In Washington State in the early 80s, young women were going missing. Mostly young women who were at risk – runaways and sex workers – everyone seemed content to believe that they had simply moved elsewhere. But when bodies started to be found, first in the Green River that would give a killer his name and then in clusters in lonely camping spots, the truth could no longer be ignored. A serial killer was in their midst.
The Green River Killer remained at large for nearly twenty years, hidden in plain sight and overlooked a number of times in the ensuing investigation. Gary Ridgway, the man eventually unmasked as a serial killer, did not fit the profile of a serial murderer. Happily married and having held down the same job for decades, his mild-mannered façade even fooled many of those on his trail, allowing him to get away for many years with the murders of up to 90 people (he would eventually be convicted of killing 49 of these).
Green River, Running Red is an excellent examination of the case and one that never forgets to respect his victims. While written off by many, especially at the beginning of the case (locals interviewed at the time were only really worried that at some point he might start picking off ‘good girls’), the book lays bare what had driven many of these women and girls into the lifestyles they led and really brought home just what came with taking their lives. Aside from the lives snuffed out, Rule looks at the emotional cost their deaths brought to their families, their friends, the community, and to the men and women investigating their deaths.
As well as this, and given the huge range of suspects in the case, Green River, Running Red also makes terrifyingly clear just how many dangerous men are in any one area at any given time. These weren’t just men who were known to use sex workers or had a similar truck to the killer, but those who were known to viciously assault and/or kill women and children and who had either served their time or worked out deals and were now able to carry out their lives, with their histories (and in many cases, their current activities) largely unknown by those they were living amongst.
Not only scary but incredibly sad, Green River, Running Red is an excellent addition to any true crime library.