Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk


348 pages
ISBN 0-00-200067-9
DDC 364.152'3'092




Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of
British Columbia.


Author of the novel The Torn Skirt, which explored female juvenile
delinquency, Godfrey turns her attention here to the 1997 beating and
murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk by a group of (predominantly female)
teenagers. Written in the style of the “non-fiction novel”
popularized by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, this book draws on
extensive interviews and court records, while re-creating conversations
between key players in the crime and its prosecution.

Much of the material presented here is deeply harrowing. The dynamics
of adolescent group psychology are graphically illustrated, as is the
poisonous anomie afflicting much of the youth in the Vancouver Island
region. Godfrey’s account of the crime itself makes for some very sad

The book is, however, seriously flawed in a number of ways. Godfrey’s
ear for teenage dialect is rather weak, and her descriptions of the
social milieu in which the crime took place often sputter. An expensive
car is dubbed an “immaculate vehicle,” a narrow alleyway is “slim
and secret,” a national icon is misspelled “Robbin’s Donuts.”
Awkward and inappropriate poeticisms are consistently deployed—“a
girl was brought to a dark place and pushed into the water until her
breath was no more”—along with puzzling (and bathetic) remarks:
“Swans float slowly by the shore, as if unbothered by the presence of
a young couple on the green grass.” The conversations Godfrey
re-creates between some of the girls and their police interrogators are
often laughably implausible. The latter function here as dupes,
“unable to comprehend the bond of a young girl’s first love,”
while the former are, typically, too wise and articulate for their
interrogators. When Godfrey has to stick to actual court transcripts of
the exchanges between the girls and various lawyers, her young subjects
come across as far less self-possessed and articulate.

As a document attesting to some of the social conditions that led to an
appalling crime, Godfrey’s book certainly has something to offer. It
falls far short, however, of joining the compelling exposés of troubled
demographics penned by her lofty predecessors, Capote and Norman Mailer.


Godfrey, Rebecca., “Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16565.