Mini-Reviews: Helter-Skelter Part One and Two, Crime Scene Investigations


Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Title: Helter-Skelter: Part One of the Shocking Manson Murders

Author: Vincent Bugliosi

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Part One: The Shocking Story of the Manson Murders.

On August 9th 1969, seven people were found shot, stabbed and bludgeoned to death in Los Angeles at two different locations.

Among them was Sharon Tate Polanski: Roman Polanski’s heavily pregnant wife who was found with multiple wounds of the chest and back having been stabbed sixteen times. Before she was stabbed to death, Sharon was hanged from one of the rafters in the living room.

Jay Sebring: a popular figure in Hollywood circles, Jay was found with a bloody towel covering his face, a rope around his neck slung over rafters and tied to Sharon Tate on the other side. He was stabbed and shot. Cause of death: Exsanguination, the victim bled to death.

Abigail Anne Folger: A coffee heiress, a civil rights devotee, volunteer and friend of the Polanski’s, Anne was stabbed twenty-eight times.

‘Woytek’ Frykowski: a close friend of Roman Polanski, and an aspiring novelist, Woytek was shot twice, struck over the head thirteen times and stabbed fifty-one times.

Part One gives a detailed account of the crime scene, the victims and the long wait to list the suspects. This was the crime that shook Hollywood and the world.

When I requested this review copy (and part two, of eight parts), I was hoping the other parts would be put up for review as well. Alas, no, so I’m left having read half a book, and I’m tempted to buy the full book so I can read the rest of it. Anyway, we’ve all heard of the Manson Murders – seven people got shot one night on two different locations back in 1969 in Los Angeles. The two murders seemed to have no connection, until police traced it all back to Charles Manson and his followers. The book’s true strength is how detailed it is. Obviously, a lot of research went into it. This is the first installment, so it touches in detail on the murders, and only mentions Charles Mansion in passing. The book works chronologically, establishing a time line starting with the murders, and then linking it to possible suspects. It’s a bit of a slow read (hence the 4 stars) but overall, definitely intriguing enough to make me want to pick up the sequel.

Title: Helter-Skelter: Part Two of the Shocking Manson Murders

Author: Vincent Bugliosi

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Part Two: Meet the Killers.

Twenty-four members of a hippie cult known as the Manson family, led by ex-con Charles Manson, are arrested in connection with the murder of a music teacher Gary Hinman, killed on the same night in Hollywood.

Susan Atkins aka Crazy Sadie, is one of the imprisoned. Seemingly high and excited, she tells everyone in gruesome detail how they did it, and how they were going to unleash hell.

She reveals that the Manson family were also involved in the Cielo Drive murders, the horrifying place Sharon Tate Polanski and her friends were bludgeoned to death.

As the title of this second installment suggests, here we get to meet the killers: Charles Manson and his cult. Some connections between Manson and the murders are revealed, and the readers gets to follow the police’s way of thinking as they cross out other suspects and start building their case. Some witness testimonies are included too. So far, this book is one of the most detailed and best researched true crime books I’ve read. The most interesting parts about these books is that they’re written by a prosecutor, so by someone with good knowledge of how the system works and how these cases are investigated. Great writing too. I’ll pick up the third installment as soon as I can, but I might choose to paperback (with all eight parts) instead.

Title: Crime Scene Investigations

Author: Daniel J. Baum

Genre: Non-Fiction, Law, Crime

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

When police are called in to investigate a crime, what powers and limitations apply to them? What are their rights to question strangers, search without warrants, or detain individuals who might become suspects? Crime Scene Investigations breaks down the Supreme Court’s decisions on questions like these into clear and practical terms.

Police themselves need to be vigilant, since the line between a lawful search and an improper one can be dangerously thin, and officers can be held accountable for any wrongdoing, intentional or not. The controversy surrounding such techniques as “stop-and-frisk” sweeps and compulsory DNA testing underscores the importance of understanding the legal dimensions of police powers. Because interactions between law enforcement officers and civilians are often charged with complexities, Crime Scene Investigations provides a level-headed guide, indispensable for those on either side of an investigation.

This book, by Daniel J. Baum, focuses primarily on Canadian law, and as such does a good job explaining the rights of police officers, how they go about investigating crimes, and what they’re limitations are. I mostly picked this up because I’m a law school student and criminology student, and I wanted to compare the law and rules of across the globe with those in my own country, Belgium. The book did teach me a few things. It’s informative without ever being boring, and a must-read for people interested in learning more about police investigations, especially in Canada.


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