A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Murder in the Bayou- by Ethan Brown- Feature and Review




An explosive, true-life southern gothic story, Murder in the Bayou chronicles the twists and turns of a high-stakes investigation into the murders of eight women in a troubled Louisiana parish.

Between 2005 and 2009, the bodies of eight women were discovered around the murky canals and crawfish ponds of Jennings, Louisiana, a bayou town of 10,000 in the heart of the Jefferson Davis parish. Local law enforcement officials were quick to pursue a serial killer theory, opening a floodgate of media coverage—from CNN to The New York Times. Collectively the victims became known as the “Jeff Davis 8,” and their lives, their deaths, and the ongoing investigation reveals a small southern community’s most closely guarded secrets.

As Ethan Brown suggests, these homicides were not the work of a single serial killer, but the violent fallout of Jennings’ brutal sex and drug trade, a backwoods underworld hidden in plain sight. Mixing muckraking research and immersive journalism over the course of a five-year investigation, Ethan Brown reviewed thousands of pages of previously unseen homicide files to determine what happened during each victim’s final hours. Epic in scope and intensely suspenseful, Murder in the Bayou is the story of an American town buckling under the dark forces of poverty, race, and class division—and a lightning rod for justice for the daughters it lost.



Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8? by Ethan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murder in the Bayou by Ethan Brown is a 2016 Scribner publication.

Although this case may have made headlines at some point between 2005-2009, I was not familiar with it. I stumbled across this book while browsing through the Axis360 library and decided to check it out, but I never imagined it would give me a real case of the shivers.

The ‘Jeff Davis 8’ case was so named because the murders took place in Jefferson Davis Parish in Louisiana. The location does indeed create that Gothic tone the blurb hints at. That tone, coupled with the cold- blooded murders of eight women and the astounding corruption in law enforcement, was enough to make me feel squeamish and a little jumpy.

The author’s stark and rather jarring style of journalism, which may not be polished enough for some, but works in this case, in my opinion, because it really opens up the reality of these murders, and throws a harsh light on a southern version of the syndicate in the midst of the lurid sex and drug trade.

It’s such a convoluted and murky case complicated by corruptions so deep and prevalent, it’s hard to fathom.

Don’t expect the usual focus on the victims' lives, or a precise law enforcement investigation, or a courtroom drama with a definitive verdict, which is often featured in true crime, but instead you should brace yourself for a hard and gritty investigative report that will leave you chilled right down to the bone.

If you read True Crime, this book is not to be missed!





Ethan Brown is a New Orleans-based author and criminal defense investigator who has written four investigative-reporting driven books on crime and criminal justice policy:

His first book—Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler—was published by Random House in 2005 to rave reviews in the Boston Globe (“diligently researched and trenchantly observeda fascinating look at the way one generation’s reality becomes the next’s mythology”), The Village Voice (“one of the first reliable accounts [of the crack era]the fact that Brown was able to publish so thorough an account is itself notable”) and Publishers Weekly (“A vigorous account of an American subculture that’s colorful, influential and, given the body count, tragic”).

Ethan’s second book—Snitch: Informers, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice—was published by Public Affairs in 2007. The Legal Times wrote of Snitch that “Many police and prosecutors reading his book (or this review) will surely cry foul. Their cries will too often be proven insincere upon close examination, however, because Brown’s evidenceis overwhelming.” Brown University economics professor Glenn Loury praised Snitch as “must reading for anyone concerned about the future of ‘law and order’ in America.” Manhattan Institute Scholar John McWhorter called Snitch one of the "strongest, smartest" books about race in the past decade.

Ethan’s third book—Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans—was published by Henry Holt in the fall of 2009. Evan Wright, author of the New York Times bestseller Generation Kill, called Shake the Devil Off “a chilling portrait of a broken hero failed by the system.” George Pelecanos, New York Times bestselling author of The Turnaround, said that “Ethan Brown examines a notorious murder case, rescues it from the talons of tabloid journalists, and comes up with something much more than a true crime book. Shake the Devil Off is a gripping suspense story, an indictment of the military’s treatment of our soldiers in and out of war, and a celebration of the resilience and worth of a great American city.” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called Shake the Devil Off “heartbreaking” and Nate Blakeslee, author of Tulia, hailed the book as “a ‘coming home’ story that rivals any written about veterans of the war in Iraq, and a true crime account that raises the bar for the genre. Measured, thoroughly reported, and written with true empathy.” David Simon, creator of The Wire and author of Homicide and The Corner, said that “looking more deeply at that from which the rest of us turned in horror, Ethan Brown has transformed an ugly and disturbing shard of the post-Katrina anguish. In this book, that which was lurid and sensational becomes, chapter by chapter, something genuinely sad and reflective, something that now has true meaning for New Orleans and for all of us.” In September of 2009, Shake The Devil Off was chosen as a “Critics’ Pick” in the Washington Post and an “Editors’ Choice” by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. In December of 2009, the Washington Post named Shake the Devil Off one of the best books of 2009. 

Ethan's fourth book--Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?--was published by Scribner/Simon and Schuster on September 13, 2016. 

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