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The Cletus P. Reese Story...Murder Ridge by Jayne Call Imler - Review


The Cletus P. Reese Story...Murder Ridge by Jayne Call Imler is based on the true story of Cletus P. Reese, a Coshocton County, Ohio serial killer from the 1950s. Today, his story is less well known compared to other Ohio born serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson. Unfortunately, his story has fallen into obscurity, although at the time his name reached the headlines across the state. In this short story, Imler, who did her research, gives her own fictionalized account of how the killings could have happened, plus she gives us a quick peek at the facts surrounding Cletus's case.

When I realized there was a book based on this case, I was very interested in reading it. Last week my local newspaper released their newest edition of a local/ state history magazine, and the Cletus P. Reese case had a several pages long spread. I had never heard of him or the case before, but I was completely sucked in. The entire case is fascinating and I was surprised to hear that it happened so close to home - and that I had no idea about any of it. The magazine mentioned this book (plus that it's a fictionalized account) and I immediately went out and located a copy through an interlibrary loan service. Since it's so short I had no trouble reading it in one sitting, but unfortunately I was terribly disappointed by it.

Like I said, I knew it was a fictionalized account of the case, but it varied so widely from the actual case that the only similarity is the title. I can't even say that when it comes to the names of the characters - because they're entirely different and they seem to be as absurd as the author could come up with. I mean, Axal Wadsworth - really? And, then there are the place names on top of that - Wadsworth Manor of Red Rum Ridge - are you kidding me?

I couldn't help myself.

Sure, the press began calling his farm "Murder Ridge" as everything was coming to light, that wasn't his actual address - although, the author did leave the village of Warsaw, Ohio as his hometown.

All of this probably wouldn't have bothered me as much if the fictionalized account of the Reese case was well written. As it turns out, the story needs a major edit. There are many grammar errors and formatting issues throughout, the story suffers from too much telling and far too little showing, and the writing itself is quite awkward. Long story short, but while reading I didn't know whether to be angry about the whole thing or to laugh at the ridiculous turns of phrase.

After her fictionalized account, Imler includes the facts behind the real life Reese case. This section includes clippings from newspaper reports and statements from those who knew him. She obviously did her research when it comes to Reese's case.

She even spoke to the current owners of the farm - and incorporated
some of the old ghost stories surrounding it for the fictionalized version.

However, there are moments where she says she doesn't want to bring in certain figures related to the case and she simply leaves them out of the story. For example, she drops Cletus's sister Ethel from the facts all together and she doesn't even mention the sheriff. Both of these people had pretty important parts in Cletus's life and his case, so of course, I was dismayed to see that they didn't even get a mention.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book unless you're familiar with the actual case. That is the reason why I gave it two stars rather than one, since I knew where it was coming from. If you're interested in learning more about this case, you might want to check out the Forgotten Ohio article on the subject instead.

I read this book on February 26, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.


  1. Just curious...where did you find this book?? I have been looking for it, and can't seem to find it anywhere.

    1. There are only like three copies available for interlibrary loan if your local library is a part of Ohio's public library consortium, SEO. Two of them are at the Coshocton Public Library (Cletus's home county).


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