Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-07-07 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"I won a copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways.

Having read Swanson’s Manhunt about the search for John Wilkes Booth, I was excited to get this one. I’m not sure if it’s my recollection, or if it’s true, but this book seemed very simplistic in comparison. I learned some things—I had no idea that King had survived an earlier assassination attempt, for example—but the manhunt for Ray was actually pretty uneventful leading this book to be pretty anticlimactic. As Ray never really confessed, there isn’t good closure. He just suddenly decided to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. and we’ll never know why. This book never purported to solve that riddle, but I still found myself pretty let down. Worth a read in this commemorative year, but nothing spectacular.
" said.

"James L. Swanson does a great job of outlining the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination for middle-grade readers. While he posits the book as a young adult piece, I think that the reading level is somewhat below that.

One of the really great things about this book is the inclusion of numerous historical photographs. It helps the reader better understand situations referred to in the text. The list of places to visit along the civil rights trail, in one of the appendices, is also quite useful.

This book has lengthy end notes and an extensive bibliography. It's quite plain that the author has done his homework. It seemed only appropriate that the book was released during the 50th anniversary of MLK's assassination. Nicely done all around.
" said.

"Not as enthralling as The President Has Been Shot, but still interesting (I would have probably liked it more if I weren't comparing the books). Don't let the size of the book fool you, about a quarter of it is end matter (interesting end matter). The book starts out with the interesting story of the first assassination attempt on Martin Luther King Jr's life and the ending is pretty interesting. It does take a while to get in to the story after the beginning, but, by the end, I wanted to keep reading to find out how the assassin is captured.

Recommended for middle school students who are looking for nonfiction that reads more like a narrative and are interested in murders of famous people.
" said.

"James L. Swanson is consistently one of the best non-fiction narrative authors. This book is no exception. While entitled "Chasing King's Killer," Swanson provides an overview of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in addition to covering his death and the hunt for his killer. His writing is very narrative-eqsue which makes for a great read for those who are reluctant to read non-fiction.

While the book is intended for a high school audience, it's a great read as an adult as well. Swanson tends to normally write an adult version and a high school version for his books; however, there is not an adult version for this one. If you have any interest in reading it as an adult, do not hesitate.
" said.

"What a pleasant surprise! I picked up this nonfiction YA novel because I’m going to hear the author speak in May. I had no idea how little I really knew about King’s assassination and assassin. The book was the perfect amount of detail - enough to get the full story but not drown in overwhelming facts. Perfect for a young adult (high school) and older. It briefly covers MLK Jr’s involvement in the civil rights movement, then moves on to the background of James Earl Ray, the facts of the assassination and the FBI hunt for Ray. One of the best parts of the book was the plethora of amazing photographs- they put you right there in history and helped you live in the moments being discussed. Highly recommend and hope my kids will read this when they are older." said.

"I received this ARC for free from the publisher. An excellent, fast-paced nonfiction read that would be a great option for reluctant readers and school assignments. There were plenty of photographs throughout connecting directly to the information being read next to it. I think people think they know about Martin Luther King JR., but until reading this I didn't realize how much I didn't know about him, such as when he was stabbed in the chest with a letter opener and a sneeze or cough would have killed him at 29 years old. Before reading this I had no idea what James Earl Ray's background was, his plastic surgery history, and only knew him as the man who killed King and later escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It was all fascinating to me. My ARC had some missing images and information and not the finished product." said.

"As usual, Swanson creates a spy thriller from a true crime with spectacular back matter. The most frustrating thing about this is how open-ended it still feels. James Earl Ray died in prison and he never actually said WHY he did what he did--Swanson plays up the fact that although Ray had a rap sheet a mile long, he never participated in hate crimes or violent crimes until he shot Martin Luther King. The manhunt for him lasted longer than that for any other assassin; the assassins of JFK, Lincoln, and William McKinley lasted mere hours and John Wilkes Booth was caught in just twelve days, but Ray eluded the police for more than two months and made it as far as London before being apprehended. Then he pleaded guilty, so there wasn't a trial, which fed the conspiracy theories (many of which Ray started himself). Very interesting." said.

"I think I might be alone on this one, but I definitely didn't enjoy it. I felt like the author was talking down to the reader the entire time. I've read enough teen fiction to know when an author is being condescending, but maybe this is just a thing in YA nonfiction? At the very least this was written for young teens or tweens. I cannot imagine enjoying this as a 17-year old high school senior. Also, [SPOILER. But really is this a spoiler?] he spends 2/3 of the book on the chase and then basically winds up Ray's motivations with a shrug and a "Nobody knows why he did it and he never said." I don't actually feel like I learned anything from this book.

I'm guessing a teenager would be intimidated by the thickness of the book, but the last 113 pages are just notes, so no worries!

Maybe I'm just too old for this one. Or I've read enough adult nonfiction to know the difference between good and mediocre true crime writing.

Overall, not recommended.
" said.

July 2018 New Book:

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