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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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review 2018-03-05 17:02
Alias Grace / Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?


I read this novel to fill the A in my Women Authors A to Z reading challenge and a “Book about a villain or anti-hero” for my 2018 PopSugar challenge.

For me, Margaret Atwood rarely disappoints and Alias Grace was no exception. Despite the fact that I’m recovering from a nasty cold and need all the sleep that I can get, I found myself up after bedtime, obsessively following the life of Grace Marks. Atwood has taken a historical figure and told her story—sticking to the facts, but embroidering around them in a beguiling fashion.
The themes are timeless—who is telling the truth? Whose truth? Who are we to believe? Does the justice system really offer us justice? Who gets to decide?

Though much of the novel is seen through Grace’s eyes, I still didn’t feel like I knew her well enough to judge—did she assist with the murders or was she merely an accessory after the fact? All of the might-have-beens weighed heavily on me. If only she had chosen this path or that one, things might have been so different.

A truly engrossing story.

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review 2018-02-25 16:10
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land - Monica Hesse

American Fire is about a rash of arson committed by a local couple. Simple direct story found in the crime beat section until the author digs into the area's history, especially its heyday and then decline. She also goes into the history of the couple: Charlie, a native of the area with a solid reputation and a rap sheet (mostly due to his drug use) and Tonya, also a native without such a solid reputation and a need to set things on fire. The author also profiles the local volunteer firefighters and law enforcement officials who had to clean up the messes Charlie and Tonya caused without the resources of suburban town or urban center. That is what really spoke to me, as I grew up in an area with only volunteer firefighters and EMTs - the resources and manpower can be overwhelmed very easily, but the level of dedication of those volunteer units can't be found in a lot of places.


I would recommend this book to true crime readers or those who like a closer look at rural towns and their problems and the people trying to solve them.

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