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Book Review: Citizen Jane

51jmqMvo41L._SL160_By James Dalessandro
Morgan James Publishing ©2009 | 212pgs
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Scott D. Imamura

Citizen Jane is a sort of misleading title for this book. When I first picked up the book, I thought it was a story of the first successful newspaper company owned by a woman (female version of Citizen Kane). As I perused the pages, I noticed it was a true crime story. Apparently, the title was a play on words.  Non-fiction reading is my forte, plus it was a true crime book. So, this book got me interested there afterward.

After reading the back cover, you get a clue from the author on “whodunit.” Yes, this a who-done-it book; but, not in the style of your usual Sherlock Holmes murder mystery novel.

Gertrude McCabe was murdered in her home in 1983. Photo courtesy of Scott Imamura ©2010

Gertrude McCabe was murdered in her home in 1983. Photo courtesy of Scott Imamura ©2010

In this book, you have the story of the real murder of Gertrude McCabe that was committed in San Jose, California in the year 1983 on Friday, October 21. It is the account of Jane Alexander’s quest for justice in her Aunt Gertrude’s death – a  thirteen-year journey to bring a suspect to justice who was ironically a family friend for years and, after Jane’s husband’s early death of an heart attack, a live-in boy friend for over a decade.

During her grueling and arduous journey, Jane Alexander is transformed from a traditional, stay-at-home house wife/mother, who relied on her husband for the basic necessities in life, to a strong independent woman who had to fend for herself while bringing justice to the person who had become her confidant, lover and companion for over a decade – somebody, she would finally come to realize, who had been deceiving her (using her money) for many years.
She learns a lot during her search for justice: not to be naive and easily trusting to others; to listen to others with credibility; to live alone and start working after losing her house in Marin County to foreclosure (she lived in the house for over 20 years – “nothing lasts forever”); to understand that friends and family are the most important in life; and how to work the bureaucratic Santa Clara County criminal justice system.

Jane Alexander, the “average citizen” (hence the title Citizen Jane), eventually becomes a “crusader” making a big contribution to society. During Jane’s effort to get the killer of her Aunt Gertrude behind bars, she and her friend Jan Miller (her daughter was murdered 10 years prior) hired an attorney to create CAH (Citizens Against Homicides) a non-profit organization to assist other families whose loved ones were murdered and to keep those cases alive that were left hanging because of the slow, bureaucratic criminal justice system. CAH has revived many of these old murder (cold) cases that were abandoned or that were put on the back burner, thereby helping many law enforcement officials find these killers and getting them convicted to allow closure in these victims’ families’ lives. This organization continues to assist many families throughout the U.S. and has branched out internationally.

This story was riveting but not dramatic, and very suspenseful at times but not contrived. The character development throughout the book was sufficient for this type of true crime story. Incidentally, I do recognize most of the characters in the book, and apparently most of the characters’ names have not been changed to protect the innocent. The author makes a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that he makes no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of his work. Also, the author does not use any footnotes and bibliography to substantiate the facts such as the ones used by Harry Farrell in his book, Swift Justice: Murder & Vengeance In A California Town another true crime story that I strongly recommend, that also took place in San Jose.

Just a footnote: On October 17, 1983, I started my new job at the Santa Clara County Government Center just a few miles west of where the actual murder took place. I worked in the Recorder’s Office – Vital Statistics Department. I processed, microfilmed, and filed many death, marriage and birth certificates for the residents of Santa Clara County. As I reminisced those years in the Recorder’s Office, it dawned on me that “I might have processed Gertrude McCabe’s death certificate.”

Another footnote: This story has been made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie.

Special thanks to guest contributor Scott D. Imamura.

Already read the book? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

  1. January 4th, 2010 at 15:05 | #1

    Here’s another Jane looking for and receiving justice for homicide victims. Good story here. My story has a few more twists and turns: the LAPD’s top cop on the chase, a serial killing, and a doctor’s wife turned sleuth or – June Cleaver does CSI.

    Congratulatons on the book and the Hallmark movie!
    Jane Howatt/Momdog

  2. Scott D. Imamura
    January 5th, 2010 at 00:36 | #2

    What’s the title of your thriller?

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