Murder in the Neighborhood by Ellen J. Green

Published: April 28, 2022


Pages: 311

Genre: Biography/NonFiction

KKECReads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Ellen J. Green is the Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Ava Saunders novels (Absolution and Twist of Faith) and The Book of James. She attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where she earned her degrees in psychology and has worked in the psychiatric ward of a maximum-security correctional facility for fifteen years. She also holds an MFA degree in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Born and raised in Upstate New York, Ms. Green now lives in southern New Jersey with her two children.

On 6 September 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 neighbor and friend Howard open fire on the customers inside.

Told through the eyes of young Raymond, who had 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, Murder in the Neighborhooduncovers the chilling true story of Howard Unruh, the quiet loner who meticulously plotted his revenge on the neighbors who shunned him and became one of America’s first mass killers.

With Ellen’s access to Howard’s diaries, newly released police reports and psychiatric records alongside interviews with surviving family members, Murder in the Neighborhood is a compulsive page-turner that will have you asking—how well do we ever really know those around us? Are we ever really safe?

“But there was no answer. There never would be.”

Howard Unruh was a reasonably typical man, just trying to get by. He wasn’t popular around the neighborhood, and Howard hated how so many of the neighbors and business owners treated him. His anger festered until he snapped. And took the walk of death.

This book was incredibly well researched, and I enjoyed its delivery. I was not family with this case before reading this novel. So it was quite an education for me.

I enjoyed the alternating narrators and getting the story from two very different perspectives. I found myself flipping between thinking Howard was a monster and just being a man pushed too far after enduring years of abuse on top of PTSD from serving overseas.

I think there was a lot about Howard we will never honestly know. Those closest to him didn’t truly know him. And I think Howard was dealing with a lot of issues. He was trying to resist the fact that he was gay, which at the time was a crime and seen as someone morally wrong.

He was struggling to find his place after witnessing the atrocities of war. He couldn’t shed the weight of what he had to do while being a soldier. And he was aggressively abused by his neighbors.

Verbal, emotional, mental, and phycological torment can push a person to react in disastrous ways.

But, Howard was also an adult, and he should have found better ways of processing his feelings. This is such a tragic story. The lives lost. The senselessness of it all, and for what?

I cannot imagine the unbearable weight this case has laid at the feet of so many. The spiral of tragedy was long and brutal.

The writing style was well done, the story was told truthfully, and I like that the author did not take a side. Information was presented, and we (the reader) are left to figure out where our feelings lie.

Very well written, incredibly well researched, and presented in a fair and unbiased way, this passion project delivered on all fronts. This is a heartbreaking piece of work, and I found the story fascinating.

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