The Woman Confronting Sexual Abuse In A Searing True Crime Memoir

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Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is moving house. As she’s packing all her things into cardboard boxes and suitcases, she will have to decide what to do with the 30,000 pages of court records sitting in her home, unassuming but deeply significant. The physical remnants of a story she has now, finally, told. In those pages is every detail of a murder and three trials: the murder of a six-year-old, flaxen-haired boy called Jeremy Guillory and the trials of an American paedophile called Ricky Langley. Marzano-Lesnevich has read, re-read and annotated all of them with the ferocious concentration of a woman possessed by the need to understand. She discovered this story when she started work as a 25-year-old law student in Louisiana on Ricky Langley’s case. At the time, he had been sentenced to die and it was Alexandria’s job to fight for his right to live. A job that was somewhat complicated by an epiphany she had watching footage of Ricky Langley speak about his crime: against everything she thought she believed, against her anti-death penalty stance, Marzano-Lesnevich wanted this man to die.

It would take a long time for her to understand why she felt that way. It would be a lonely, complicated decade piecing together Ricky Langley’s life and, as it became necessary, her own. Those two stories – Langley’s and Marzano-Lesnevich’s – now fill 322 pages of elegant, medium-sized font in what may be the finest true crime book of 2017. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir is beautifully constructed, rigorously researched and deeply affecting. It is a gargantuan literary achievement and, as Marzano-Lesnevich tells me, a profound personal catharsis.  

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