This reissued winner of the Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Nonfiction and the British Columbia Award for Canadian Nonfiction takes us into the hidden world of a group of teenagers accused of a savage murder. As Godfrey follows the investigation and trials, she reveals the startling truth about the unlikely killers.
As in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), in which Hannah Arendt covers the trial of the eponymous war criminal, the reader experiences evil as not out of the ordinary: wickedness, in Godfrey’s portrayal, is an accretion of unexceptional moments, a slow accumulation culminating in a decisive inhumanity ... a meticulous retelling of the murder from the viewpoints of those enmeshed in the event. Godfrey demonstrates her dexterity at toggling between perspectives and, in the process, exposes common anxieties—anxieties pertaining to social status, to beauty, and to the intersection thereof ... Godfrey, like the police divers who search for Virk’s body, achieves a feat of negative buoyancy. Through her telling, we go beneath the surface of the story—where, like the divers, we glimpse a kind of psychic 'detritus of suburbia' ... Under the Bridge is mainly an impersonal documentary of a murder—albeit one where the camera has access to the innermost features of its subjects, where we are observing what we can’t see without the special powers of Godfrey’s lens.
This book loves specious details ... the sources of [Godrey's] information are not made clear, nor is the extent of her own presence on the scene. Aficionados of crime nonfiction may also notice the book's inability to distinguish important facts from minor ones, the oversupply of similar-sounding characters and the near-universal inarticulateness with which they explain themselves ... Ms. Godfrey's account reveals the terrible indifference of some of these participants, as well as the conscience pangs of others. And it confirms the idea that popular culture can have egregious effects. It also looks into the difficult family situations that heightened the teenagers' unhappiness, the abundant drug use that clouded their judgment, and the West Side Story momentum building up to a fight both tragic and cathartic. All this is readily exploitable ... In her book's second half...Ms. Godfrey fares better. It helps that much of her material here comes from police and courtroom records and takes a number of unexpected turns. It does not have to be artificially flavored.
Godfrey approaches a brutal crime in an unlikely spot the way a novelist would ... Her interviews with all the principals, ranging from the police scuba team that found the body through prosecution and defense attorneys, suburban families, teachers, and the accused themselves, bring this case disturbingly alive.