Me­moir of friend’s mur­der is a lurid read

Ti­t­il­la­tion over­shad­ows search for truth

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - BOOKS - Patty Rhule Carolyn Mur­nick, left, re­calls what her child­hood friend, Ash­ley El­lerin, at the pi­ano, was like be­fore she was mur­dered in Los An­ge­les.

that be­tween work at a makeup counter and trans­fer­ring to fashion school, she is a part­time strip­per who dab­bles with crys­tal meth and has an older man pay­ing her car lease. The friends part, mak­ing plans to meet again, but the bond they once shared over se­crets and sleep­overs is strained.

Mur­nick the mem­oirist won­ders how Ash­ley went from con­fi­dent risk taker to drug taker and pole dancer. But her book doesn’t dig deeply enough to an­swer that ques­tion.

In­stead, Mur­nick wal­lows in self-ab­sorp­tion, con­flicted feel­ings about her friend and guilt she feels as she notches touch­stones of adult­hood while her friend lies dead.

She seethes when the lawyer de­fend­ing Ash­ley’s ac­cused killer ham­mers her friends with ques­tions about Ash­ley’s sex life at a pre-trial hear­ing. Yet Mur­nick is equally prone to re­veal­ing sala­cious de­tails (Ash­ley had a date with ac­tor Ash­ton Kutcher the night she died! Ash­ley could be ag­gres­sive in bed! She and Ash­ley took play­ful pho­tos as girls that the photo lab re­jected as “smut”!) that seem to cast a sim­i­lar por­trait of her friend.

Michael Gargiulo, a handy­man, is ex­pected to face trial in Cal­i­for­nia this fall for the deaths of El­lerin and Maria Bruno and the at­tempted mur­der of a third woman. He is sus­pected of killing as many as 10 women.

Mur­nick is an en­gag­ing writer and her story of the seamy side of young Hol­ly­wood sucks you in like a link to TMZ. But her ex­plo­ration of her friend’s young life and lurid death reads like ex­ploita­tion.

DOU­BLE­DAY BOOKS FOR YOUNG READ­ERS

The il­lus­tra­tions with The Pur­loin­ing of Prince Oleo­mar­garine give the story a vin­tage feel.

CE­LESTE SLOMAN

Au­thor Carolyn Mur­nick

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