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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-12 12:48
Typical Spenser, Atypical Story
Painted Ladies - Robert B. Parker

Spenser books are great just when you need something to listen to and not think much about.  In this one, we see an art heist and murder and then putting the pieces together.  The Otto/Pearl (dogs) side story I could've done without, but I did like the story with the mother and daughter and the 'father' coming back into the story and the Holocaust tie in.  I would've like to hear that developed further.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-01 08:05
With One Shot - Dorothy Marcic

More twists and turns than a wadded up roll of duct tape…. which in this case, could have been extremely useful!

Warning…. there are spoilers..

Vernie Stordock was a family man, respected police officer and all around great guy – until the night he was murdered. It was not just murder… it was the slow systematic wiping out of any life he might have had before he met Suzanne. His niece, Dorothy and his daughter Shannon have had theories and questions for years. Dorothy finally decides to see if she can get to the bottom of the story, and begins to unravel the mysterious surrounding involving Suzanne, her children, and of course – how in the world a professed murderer gets only 11 months in a mental hospital to be “cured” and released.

Now the juicy parts of the story. You are going to hate Suzanne. You have to. The entire story reeks of narcissistic/pathological issues that you can see building through the fabrics of the relationships she had before she met Vernie. It was Suzanne or the highway.. her way or no way. Somehow, she always got exactly what she wanted. She used her body, she used threats, and when it came down to it – violence (for real, exactly how MANY bodies have to accumulate around someone before it gets questioned). But I digress, we are discussing the Vernie situation here..

Suzanne admitted her role in the murder, explained how she did it, and then somehow manipulated the system to barely spend any time in prison, walk out smelling like roses, and managed to claim the entire estate of Vernie, and then some. She was not happy to walk away with the life insurance, she had to hurt his first family by taking half of everything they had, just because she could.

This book… this book is a hard one for me to rate and review. I liked it, I hated it, I questioned the author and her true motives. I wanted more. I wanted to see more answers from the departments involved, the DA, the ADA (who was disbarred), the Sheriff, and most of all, the doctors who allowed this woman to outsmart them. She played each and every person like a fiddle and they sang the exact tune that she wanted. Beethoven would have been proud at the master theater production she managed to concoct and have everyone swaying to her own personal waltz.
I had to admit, I got a little irritated with all the “we had an instant connection” “they were wearing a….” moments. I don’t care what someone is wearing. This book is not about clothing and fashion, or the sound of someone’s voice. It was a fact, theory expounding, nail the murderer of her uncle book.
I honestly could not tell if the author was satisfied with the findings of the case by the time the book closed. It felt to open to me. Why was David never fully questioned? How in the world could they not go back and amend the charges? There is no statute of limitations on murder, and the fact that the person they suspected was now dead had nothing to do with it. Suzanne was a liar, and that was enough to throw everything out the window and start again. Sadly, the records from the case have mostly been destroyed and many of the people who knew anything are also passing away. This case is a huge miscarriage of justice, and the family of Vernie Stordock never got full closure. As I worked through the case putting the evidence together, it never fully fit to me that Suzanne was the person who pulled the trigger. She was a master manipulator, and would get anyone else to do their work for them (i.e. she even used her own step-daughters research for her thesis/dissertation). Suzanne was not mentally ill, she did not have a lapse in judgement, and I very highly doubt that her husband was ever violent towards her, unless he was protecting himself from her. She manipulated each and every situation she was in. Full blown narcissistic behavior, and more probable, a high functioning sociopath. This woman was the very epitome of evil, who used her children to get what she wanted, and ignored them the remainder of the time. For them to have stuck with her as long as they did, I was surprised, but then again – manipulation goes a long way and when you have been conditioned since childhood with it, there is not much you can do to get away from it.

Like I said above, I had a hard time rating this book. I felt it was really rambly in a lot of ways (kind of like my review), but I think she started off on the right track. If she had stuck to the case, and not let emotion sweep through (hard because it was family), it would have made a more cohesive read. I wonder now about the family of this master manipulator, and how much they truly knew about the “unfortunate situation”.

 

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photo 2018-03-11 19:05

My true crime bookcase.

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review 2018-03-08 05:50
Murder Most Foul - with a witty sense of humor
I Will Find You: Solving Killer Cases from My Life Fighting Crime - Joe Kenda

If you have a weak stomach, can’t handle real life situations or bad language – then this book is not for you! This book gets down to the real life, dirty, heinous side of life that police officers deal with on a daily basis. This book will not sugar coat, give you warm feels, or wrap you in teddy bear hugs. Lt. Joe Kenda breaks it down, and takes you on an inside view of what his life on the police force was like.

I will start off with saying, I admire Lt. Kenda. I have been watching his show on TV for the past couple of years, and have enjoyed each and every case that he has presented. I like his honesty, and the brutal assessment that he uses. He has a no bar hold view and for me that says something. This is a person where you know where you stand, and if he is coming after you – you can run but you will not get far. He is relentless, and he will do whatever it takes to bring you in.

We see the glamorized view of police work on television all the time. Life must be good, right? Well, think again. Each of these cases stick with the police officer. Each face, each horror show is different. As you work through the book, you are confronted with many different facets of life. Homeless victims, murdered children, suicides, and so much more. This book takes you on a walk that is much different than many that have been published, and it is definitely not for the squeamish. Each smell, each fear, each new scene is described so you feel as though you are walking through the crime scene yourself. You will also experience many different emotions through this book. Anger is the one that you are going to experience the most. Many of these cases leave you wondering WHY. They are finished, closed, and put away. But the motives, the cause and effects can leave you scratching your head at times. There are cases where they for sure had it coming, and you are almost cheering for the person who finally took them off the street, or out of the way, but the innocent victims are the ones that stay with you.

Toward the end of the book, Lt. Kenda briefly describes some of his nightmares. I read through them, walked away, and then came back and read through them again. I laughed at the reaction of the doctor that he went to see (and I hope he got his money back from that visit), but I sat back and had to combat the “mom feels.” The terror, the horror, and the relentless feeling of pursuit is something that won’t go away, but hopefully through the telling of these stories, and the gut-honest truth portrayed on these pages, some peace of mind will be found.

I absolutely LOVED this book. I loved each case, each moment, each “GOTCHA” scene. Like I stated at the beginning – this book is NOT for everyone. This is very much a mature audience only read, and one that should not be taken lightly. Read at your own risk!

 

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review 2018-03-06 16:57
A book that will enthrall fans of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and people interested in XIX century true crime.
The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein - Patricia Earnest Suter

I was provided an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Most of us have wondered more than once about the nature of fiction and the, sometimes, thin line separating reality from fiction. Although we assume that, on most occasions, fiction imitates reality, sometimes fiction can inspire reality (for better or for worse) and sometimes reality seems to imitate fiction (even if it is just a matter of perception). And although Slavoj Žižek and postmodernism might come to mind, none of those matters are new.

Suter’s non-fiction book combines three topics that are worthy of entire books (and some have been written about at length): Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mary’s own life, and Anton Probst’s life and the murders he committed. Each chapter of the book alternates between the chronological (up to a point) stories of Shelley and Probst, and comparisons of the developments and events in the “life” (fictional, but nonetheless important) of Frankenstein’s creature. The author uses quotes and close- text-analysis of Frankenstein, and also interprets the text based on the biography of Shelley, to explain how the creature ended up becoming a monster. Although the novel is an early example of science-fiction/horror, many of the subjects it touched belong in literature at large. Nature versus nurture (is the creature bad because of the parts used to make him, or because nobody shows him care and affection?), science versus morality and religion (can knowledge be its own justification, or should there be something of a higher order limiting experiments), prejudice, mob mentality, revenge, loneliness and isolation…

Shelley’s life, marked by tragedy from the very beginning (her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died when Mary was only eleven days old) was dominated by men who never returned her affection and who were happy to blame her for any disasters that happened. She was part of a fascinating group, but, being a woman, she was never acknowledged and did not truly belong in the same circle, and it seems an example of poetic justice that her book has survived, and even overtaken in fame, the works of those men that seemed so important at the time (Lord Byron, Percy B. Shelley…).

I was familiar with Frankenstein and with the life of Mary Shelley and her mother (although I am not an expert) but had not heard about Probst. The author has done extensive research on the subject and provides detailed information about the life of the murderer, and, perhaps more interesting still, his trial and what happened after. That part of the book is invaluable to anybody interested in the development of crime detection in late XIX century America (his crimes took place in Philadelphia, although he was born in Germany), the nature of trials at the time, the history of the prison service, executions, the role of the press and the nature of true crime publications, and also in the state of medical science in that era and the popular experiments and demonstrations that abounded (anatomical dissections, phrenology, galvanism were all the rage, and using the bodies of those who had been punished with the death penalty for experiments was quite common). Human curiosity has always been spurred by the macabre, and then, as much as now, the spectacle of a being that seemed to have gone beyond the bounds of normal behaviour enthralled the public. People stole mementos from the scene of the crime, queued to see the bodies of the victims, and later to see parts of the murderer that were being exhibited. Some things seem to change little.

Each part of the book is well researched and well written (some of the events are mentioned more than once to elaborate a point but justifiably so) and its overall argument is a compelling one, although perhaps not one that will attract all readers. There are indeed parallels and curious similarities in the cases, although for some this might be due to the skill of the writer and might not be evident to somebody looking at Probst’s case in isolation. Even then, this does not diminish from the expertise of the author or from the engrossing topics she has chosen. This is a book that makes its readers think about fame, literature, creativity, family, imaginary and true monsters, crime, victims, and the way we talk and write about crime and criminals. Then and now.

I’d recommend this book to readers interested in Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s work and life, also to people interested in true crime, in particular, XIX century crime in the US. As a writer, I thought this book would be of great interest to writers researching crime enforcement and serial killers in XIX century America, emigration, and also the social history of the time. And if we feel complacent when we read about the behaviour of the experts and the common people when confronted with Probst and his murders, remember to look around you and you’ll see things haven’t changed that much.

The author also provides extensive notes at the end of the book, where she cites all her sources.

 

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