A novel masquerading as a true crime narrative.
Who killed seventeen-year-old Leah Marcus? Her boyfriend? The creepy pedophile down the street? The mystery blonde woman in the neighborhood? Or was it someone else?
Leah Marcus was the seventeen-year-old daughter of a rich, white, Jewish power couple, the father a famous mass tort trial lawyer, the mother CEO of a non-profit corporation assisting the mentally ill. Leah was a piano-playing prodigy who dreamed of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon. Leah's boyfriend, Damon Allbright, was the star point guard at their high school, an excellent student gifted with an angelic singing voice and the African American son of the pastor at one of Cincinnati's major Baptist churches.
During the fourth day of Cincinnati's 2001 race riots, someone bludgeoned, bound, strangled and probably sexually assaulted Leah. Leah Marcus' death held the city spellbound during the spring and summer of 2001. Suspicion soon fell on Leah's boyfriend. After Damon's DNA is found in Leah's body, the investigators charged him with her rape and murder. Her murder, the alleged murder, of a beautiful, young white woman at the hands of a black man, gripped the city like so many crimes involving sex, race and class. Damon was tried for the offense.
Ten years later, the crime reporter for the Cincinnati Tribune who covered the crime and trial decided to re-investigate the murder and learn the truth behind the senseless killing. Her story is a tragedy in the tradition of Shakespeare.
And The River Runs Deep drills into the lives of two families set amidst the turbulent times of racial strife and the impending doom of 9/11.
If you, like me, could go either way and pick up a true crime book or a crime novel and be equally enthralled, you will probably relish And The River Runs Deep as a much as I did. A. J. Ullman hits all the right notes on both counts as there were many times I totally forgot that I was in a fictional story, partly because it is set in a real world, a city that I know, and it rings true at every level. Ullman has the punchy, taut style of a journalist, which the first-person narrator happens to be, with the character and scene development chops of a first-rate crime novelist. Not since Nabokov's Pale Fire has a novel hidden itself so well in the trappings of non-fiction.
-- Richard O. Jones, True Crime Historian, and author of The First Celebrity Serial Killer In Southwest Ohio: Confessions Of The Strangler Alfred Knapp and Cincinnati's Savage Seamstress: The Shocking Edith Klumpp Murder Scandal.
A. J. Ullman gives us a fascinating account of a fictional murder and murder trial that is all too real. It is set in Cincinnati, at a time of … a race riot. As a lawyer and one-time Cincinnati resident, I liked all of that authenticity. The author's training in law and medicine shines through in his presentation of the forensics and procedurals, which readers of true crime will appreciate. I have taught legal ethics for almost forty years, so I also liked the way that the author wove into his narrative the ethical problems facing criminal defense lawyers. Having dissected many old criminal cases, I also appreciate the fact that looking back at outcomes, one is almost always left with a sense of uncertainty and unease, and Ullman serves it up with a jolting twist. The story is fast-paced and loaded with detail about the workings of the criminal justice system.
—Richard H. Underwood, Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law, and author of CRIMESONG: True Crime Stories Behind Southern Murder Ballads (2016) and GASLIGHT LAWYERS: Criminal Trials and Exploits in Gilded Age New York (2017).
This novel was one of the most intriguing and exciting murder mystery novels I have ever enjoyed. A true must read for any Cincinnati native or visitor that loves solving mysteries. It took me on a fascinating historic journey...during the infamous "race riots". An extremely talented and bright young women just about to let her star power shine bright was extinguished in a horrifyingly brutal fashion much too early... You can decide if the right person was convicted. You will be shocked and amazed at the human psyche when you finally find out who murdered Leah Marcus.
-- Dean Visk, MSN, Director of Clinical Services at a national health insurance company.