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Review: Murder In The Neighbourhood by Ellen J. Green

Hey everyone!
Today, I am excited to be sharing my review of Murder in the Neighbourhood by Ellen J. Green with you all.

Title: Murder in the Neighbourhood
Author: Ellen J. Green
Release Date: 28th April 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Thread
Genre: True Crime
Buy It Here (affiliate links): Amazon UKWaterstonesBook Depository

GoodReads Synopsis:

On September 6,1949, twenty-eight-year-old Howard Barton Unruh shot thirteen people in less than twelve minutes on his block in East Camden, New Jersey.

The shocking true story of the first recorded mass shooting in America has never been told, until now.

The sky was cloudless that morning when twelve-year-old Raymond Havens left his home on River Road.

His grandmother had sent him to get a haircut at the barbershop across the street – where he was about to witness his neighbour and friend Howard open fire on the customers inside. Told through the eyes of the young boy who visited Howard regularly to listen to his war stories, and the mother trying to piece together the disturbing inner workings of her son’s mind, Ellen Green uncovers the chilling true story of Howard Unruh – the quiet oddball who meticulously plotted his revenge on the neighbours who shunned him and became one of America’s first mass killers. With access to Howard’s diaries, newly released police reports and psychiatric records alongside interviews with surviving family members and residents of the neighbourhood, A Murder in the Neighbourhood will have readers of In Cold Blood, If You Tell and American Predator absolutely gripped.

My Review:

Before reading Murder in the Neighbourhood, I didn’t know anything about this case, and as someone who is fascinated by true crime, I was very interested to learn about it.

The story itself focuses mainly on the eye witness story of Raymond Havens III, who was only a child at the time of the shootings. Not only did Ray witness some of the shootings first hand, but he was also a friend of Howard Unruh’s before the shootings took place. Because of this, he gives us a good insight in to what Unruh was like as a person, and what his home life was like, from a perspective that not many people were close enough to have. Their friendship wasn’t exactly a healthy one, for a start Ray was just a child, but he was Unruh’s only friend in the neighbourhood despite him being an adult. The way Unruh spoke to Ray at times was also a little concerning, for example, the way he told Ray about what he had seen and experienced during the way, and the level of detail he explained it in seemed to be way too much for a child of Ray’s age to be hearing. Despite this, it is very sad that nobody else showed Unruh this same level of friendship, and maybe if they had, things could have been so much different.

Unruh’s calmness, matter of fact manner, and lack of remorse while being questioned, and even in the many years that followed until his death, makes this case even more terrifying and unbelievable. There was clearly something seriously wrong with his mental state, maybe there always had been, but after the war it became much more obvious and much more intense. Looking back on the case now, he was very clearly struggling, and needed help, but it went completely unnoticed and he was just considered the oddball of the neighbourhood. The things Unruh saw during the war are unimaginable, and the memories of such horrors are enough to haunt anyone, and certainly have a huge impact on their mental health. Ultimately, his mental state was a key factor in his actions on that fateful day.

The way that people treated Unruh’s mother, Freda, was so unfair. None of it was her fault. How was she supposed to have known what he was planning, or what he would do? A parent isn’t responsible for ever single one of their child’s actions, especially if that child is now an adult. This is something that even today I think people need to think about more. But of course, the community wanted someone to blame and to aim their heartbreak at, they wanted a reason for why Unruh had committed such a horrific crime, and to blame his mother who had single handedly raised him was the easy option. I felt so sorry for Freda, because she lost everything due to the actions of her son, actions that were entirely out of her control. She was also battling with her emotions, and coming to terms with the truth of what her son had done and how she felt towards him.

In Howard Unruh’s broken mind, there were many reasons why he set out to murder his neighbours that day, and to him they all seemed like very reasonable ones. But the reality is that there is no reason good enough to excuse what he did. There is nothing that can ever justify his actions. His actions were unforgivable, and they always will be.

From the very beginning of the book, I immediately loved the authors writing style. I feel like sometimes non fiction can read a little like a school textbook, but this one read more like a novel, which is something I really enjoyed about it. It makes it much easier to read, and I think I took the story in better this way, rather than just being thrown a load of facts. There were times that I noticed the same information was being repeated, or retold in a different way, but it wasn’t a frequent occurrence so it didn’t become a problem at all. I also would have liked a little more information on the victims themselves, as we didn’t get much on them. Overall though, this story is brilliantly written, incredibly interesting, and at times utterly heartbreaking. A definite must read for true crime fans.

I give Murder in the Neighbourhood a 4 star rating!

A huge thank you to Thread for my copy, in exchange for an honest review.

Disclaimer: My posts often include affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission for any purchase made through my links, but with no extra charge to you. Thank you for supporting me and my blog.


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