Ripple: A Long Strange Search for a Killer – A True Crime Book About the Boy in the Woods Murder

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Before it was released this April Ripple was already getting rave reviews on Goodreads and Netgalley. Who wouldn’t want to read a book compared to true crime classic I’ll Be Gone in the Dark? Ripple does forfill some of it’s promise. Cosgrove covers his investigation into the boy in the woods murder over decades of his own life. He knew the victim, Frank McGonigle’s family, as he grew up in the same tight knitt American Irish neighbourhood. His older brother was friends with the Frank, they went to the same schools, same church and had an understanding that only comes from sharing the same unremarkable mundanities of day-to-day life, which are both so forgettable, yet fundamentally shape our understandings of life and ourselves.

This mean that Cosgrove has an insight into Frank’s life. However that insight does not go as far as one would assume, because Frank himself seems to have felt an uncomfortable fit in his own life, and as he grew older he rubs up against himself and others in ways that become less and less tenible for him. Perhaps it was that his temperament wasn’t a good fit for the rough and tumble of a large family. Possibly it was undiagnosed depression. Maybe he was a highly sensative person, or there was some early childhood trauma no one knew about. We will never know. Cosgrave’s intimacy with the family does mean however we have a fly on the wall view of their own soul searching about why their son and brother left home and no longer wanted to be part of the family. A glimpse of interpersonal family distress that is so often hidden away, brushed under the carpet – but something I suspect more people than we know grapple with.

This is the strength of the book, the deeply personal decades long reflection of the victims family. However, this is not a piece of investigative journalism. So those who are expecting the rigour of someone with the caliber Gregg Olsen will be dissapointed. Cosgrove is aware of this, and admits that in his journalistic career he gravitated towards upbeat fluff pieces, and there are points where this shows.

While I aim to remain open minded, I am not convinced by Carole

The most noticeable is his encounter with energy reader Carole. Overtaken by her southern charm, which oozes out the page, Cosgrove completely disregards any journalistic integrity. He makes a cursory attempt to verify her claim she has worked with the FBI. When three FBI staff or ex-staff confirm viceferously that they never work with psychic his response is to shrugg shoulders and conclude “They haven’t met Carole,” rather than say, “Maybe she’s lying and a lot of the information Frank’s spirit gave her mainly came from the tequila fueled drinking session we had the night before.”

That would appear to be the logical conclusion. However there is a large chassim between logic and human nature, and the spirituality of the catholic church, which both Cosgrove’s and the McGonigle’s grew up with perhaps indicates minds more open to the spiritual and supernatural. Which in day-to-day life I would not argue with. However when it comes to the way some people use spirituality to play with, and suck the energy and money, from grieving loved ones I have less patience, and part of me wishes Cosgrove’s journalistic senses would have been sharpe enough to be less patient, more sceptical and more rigorous.

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