Book Thoughts: My Sister Milly

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My Sister Milly – Gemma Dowler – 2017 – True Crime

“My name is Gemma Dowler. On 21 March 2002, a serial killer named Levi Bellfield stole my sister and sent our family to hell.”

As the description says this book is a memoir of the killing of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old who went missing in 2002 and was later found murdered. I was only 9 when she went missing, so I don’t really remember the initial news coverage, but I do remember the coverage of the trial and this book looks at that case from the point of view of Milly’s older sister Gemma.

Gemma was motivated to write this book to share her memory of her sister, and the first part of the book definitely does that. I’d have liked a bit more focus on Milly throughout the rest of the book as well, just because I’m left with a lot of questions about the case. I knew the basic story of this crime from watching documentaries on the case, and as I said I remember when the trial took place, but I felt it lost a bit of the aspect of Milly throughout the story – I don’t think this is Gemma’s fault though, I think it’s probably an accurate representation of the fact that the police had seemingly forgotten this all started because of something that happened to Milly.

This is a really interesting view of the police that I haven’t seen in other true crime books before. Usually in true crime families focus on the police is only with the FLO’s, so it’s sad to hear the Dowler family felt so let down by an organisation that should have protected them. I was expecting more details about Milly’s case and although there was obviously some information it felt like a book more focused on the social injustice they faced as a result of the crime, rather than the crime itself.

I don’t think you can help but admire Gemma’s bravery and courage. I can’t imagine going through even one event she has gone through, and yet despite her sister’s abduction and murder, the way Gemma was treated by police and CPS, and the hacking scandal she continues to pick herself up and live her life for her sister and her parents too.

I would recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about the case. There’s definitely enough background even if you’ve never heard of this case before, although I’d imagine most British adults have at least a small recollection of the crime. However, it’s not an easy read. It’s emotional and there is a lot of deep content about the impact on Gemma’s mental health, as well as other difficult topics to read. It’s a fascinating book, and probably one of the most well-written true crime books I’ve read. I gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads. Although it was co-written by a professional author, it never lost the feeling of being almost like a diary. Very moving.

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