book review: Amy: My Search for her Killer by James Renner


(Source: GoodReads)

Note: As I normally thank NetGalley / the publishing house here, I want to mention that I bought this book with my own money 🙂 Just so there isn’t any confusion.

James Renner is an author and a journalist, but he’s also a passionate, committed and driven investigator. In Amy: My Search for Her Killer, he takes on the moving and personal quest to find the murderer of 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic. Personal because when Renner was a young boy, he fell in love with Amy’s photo after it was broadcast on the news. After she went missing. He just knew with the brilliant clarity of youth- they were supposed to be together.

When Amy’s body was found on a chilly February morning – lying “like a doll” in a cornfield miles upon miles away from her home, Renner’s innocence about the world snapped like a bone. Cruelly, finally, forever.

Fifteen years later, Renner sets out to write Amy’s story. Not one for half measures, he doesn’t just speak to her friends and family. Instead, he tracks down every single person he can find that were associated with the case – from the tireless police detective who vows not to retire until the case is solved – and long forgotten witnesses to Amy’s abduction. Old friends, old suspects, new suspects. He tracks clues like a bloodhound, following up with a doggedness that would impress even the most seasoned police officer. Throughout it all, he vows not to get sucked down the “rabbit hole” of conspiracy theories (of which there are a lot) and instead stay laser focused on what matters – Amy.

The book reads like a suspense novel in many ways – as Renner untangles the threads surrounding the abduction and speaks with suspects, families, witnesses and friends. It seems that every person is hiding something – whether they know it or not. From a violent and unreported rape – to seeing Amy’s kidnapper and thinking nothing of it at the time, and every kind of secret in between – these remembrances stir up emotions that most would like to forget. But it’s a murder investigation, and Renner needs to dig up these bodies whether people like it or not.

Riveting and unforgettable, Amy: My Search for her Killer is the best kind of true crime – it never forgets that at the heart of the book is a little girl who had silly, hopeful, big, true dreams for the future, and who was ripped away from the earth. And for what? A moment of sexual pleasure? A thrill killing? Revenge? We may never know, and while that galls, at least Renner applies every bit of his passion into doing justice to Amy.

While they will never be together as he imagined as a little boy, he’s honoured her memory in a way that few people would think to do, and that is the true triumph of this book. Highly recommended.




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