#BookReview: Murder In The Neighborhood by Ellen J Green

Green Finds The Eggs, Butter, and Sugar. Yes, the title here references one particularly poignant line deep in the text – just 7% or so from the final words. Through this point and after, Green has managed to tell the story of what happened on River Road in Camden, New Jersey on September 6, 1949 through the eyes of nearly all of the people who survived the events there that day. A bit later, she’s even going to connect it to a more recent event that was in the news – and that the granddaughter of one of the survivors happened to be at. This is narrative nonfiction, and it has next to no documentation (and hence the star deduction), but it is structured and told much in the manner of a novel – which makes it infinitely more readable. But the most remarkable thing about this book is just how truly balanced it is. A horrible tragedy occurred that day, but rather than painting the perpetrator as some otherworldly monster as so much coverage of and conversation around more recent similar people does, Green builds the case that this man is just as human as the rest of us. There is no “other” here, simply a man – a man who had faults, but also a community that had faults too (and also had amazing things as well). Indeed, the entire reason I picked up this book was because I saw a Yankee author and British publisher working on a book about “the first” (not really) mass shooting in the US… and this defender of the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment worried that it would be just ever more anti-gun drivel. For those who may be looking at this book with similar thoughts, know that there is little of that here. Yes, Green calls a “magazine” a “clip” repeatedly, particularly when discussing the actual actions that day. But even when she brings in Stoneman Douglas (Parkland), she never actually goes those directions at all really. (At least one person she chronicles does, but it is clear that this is that person’s position only and not an “official recommendation” from the book.) But even that speaks to just how well balanced the book overall is. Truly an excellent and admittedly unexpected work, and very much recommended.

This review of Murder In The Neighborhood by Ellen J Green was originally written on April 24, 2022.