Someone’s Daughter

Author Silvia Pettem was kind enough to send me a free advance copy of Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe. I’m glad I can repay her by writing a sincerely favorable review.

The story is about a beautiful young woman who was found murdered in Colorado in 1954. Her killer was never caught. In fact, this woman has never even been identified, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Pettem chronicles her own involvement in the case: a historian, she became interested in Jane Doe in the 1990s and eventually spearheaded the movement to give her a name. If only all unidentifieds had such a fierce advocate!

Thanks to Pettem’s work, the woman’s body was exhumed and DNA was taken for future comparisons with missing people. Although the investigation has yet to identify Jane Doe, one missing woman from Nebraska was located as a result of Pettem’s work and publicity on the case. The final chapters of the story concern Katharine Dyer, another missing woman whom many believed could have been Jane Doe. As the story concludes, Pettem is looking for Dyer’s relatives. If this book’s readers were to have a look on the internet, they’ll see that Dyer was found alive and well recently. The search for Jane Doe continues.

I especially liked how Pettem described in detail her methods of research. The reader might be surprised to learn that a lot of it was just paperwork, going through old records and geneaological databases and such. (I’ve often thought that historians could do a better job investigating ancient missing persons cases and homicides than cops do.) My only real complaint about the book is that the ending is so inconclusive. Obviously, though, that can’t really be helped, since the dead woman is still unidentified. Hopefully the publicity from this book will result in more leads and Jane Doe can be identified, over fifty years after her death.