Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe by Silvia Pettem (2 Stars)



In 1954, the body of a murdered young woman was discovered by two hikers in Boulder, Colorado. More than 40 years later, the author participates in the local cemetery’s Meet the Spirits fundraising event and becomes determined to find out Jane’s true identity.  

I hesitate to call this a true crime book as that is usually an in-depth study of the killer and victim, and in this case both are unknown. This book chronicles the process followed by a determined woman who started her own investigation. By working with law enforcement, forensic experts, public records, as well as family and friends of missing young women, she was able to learn Jane’s identity, as well as the man most likely her killer. What drew me to this book was the idea of someone who felt so passionately about what happened to a stranger and, indeed, there were a lot of people in this book who felt the same. There are also some heartbreaking moments in her encounters with other cold cases.

While this book is way too long, and includes a lot of minutiae, I still felt compelled to continue reading. Some other reviewers have said they didn’t like the side stories, but I enjoyed them. They showed there is more than one side to identifying someone who may have disappeared for a good reason. For instance, one teenager ran away and was never heard from again, and years later it appears her father was the reason. If she is identified as Jane Doe, is it right to move her bones to the family plot, next to her abusive father? And who gets to decide that?

I probably would give a very condensed version of the book 3 stars, but had to take one off because it gets too bogged down at times.


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