About SPOILERS

I’ve been known to say that I don’t worry about spoilers. I will even read the last page of a book sometimes. That was until I read a spoiler that I wasn’t expecting. So I guess I should say, I don’t mind a spoiler if I know it’s coming or am looking for one.

That being said, I know there are people who HATE spoilers. I therefore always try to not put any in my reviews. But sometimes, like if I’ve read a series, it’s unavoidable, therefore if I write a review with a spoiler in it, major or minor, I always write spoiler warnings. Sometimes I will write a second review without the spoilers. The reason for that is sometimes I feel I can’t write a good review without including some detail that might be considered a spoiler.

Something else I do, so people won’t accidentally stumble upon a review with spoilers is password protect the blog post with the spoiler review. If you come upon any of these and want to read it, the password is in the tags.

Happy reading.

Murder at Yosemite by Carlton Smith

YosemiteFormat: eBook
Pub. Date: 1999
Type: Non-Fiction, True Crime ~ Library Book, 3M Cloud Library
Pages: 239
Read: 2/12/2014
Rating: Really liked it ♥♡

The book starts with the abduction of Steven Stayner from Merced, CA which is very close to Yosemite National Park, on December 4, 1972. He was a prisoner of a pedophile for seven years. The murders covered in this book began in February 1999. The man arrested for these murders was Steven’s older brother Cary Stayner.

After covering the abduction and briefly touching on what life with his ‘false’ dad was like, the effect his abduction and return had on his family in general, we get to the murders. The is rather detailed in describing the investigation, into what would turn out to be the wrong suspects, this leads to questions about the lead FBI investigators and speculation that had the FBI not focused their investigation in the wrong direction, the fourth victim would still be alive. This is just speculation of course, there was no reason for Stayner to be suspected. He had legitimate reason to be at the hotel where the victims were staying.

Unfortunately the book was published before Stayner went to trial, I found the results of the trial at Crime Library. I have also listed them below. Some friend of mine thought the book was boring. I don’t agree with them, but if you like trial details and investigation details as opposed to historical details you might not like this book.

Since the fourth murder was in the park, Stayner was tried in Federal court.
On 2/11/2000 the Feds declared their intention to seek the death penalty.
July 12,2000 a federal judge ruled that the government could seek the death penalty.
September 15, 2000 Stayner plead guilty and confessed to the murder of Joie Armstrong thus saving his life.

In the trial for the other three murders:
August 26, 2002: Stayner was found guilty.
September 16, 2002: Stayner was declared sane.
October 9, 2002: Jury recommended death. Appeal is automatic.

That is all the information that was on that site. Considering how long the appeal process is for death-penalty cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cary Stayner is still on death row. Also, some of the details in the Crime Library account and this book are different. Not hugely different however.

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Witness To Death by Dave White

WitnesstoDeath (2)Format: eBook
Pub. Date: 2014
Type: Crime Fiction ~ Library Book
Pages: 256
Read: 2/7/2015
Rating: Was O.K.

John Brighton is convinced his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend is cheating on her so he follows him to get proof. Maybe he thinks this will get them back together, he does still love her. What he witnesses is a shoot-out on the banks of the Hudson River and John ends up the suspect in five murders. What happens next can only be described as a wild ride.

I had a hard time keeping the players straight in this book, first one person has two names, second you never know who is running things. People are not what they appear to be and bodies keep dropping. It was like Hamlet, everybody dies. Well not EVERYBODY.

WitnesstoDeathThis book didn’t live up to the hype for me. Some suspension of what you know to be true is often necessary when a reading a novel, but this book took it too far in my opinion. Plus the fact that none of the characters, even the good guys were likable. I won’t even go into the WTF? ending.

In short, I didn’t hate this book, but I seriously doubt I will read anymore by this author.

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The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells and Orphan Black

IDM.HGWellsFormat: eBook
Pub. Date: 1896
Type: Fiction
Pages: 160
Read: 2/5
Rating: Liked it ♥♡

Orphan Black is one of those series I got totally hooked on. The synopsis on IMDb: A streetwise hustler is pulled into a compelling conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a girl who looks just like her. The woman who look just like her is a clone. All of the clones are played by Tatiana Maslany, their names are: Sarah Manning; Alison Hendrix; Cosima Niehaus; Beth Childs (suicide victim); Katja Obinger (shot by Helena); and Helena (has the same birth mother as Sarah). Sarah is kind of the main character. It is a fascinating series. I binge watch because I can’t remember what night its on. Season two is done and I don’t know if there will be a season three, I hope so because so many questions were raised by Season two, which I want to list here but that will produce many more spoilers. Anyway at the end of Season two, we meet the originator of the cloning program, he gives a book to Kira, one of the last scenes Kira climbs into bed with Cosima and asks her to read this book to her, “It’s about a man who makes monsters.” She says this rather gleefully, Cosima looks at the book, “The Island of Dr Moreau”.

So I had to read the book. I mean wouldn’t you? I had an idea of what the book was about, I had either seen a movie or heard about a movie. Like is always the case when I write about a book considered a classic, I have a hard time writing a review. The story starts with the nephew of Edward Prendick telling about his Uncle being lost at sea and found and then later when he died, his nephew found among his papers this account of what happened. This is was a common literary ploy in this time period.

The ship Mr. Prendick was sailing on sank, he escaped on a life raft with two other, who died or killed each other, and he almost died of exposure but was saved, then set adrift again, then saved again. His savior is a man named Montgomery and he has the most unusual attendant, and he is Dr. Moreau’s assistant. Once on the island Prendick is kept in the dark, is stalked by then meets some of the ‘inhabitants’, jumps to the wrong conclusion (which I thought was rather stupid considering what he heard and saw), then is straightened out, then tragedy strikes and he has to survive until he has to escape.

This is a science fiction horror story, the thought crosses my mind that this book exemplifies the saying: Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. The terror that Prendick experiences is conveyed very well by the sparse words and matter of fact of way it’s told. The ethical questions posed by this novel do not detract from a very fine read.

Evil at the Front Door by Ron Franscell

Notorious Louisiana
LouisianaFormat: eBook, Kindle
Pub. Date: 2006
Type: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Pages: 300
Read: 1/29/2015
Rating: Really liked it ♥♡♥

This is a compilation of cases in Louisiana, a short read, there are only 4 cases, the earliest one is 1927 and the last is 2002. There isn’t a ton of detail, but each accounts contains a brief history of the perpetrators, the crimes committed and if there was an investigation and trail, the bare details of these. My only complaint is that the book is too short! I would have liked more. However if you want a quick read that packs a punch, this selection of cases will satisfy you.

Illustrated True Crime by Nick Yapp

True Stories of the World’s Infamous Murderers, Thieves, and Con Artists
TrueCrimeFormat: Hardbound
Pub. Date: 2006
Type: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Pages: 303
Read: 1/26/2015
Rating: Really liked it ♥♡

This is a big picture book. Not the type you would give a child, some of these pictures would give some adults nightmares, it has pictures of murdered people, including children and murderers. It has chapters on: Outlaws and Anarchists, Mobster and Monsters, Serial Killers, Assassination, and Kidnappings. Each crime or criminal get a page or two and there are a ton of pictures in it.

The first chapter contains the headings: The Wild West, with accounts of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and the Earp brothers to name a few. This book includes criminals from all over the world. Mexico bandits, the attack on the Olympics in Munich, Germany, the Great Train Robber in England, mass shootings in Russia, Scotland and Australia. The book also covers white collar crime, Enron, Kerviel, and Madoff. Possible miscarriages of justice. One account that fascinated me was “Murder Inc.”, Assassins for hire, Dial an 800 number and get rid of someone. Mass murders are also included: Johnstown; Luby’s Cafeteria; Waco; the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building; the Unabomber; 9/11; Beslan Middle School Number One; Michael Ryan; Dunblane primary school; Martin Bryant; Columbine; Virginia Tech; Joketa School in Finland; and Albertville School.

The accounts are very concisely written, if you are looking for detailed descriptions of motive and life history and trials, this book does not have them. It does has tons of pictures rendered in exquisite detail.

Edgar Allan Poe Awards

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the finalists for the 2015 Edgars, the complete list is here. As a true crime reader, I am mainly interested in the books in the category “Fact Crime”. Yes I know I said I wasn’t buying any new TC books, but whats a book lover to do? Let all these new books feel unloved? Here’s the list and my thoughts on them.

Fact crime

“Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America” by Kevin Cook I remember this crime, I should say I remember hearing about it, murdered while all her neighbors heard her cries for help. The bystander effect. The summary promises that this is the truth about Kitty, the neighborhood, and her killer. I put this on my must read list.
“The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art” by Carl Hoffman The rumor was he was eaten, his family denied it. Once again we are promised the never before told truth. I put this on my TBR but didn’t list it as must read.
“The Other Side: A Memoir” by Lacy M. Johnson First person account of a woman held captive by a murderous ex. He planned to kill her, she planned to escape. It’s not high on my list, but I might read it just because there are so many fiction accounts floating around these days.
“Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood” by William Mann A book about the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, that promises us not only the truth about the case but to solve it. I’m always skeptical about these claims. I might read this because I have a fascination, some say unhealthy, with Hollywood and movie stars.
“The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation” by Harold Schechter Just say yes to anything by Harold Schechter, seriously, the man is amazing.

If you hear weeping, it’s just my checkbook.

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

BroadchurchFormat: eBook-3M Cloud Library
Pub. Date: 2014
Type: Fiction ~ Library Book
Pages: 448
Read: 1/17/2015
Rating: Liked it ♥

This book is an “adaptation of the hit television show Broadchurch” which I started watching on a friends Netflix account, got hooked (hint: it has David Tennant in it) and then couldn’t watch it for a while. I asked my nephew to find it for me and he did, but due to server issues I wasn’t able to watch it. I requested it from the library which is when I noticed there was a book Broadchurch.

The book follows the story line of the TV series almost exactly. The author fleshes out the characters, lets you know their thoughts and feelings, in a sense, expands on the story. In another review, someone stated this was not her story, I would say her handling of it made it her story. She does an admirable job of keeping the reader engaged.

Who killed Danny Latimer? Alec Hardy, an experienced investigator new to the area suspects everyone. Ellie Miller, who has lived in Broadchurch her whole life can’t believe anyone there could have harmed Danny. The fact that Hardy was given a promotion promised to Miller plus knowing his last case blew up spectacularly, puts the two at odds.

Woven around the mystery is the revealing of peoples secrets, the intrusion of the press and how grief affects people. Hardy and Miller have to keep the peace while trying to solve a crime that seems to putting everyone against their friends. Innocent people are hurt while the guilty one is apparently going free. When the guilty party is finally identified, that puts more shockwaves and rifts through the community.

A very interesting read.

Saville’s Spinney by Mike Sheridan

True Story of the Colwick Murders of 1844
SavillesSpinneyFormat: eBook-Kindle
Pub. Date: 2014
Type: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Pages: 243
Read: 1/13/2015
Rating: Liked it ♥♡

On May 22, 1844 a man named John Swinscoe discovered the bodies of three children all with their throats cut. The parish constable William Parr was notified, after viewing the bodies he began a search for the murder weapon and found a fourth body, this was a woman, she was later identified as the mother of the three children.

This was a troublesome time in the region, times were hard financially and many working men felt they were being dealt with unfairly. This lead to a strike and the police were worried about possible mob action. In the midst of this was a bloody and sensational murder. The husband was a suspect from the very beginning. He ended up being convicted and executed, but that is not the end of the story, there is more tragedy to follow.

It’s possible that William Saville did not murder his children and wife although all the facts seem to point to that. It was impossible to properly investigate the crime scene as it was overrun by ‘spectators’. Some people just wanted to stand on the scene of a murder, some believed the relics from a murder could serve as a talisman against evil. Many people held fast to old superstitions. One such superstition was that hangman’s rope could cure skin blemishes. For this reason a hangman would sell inch long pieces of the rope.

For obvious reasons Mr. Sheridan could not interview anyone directly connected with this account. Also many of the original documents had ‘disappeared’. He made extensive use of the newspapers and there is much in here directly quoted from them. He has also used ‘editorial license’ to recreate some events, although he has not created any characters. Everyone mentioned was alive at one point.

This is definitely not one of those true crime books that reads like a novel. It is also not just a dry recitation of facts. Mr. Sheridan has done his best, through research into the time period to flesh out the events and breathe some life into the story. He states in the introduction: “My aim has been to take the reader right back to 1844, to immerse them in the controversy, the judgements and the terrible events that occurred as if they were there.” By directly quoting from the newspapers, relating surrounding events, I feel he has done just that.

For more information about Mike Sheridan and the writing of this book check out his blog, click here.