful person…

See, where you really should have stopped is after ‘killer’ because there is not a ‘but’ big enough in the world to follow that sentence. My other favourite bit is this: Father John was the first one to convince Michael that God would forgive him even if no one else could.

How lovely for Michael isn’t it?

He went around kidnapping young girls (don’t be fooled by the constant repetition of ‘young women’ – a few of his victims were in their early teens), shoving his penis in their mouths, raping them however he cared to (vaginally, anally – in one particularly repugnant passage, he tells Martha that he couldn’t ‘get it into’ one girl because she was so small, so he settled for raping her anally), and then strangling them and hiding their bodies, often tossing them places like the garbage you know he thought they were. Just sexual receptacles and playthings, discarded when he felt like it and not a minute sooner.

And yet, this Priest takes it upon himself to offer this person ‘forgiveness’. Great. How is that in any way his business or concern? Was HE raped and murdered by Michael Ross? What? The answer is no? Well, then, simple: he doesn’t have the right. Ever.

Only his victims had the right, and he took that away from them, just like he stole their breath, blood, tears, sweat, dreams, desires and silly, sweet, selfish hopes. He stole any children they may have had out of their wombs. Any hearts they may have broken. Any romances or marriages. Any careers out from their fingertips. Their names will never be on office doors. Their families will never know, never know, never know.

All because this guy thought he could do this, and get away with it, and the whole time I was reading this book, all I could think was, Martha Elliott, you got played.

Of course she did, really. He did this for a living.

But honestly, so did she.

She’s supposed to be a celebrated journalist and she can’t even examine why she goes to bat for this guy? Why she has been manipulated into telling his side of the tale? Why she’ll drop everything to be by his side? She doesn’t wonder if he’s telling her exactly what she wants to hear, in order to get what he wants?

Just like he did with his victims?


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