The Killing Season by Alex French is non-fiction crime reporting. It should interest readers with a law enforcement or legal background. Although well written, it is not crime fiction. There are no deep psychological twists in attempts to discover dark motivations. Looking at the table of contents, the reader will see the case took over thirty-five years to “solve.” And it was only solved by a jury verdict of guilty toward one party. That person professed innocence so we can only assume the case was solved if we believe in the system of justice that determined the guilt. If we believe in that, there is still the failure to match blood DNA evidence for a different sample at the crime scene. There is still the possibility of an undiscovered additional perpetrator.
Linda Benson and small daughter Kelly were discovered dead in their apartment by husband Steve Benson in July 1975. Steve was an absentee husband in more ways than one. His work site was far enough away from their apartment in Grand Junction, Colorado, that he was only there on his days off, usually the weekends. Also, he and Linda were not actually married; they had been living together four or five years and Linda used the Benson name. Not surprisingly, Steve was a suspect.
The book then begins to describe the long journey to finding a guilty party. Along the way, key evidence will be handled and mishandled according to the standards of the time. When more sophisticated technology, such as DNA typing, arrives, the quality of the storage of evidence will become crucial.
Personalities change as well. Both crime detectives initially on the scene go though many changes. Both leave and reenter law enforcement or law enforcement related jobs. Both will be present more than thirty-five years later, called back by officers who had assumed control of the case. A Sheriff will leave office before facing charges of misuse of power while in office.
The number of characters in this account is staggering. The names of females are difficult to keep up with as marriages dissolve and re-form. Barbara Rippy, Linda Benson’s mom, had been married at least seven times since the murder at the time of trial. There was a focus on two or three main suspects. Interviews were conducted with the suspects, all their friends, and friends of friends. When that was completed, further investigations of those same people went back in time to examine every possible connection with principals. Math majors can have fun here. It makes for a lengthy, complex read even though the Kindle version is listed as 111 pages.
It is not a fast read because of the careful sourcing of information but if you are a reader who likes Law and Order or CSI, you will like this.