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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Book Review.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Book Review.
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Book Review.
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Book Review.The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Published by Flatiron Books on May 16th 2017
Genres: Memoir, Non-fiction, True crime
Pages: 326
Buy on The Book Depository

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky's crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.

The law—with each side’s relentless pursuit of one story—has never known what to do with this complicated middle ground. But life is full of it.”

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich in The Fact of a Body


The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir tells two distinct stories of two very different lives; two individuals who at first glance couldn’t be more different, but upon closer inspection echo hard truths and buried secrets, silent suffering and burdens and crimes.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich loved the law, and believed in it. She was a child of two lawyers, after all. Staunchly anti-death penalty, she took on a summer internship at a Louisiana law firm specialising in defending and appealing death penalty cases.

On the first day of the job, however, her steadfast belief was called into question as the face of Ricky Langley appeared on a screen in front of her. She watched as he confessed to the 1992 murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory. A client of the law firm, Ricky Langley had successful appealed his death penalty. This is the fight that Alexandria had come for; fighting the death penalty is what she believed in.

So why did she want Ricky Langley so badly to die?

Consumed with uncertainty, Alexandria began to look deeper into the Langley case, hoping to find answers that would clarify, or justify, her position. The deeper she dug, the more questions arose, the more she needed to know, and the more intertwined became her own story with Ricky’s.


This book alternates chapters between Alexandria’s story and Ricky’s. As the circumstances of Ricky’s life are uncovered, Alexandria reveals intimate details of her own life and in that way, it becomes more apparent why she saw her story in his.


This is a compelling story, although a difficult one to read. I listened to the audiobook which the author narrates herself, adding an additional emotional element to the already tragic narrative.

Ricky’s life was researched thoroughly, and his story has been told in a balanced way. He did commit atrocious acts, there is no hiding that. Alexandria’s research reveals, however, the man behind the murder, and the troubled teenager and disadvantaged child that became the man that would commit the murder. Knowing his background doesn’t justify or excuse his actions, but does go some way to understanding him.

Alexandria’s own story was just as harrowing to hear, as she and her family were forced to confront long-buried secrets and acknowledge hard truths of their own. Things were not all as they seemed. Alexandria needed to learn more about Ricky, to learn more about herself.

Whilst the story did not shy away from the harsh realities of the crimes, details were not unnecessarily embellished. Jeremy and the other victims, for there are many victims in this story, were treated respectfully and were portrayed in a sympathetic yet honest light.


This book is more than a true crime story, and more than a memoir. This is about truth being more complicated than a single narrative can tell. It is about the law; a law that is not black and white but is personal, infused with the past and the present of the victims and the perpetrators and those laying judgement. It is about the law clouded by emotion deciding whether a man lives or dies.

This book will not be for everyone. It deals with child molestation and murder. It discusses pedophilia and the resultant ongoing effects on victims. There are quite visceral moments of terrifying flashbacks, which may upset some readers.

But it is very well done. It is haunting and harrowing, but ends on a tone of mercy and with hopes of healing.


Have you read The Fact of a Body? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I would recommend this book to those who are interested in true crime, and also those who enjoy reading stories about complicated and dysfunctional family relationships.

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  • renee says:

    I agree, this is such a well-written story but very hard to read at times. I thought the author achieved a good balance by the way she structured it though. Such a sad story!

    • Julia @ Read and Live Well says:

      It’s such a delicate balance when presenting the background of a perpetrator like this, to show that he is also a victim of circumstance but not to take away from the horrendous nature of the crimes he committed. It is a very sad story for all involved!

Hi! I'm Julia, a lifelong reader, an aspiring writer, medical doctor, and now book blogger, from Queensland, Australia! Go to 'About Read and Live Well' to learn more!

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