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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Guilty as Sin: Inspired by True Events by Ken Wilson is a true-crime story that follows the case of a child murdered for financial gain in Montana. Michael Maddox was born into a difficult environment in East Texas. With an absent drug addict father and a mother also on drugs, Michael struggled to cope with his domestic problems growing up. When his now “clean” mother sought a new life for the pair in Montana, it seemed like things were finally looking up for the young boy. However, it wasn’t long before Michael’s mother was using again, and Michael ended up in the care of state agencies. Fostered into the Riker family and eventually adopted by the Rikers, it appeared things could only improve for Michael. But Lora and Leroy Riker had other plans for their new son. When Michael accidentally drowned on a fishing trip with his new father and a young friend, the question immediately arises: did Michael fall into the river and drown, or was he murdered? Detective Russ Wyatt and his partner are tasked with unraveling the mystery of Michael’s untimely death and discovering if there was a nefarious side to this sad end to Michael’s short life.
It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction, and Guilty as Sin is proof positive of this. Author Ken Wilson meticulously details the events leading up to Michael’s untimely demise, the investigation of the suspicious drowning, and ultimately the court case that would decide what happened to Michael on that fateful day. The story is told from various perspectives, giving the reader a clear insight into the mindset and motivations of the multiple participants in this gruesome case. Narrated principally by Detective Russ Wyatt, we get a feel for the obvious inconsistencies in the stories of the two adoptive parents as they try to cover up their heinous acts. I particularly appreciated the author's methodical and careful writing style, as the damning evidence against the perpetrators was slowly collected. The story flows seamlessly as the evidence against Leroy and Lora is compiled, culminating in a presentation at trial that, to a large extent, is presented through the eyes of true-crime television commentators, which is both clever and different. This is an excellent read that I thoroughly enjoyed and can highly recommend.