The editor’s note for Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession (Sarah Weinman, introduction by Patrick Radden Keefe) proposes some potential causes for the recent obsession with true crime stories and the extensive articles devoted to them. The advent of streaming services and podcasts in recent years has stoked existing interest, and any tales that address order vs. chaos become relevant during times of upheaval. As our world becomes more subject to uncertainty, vicarious experiences become internalized and can cause increasing empathy or panic. This anthology is a collection of 13 articles published in the past 10 years and the editor hopes that these writings will “go a long way to make the world a more just, more empathetic place.” A highly ambitious goal for any book, and this one falls far short of its objective. The three sections of the book are meant to separate the articles into groupings that create some overall cohesive message, but the contents of each are too dissimilar and varying in tone and topic to evoke a sense of common purpose. The first section contains investigative (and in some cases sensationalistic) journalism of actual true crime cases. Here can be found descriptions of the infamous Gypsy Rose case, a lurid tale of Munchausen-by-Proxy; the UT tower shooting spree as seen from one survivor’s point of view; a contract killing arranged by a young woman as recompense for a restrictive upbringing; and the Derek Allred story of repetitive predatory relationship fraud. The second section is intended to act as a commentary on the contemporary cultural moment and the way crime stories are viewed as a result of its influence. This part has articles on topics as wide-ranging as the Slender Man case and an old 1970’s movie director whose film was influenced by true events. The final section of Weinman’s book is dedicated to writings about criminal justice and society. The articles in this portion cover the improper use of searches by immigration agents, gun violence and its physical effects, gender and race biases in policing and prosecution, and the use of questionable methods in crime scene analysis. While the partitions of the book make it easier for the reader to switch gears, the overall effect is disjointed, and the selection of the included pieces appears random. Unspeakable Acts could have been three distinct volumes, thereby providing more substance and content for its wide-ranging topics rather than trying to address them all in one. Each of the issues covered deserve more attention than they receive here, and there is certainly a plethora of talented authors continually contributing their voices to choose from.
Thanks to the authors, Ecco and Edelweiss Plus for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
I dithered about the rating. This wasn't a bad book, but it definitely starts to drag around the 60 percent mark. I think if Jensen had followed the conclusion to the cases he introduces readers to through and moved on to another case it would have worked better. Instead the book starts off trying to do that, and then it goes into how he meets Michelle McNamara and her quest to find the Golden State Killer. And from there the book focuses on her death and it jumps around a lot to Jensen talking about a case and then Michelle or a case and the Golden State Killer. Then the last portion is focused on Citizen Detectives and I hard cringed about it. I don't know. Jensen seems adamant that he does not expect to be praised by law enforcement and he does the things he is doing to help the families of murder victims, but then at other times in the book you can "see" his frustration with law enforcement not looping him in on things or not giving credit to Michelle McNamara. I think I would compare this book more to a journal where he is getting all of his feelings out about a whole host of subjects.
"Chase Darkness With Me" is a memoir written by Billy Jensen that shows how he became invested in true crime cases and why he started to report and then help investigate them. I think some True Crime readers and podcast followers recognize his name. I only became aware of him when I read Michelle McNamara's book and I knew he was one of the people who helped finish her book after her death. I have tried to get into podcasts here and there on True Crime, but honestly the only one that I like these days is "Murder Minute." I don't like to listen to Stay Sexy Don't Get Murdered because it definitely got too big for me to stay into it anymore. Most of the show seems to be the hosts trying out their comedy routine with each other and the victims in the story don't feel important. I love Murder Minute since they walk you through current murders in the U.S. and then into their topic of the day. I tried to listen to Mr. Jensen and Mr. Paul Holes's podcast but I could not get into it.
So first off Jensen seems like a nice guy, but his writing I found to be all over the place. I think the first part of the book with him showing us how his father got him into true crime was really good. And then we get to see his first case he got involved with that I even know about (Howard B. Elkins murdered a woman he was having an affair with, Reyna Angélica Marroquín who was pregnant at the time). From there Jensen just jumps around in his narrative and tries to provide us information about cases that have stayed with him.
I honestly think the book could have cut out how he used social media to track down suspected murderers. He explained it once to readers and we didn't need to read it every time. And then at times he seems to want praise for spending his own money on this and then frustrated when he doesn't hear back from the police right away. I don't know, this memoir was weird for me. I get his frustrations. When he explains the number of unsolved murders in the United States and how many more get added on every year i shook my head. I mean I knew just on talking to my friends in law enforcement how many murders are not solved without a confession or a killer whose DNA is already in the system. I don't know if Citizen Detectives are the answer though. I joke about "Black Twitter" tracking down people, but I caution people doing that on a day to day basis. Especially after Twitter people wrongly identified a man as the one who assaulted two children this past weekend. The wrongly identified man ended up getting death threats over it. Social media is very powerful as we have seen over the past few weeks, but I think everyone has to be careful how they use it.
And when Jensen tries to go into the Golden State Killer case I just got totally lost. I already read McNamara's book so it didn't really need to be included here as well, except I guess to show how it affected him and others involved in the True Crime business.
The book ends on tips to be a citizen detective and I had a flashback to when at the end of G.I. Joe cartoons they always did a PSA to the kids watching and ended on Go Joe. It just didn't add much to the book for me and I really don't know about a bunch of untrained people running around trying to solve crimes. Jensen tries to show positive and negative outcomes to these detectives, but I was left baffled in the end.
True Crime novelist J T Hunter has another terrifying story to tell and I am eager to share it. I love reading crime, fiction and nonfiction, and this confirms for me the monsters that are the scariest are of the human kind.
The lead detective, George Murtie has a varied and fascinating life story, but Israel Keyes, an Army veteran, loving husband and father, and small business owner turned serial killer is the star of the performance.
Information was cultivated from reports, videos, court documents, interviews, newspapers and Facebook postings..
We will be traveling from Vermont to Alaska, with some stops in between.
Samantha Koenig…bad luck and what ifs would plague me if I were her loving father. Israel Keyes didn’t choose her specifically, he chose the place. She just happened to be there.
IF his story is true, she was compliant, having many opportunities to try and escape, but Israel has convinced her not to. I always wonder how I would act and I can only hope it would be immediate and violent, a fight to the death, seeing he (?) would probably kill me anyway, might as well fight and go down on my own terms.
The more I read, the more I think I have seen this on TV.
Sounds to me like he was exactly what he wanted to be, the guy next door….but, no emotions. Everything he did was for fun. He played the authorities and took his own way out.
Devil in the Darkness by J T Hunter is written in an easy to read format. There is some repetition, but that is to be expected when gathering information from people and places at different times, being true to the facts as J T knows them.
All in all, a well written, grimly told story of evil that walks the earth in the guise of a man.
I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Devil in the Darkness by J T Hunter.
MY J T HUNTER REVIEWS
The Vampire Next Door is my second book by J T Hunter. I love reading true crime. Of course, a lot of time, the fiction I read seems all too real. So come on in and enjoy the tour.
There are two covers for the book, one on Goodreads (above) and one on Amazon (below). Which do you like best?
I love the way The Vampire Next Door by J T Hunter was written. The story flows smoothly, drawing me in to the twisted story of John Crutchley.
Factual accounting, but J T Hunter writes with a flair, bringing to life the depraved and gruesome action John Crutchley, a serial killer,walks on a super dark side, not content with just killiing, but rapes and tortures for fun. It’s so hard to understand how someone can do these terrible thing, but I am fascinated trying to figure out what makes them tick.
One victim survives to give details that may never have been known otherwise.
He had a terrible upbringing, but I make no excuses for him. We all make choices, and he made some depraved ones. He is brilliant, a genius IQ, equivalent to Bill Gates, but socially and romantically inept. Some of the jobs he held are amazing, working for NASA, the pentagon, and other top secret clearance companies.
He is vicious. Delights in seeing terror and suffering in his victims. He was a thief and, even with a top secret clearance, he dealt drugs, because he could. He loved the thrill of getting away with it. Definitely shows his personality.
J T Hunter’s research includes letters written by him, interviews, police reports, etc. He is a Ted Bundy type of serial killer, coming across as the harmless guy net door, with a psychopathic ability to fake caring and able to manipulate others to do his bidding. Watch out when the dark comes to light. No conscience. No qualms about lying to achieve his ends.
Makes me sick, lying and whining, trying to invoke sympathy. Why does a serial killer think he deserves any mercy? It’s novels like this that leave me feeling angry, enraged, disgusted and totally pissed off…not only at the pathetic excuse for a human being, but the justice system and law enforcement.
I take some solace in the advancements that have been made in forensic science and investigation techniques, treating rape as the felonious violent crime it is and the changing of laws, where hopefully the punishment fits the crime.
I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of The Vampire Next Door by J T Hunter.
MY J T HUNTER REVIEWS