Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Innocent Killer – Michael Griesbach


I’m not going to lie this book was requested from NetGalley some time ago, in fact it was published in February 2016! So why did it take me so long to get around to reading it? Well this book is strongly linked to the Netflix True Crime sensation which was  Making A Murderer, and I thought I would watch it but not being a great watcher of TV didn’t actually ever get around to it.  And then at the tail end of 2018 I did, and remembered The Innocent Killer!

True crime is always somewhat difficult to review, after all are we concentrating on the crime itself and how interesting/entertaining that is? You see what I mean? If you look at any true crime from that dimension it can seem at best completely heartless but to be blunt without the crime having some aspect to set it apart, its hard to see how you generate the interest. I’m hoping that the following review will indicate some of the areas that true crime writers need to consider when writing a book, it turns out true crime isn’t all about the crime after all.

The killer in this book is about Steven Avery, a man who lived in Manitowac County, Wisconsin, and this book concentrates for the most part on the crime he was convicted of the rape of a local woman back in the 1985 and went on to serve eighteen years in prison for the crime. Then in 2003 he was exonerated, the advances in DNA testing proving that another man was guilty of that crime. Then in a massive twist in the tale, just as Steven Avery’s civil suit was being played out in court for damages owed to him for the wrongful conviction, he was accused of the murder of a young woman photographer Teresa Halbach and in 2007 was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Michael Griesbach it should be noted is a prosecuting attorney for the Manitowac County Prosecutor’s Office and with the majority of the book going into the background, trial and the ultimate work carried out by the innocence project that led to Steven Avery’s exoneration in relation to the rape charge. This is done in far more depth than the TV series whose focus is on the murder and subsequent imprisonment with a particular focus on how sound or otherwise the conviction for that crime is believed to be.

I really did appreciate the additional details provided in this book on the original prison charge although perhaps the author’s lack of experience in writing a novel is apparent especially with the repetition, and surprisingly for a lawyer, the unusual narrative structure in places.

However once we are at the point when Steven is released from prison the book fell down for me because the author is unable to write the second part from anything like an independent perspective. He’s name-dropping his friends, piling on the absolute outrage he feels at the nasty television producers for even daring to question the integrity of the officers who serve Manitowac County, and in doing so lost any credibility from this reader. In fact it was at that point I began to seriously question why he even wrote this book. A sceptical person might say he saw an opportunity and decided to cash in on it, someone less harsh might say he was standing up for his friends, who lets not forget, very nearly had to part with a small fortune had they been deemed liable for the incorrect incarceration of Steven on the original rape charge. It was therefore with no surprise that I learnt on finishing the book that Michael Griesbach acts as an attorney for one of the Police Officers whose actions in both investigations and trials are highlighted by the TV programme.

So in conclusion, if like me you are so late to the party that it is a distant and somewhat hazy memory for everyone else, you may find the additional information on the first charge informative however I’d save yourself some rage and close the book once that part is over.

I’d like to say a belated thank you to the publishers Random House UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Innocent Killer albeit over three years ago, better late than never?

First Published UK: 21 January 2016
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Non Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

22 thoughts on “The Innocent Killer – Michael Griesbach

  1. As always, Cleo, I appreciate your candor. Your excellent review just underlines the fact that it’s important to be neutral if one’s writing true crime. Of course, no-one can ever be completely neutral; we all have our biases. But it is important to at least try to keep it in heck, if I can put it that way.


  2. Great review and balance of opinion Cleo, I’m probably the only person left that hasn’t watched this on Netflix lol but I like true crime, the book would make a good gift for anyone who was obsessed with the series


  3. I binge-watched Making a Murderer last year and was incensed by the officials dealing with the whole case so I think maybe I should skip this book. Having said that though, it would be interesting to know more about the original case against Steven Avery so if I see this book for a good price I might buy it and just read the first bit.


  4. It’s odd, I think we must have some kind of built-in instinct that makes us put books aside. Whenever I dredge up one of the NG books that I’ve left lingering for years I usually end up really disliking it, and in fact that quite often happens with the older books on my TBR in general. This sounds pretty awful and I’m one of the cynical people who suspects money was the reason. Maybe this kind of book needs to be written by someone who wasn’t personally involved in the case…?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think so too and part of my reading struggle towards the end of last year was because the older books on my TBR were dire! That’s why I’m starting afresh in 2019!
      You certainly can’t write this type of book from inside without being totally upfront about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I watched the first season of this show on Netflix and really liked it, but I started watching the second season and couldn’t get through the first episode. I think this is because there’s been so much debate around the case, I almost don’t believe anyone’s opinion on it anymore. Sounds like this book wasn’t all that convincing either, which is too bad. And apparently he’s written a second one…


    1. I agree that the conflicting opinions means that trying to work out where the truth might lie is impossible in the TV series – I didn’t believe the stance this guy took because he is the attorney for one of the police officers who features heavily in the series and he wasn’t open about the motivation for writing the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve not seen the series and I don’t think I remember hearing about this book. I think there must be some sort of art to crafting a story well enough to keep the reader engaged but at the same time doesn’t feel weighed down. Have you read The Radium Girls, I don’t think it falls into this genre but the crime commited (radium poisoning) against so many women was terrifying and heartbreaking


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