Wednesday, January 18, 2023

"The Forever Witness" by Edward Humes - Book Review and Discussion


"The Forever Witness" by Edward Humes Book Review and Discussion
Interested in reading about true crime and the newest recently solved cold cases? You should definitely pick up my first five-star read of this year, " The Forever Witness" by Edward Humes. Keep reading to see my review!

The Forever Witness 

by Edward Humes

goodreads // amazon // library

A relentless detective and a civilian genealogist solve a haunting cold case—and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy.
In November 1987, a young couple from the idyllic suburbs of Vancouver Island on an overnight trip to Seattle vanished without a trace. A week later, the bodies of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Jay Cook were found in rural Washington. It was a brutal crime, and it was the perfect crime: With few clues and no witnesses in the vast and foreboding Olympic Peninsula, an international manhunt turned up empty, and the sensational case that shocked the Pacific Northwest gradually slipped from the headlines.
In deep-freeze, long-term storage, biological evidence from the crime sat waiting, as Detective Jim Scharf poured over old case files looking for clues his predecessors missed. Meanwhile, 1,200 miles away in California, CeCe Moore began her lifelong fascination with genetic genealogy, a powerful forensic tool that emerged not from the crime lab, but through the wildly popular home DNA ancestry tests purchased by more than 40 million Americans. When Scharf decided to send the cold case’s decades-old DNA to Parabon NanoLabs, he hoped he would finally bring closure to the Van Cuylenborg and Cook families. He didn’t know that he and Moore would make history.
Genetic genealogy, long the province of family tree hobbyists and adoptees seeking their birth families, has made headlines as a cold case solution machine, capable of exposing the darkest secrets of seemingly upstanding citizens. In the hands of a tenacious detective like Scharf, genetic genealogy has solved one baffling killing after another. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate: Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age—the right to the very blueprint of who we are? ( from

Book Review of "The Forever Witness" by Edward Humes


What Worked for Me

Basically, the entire book. "The Forever Witness" was unputdownable and easily a five-star read. I would absolutely recommend it to other readers, even if they have never read true crime. I think this book is a great introduction to how nonfiction about true crime and cold cases can be engaging and informative without feeling overly gruesome or exploitative. Finding any book like this "enjoyable" is a tricky thing to discuss but the process and research in solving this crime were fascinating to explore and the author handled the delicate nature of the topic very well. 

So much detail The amount of research that went into this book is simply staggering. It felt like there was not a single element of this crime, the investigation, trial, jury deliberations, and more that the author did not discuss and explore in "The Forever Witness". The jury deliberations were especially interesting to me. I have never had the privilege to serve on a jury, so getting a peek at that experience, particularly in an important case with a murder involved was fascinating. And also, after reading about the crime and all the years of research that went into finding the murderer, I felt so invested in the outcome, and listening in on how the verdict was met was suspenseful and informative. 

What I Struggled With 

Maybe too detailed? While this never personally felt like an issue, I did see some criticism on Goodreads about this book possibly being a little overly detailed. And I can certainly see how readers might feel that way. "The Forever Witness" goes into detail on every facet of this case - the lives of the victims before the crime, the background of the murderer, the science behind the genealogical resources used to solve the crime, the ethics of genealogy in crime-solving, the book even goes into the deliberations of the jury after the trial was dismissed. It is truly an in-depth look at this story, and I can see how after over 300 pages it might become tiring.


Favorite Quotes from "The Forever Witness" by Edward Humes


"Omit or change any one of these links in the chain of events, and the couple from Vancouver Island would never have reached the same spot at the same time as a stranger determined to do evil. Such is the nature of tragedy, Scharf has learned, built not on a single inevitability or intelligent design but on a mosaic of blameless choice and coincidence, fate assembled blindly piece by piece."


" A law enforcement apparatus that had been profoundly uninterested in searching for a missing girl while she was still alive had now turned on a dime, sparing no effort or expense on her behalf once they believed she was dead."

Have you read "The Forever Witness" if so, let me know what you thought about the book in the comments below. If you haven't gotten the chance to read this one yet, let me know your favorite true crime book below. I'd love to chat or add a new book to me TBR. Thanks for reading, readers!



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