Book Review: List of 10: The True Story of Serial Killer Joseph Naso by C.L. Swinney

Title: List of 10: The True Story of Serial Killer Joseph Naso
Author: C.L. Swinney
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 2,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Gritty. True. Compulsively readable. This is his best book.”— Gregg Olsen, NY Times Best Selling Author
A narcissistic professional photographer lived a dangerous double life as a serial killer. He’d focus his rage on prostitutes mostly. It wasn’t uncommon for him to bring them home then try to explain why they were there to his wife.
Sexual urges met, either via rape or after paying for kinky sex, the killer would strangle his victims and dump their bodies in places he knew the police would eventually find them. The evil murderer needed the world to know that he was smarter than the police and women meant nothing to him but a necessary sexual inconvenience.
Then, by a stroke of chance and aggressive police work, the wheels of justice stumbled upon a lead. It was nothing more than a lined sheet of paper that read, “List of 10,” but shortly after its discovery, a task force was created and a serial killer was nabbed.
This book is about the victims he left behind, not the person who took their lives. I will never condone such actions, nor will I try to rationalize his behavior. He will go to the grave, hopefully sooner rather than later, knowing the identity of four women from his fabled List of 10. It’s his sick way of showing people he’s still in charge.
His name is Joseph Naso, and this book will grip you from the beginning and won’t let you go until the final word.

List of 10 is narrative nonfiction about Joseph Naso, a deranged serial killer with narcisstic tendencies. Joseph Naso was married once and even had two sons (one of which suffered from schizophrenia, and who Naso apparently took good care of), worked as a freelance photographer and in his spare time… he killed prostitutes. Well, mostly prostitutes. He had a pretty normal childhood, nothing that would indicate he was capable of doing this, and his wife of several years never suspected anything. Yet, DNA doesn’t lie, and he now awaits the death sentence in death row.

The book is narrative nonfiction, and while I’m sometimes a fan of that (rather than in just general nonfiction, in narrative nonfiction the author sometimes crawls in the mind of the people who play a role in the book, imagining what they must’ve been thinking at the moment) it doesn’t work quite as well here. I found that the author often jumped to conclusions and even made contradictory remarks while pretending to be in the mind of the victims or the perpetrator himself, Joseph Naso. This threw me off a little and made me not enjoy the book as much. The thoughts of the victims didn’t always seem plausible either, and sometimes took wild turns with a victim thinking something one moment then something else the next. It also comes across to me as slightly disrespectful to assume to know what they were thinking. Do that for the murderer, sure, I have no respect for murderers anyway. But the victims deserve more.

The author is also condescending at times, both toward the readers and the victims. For example, he likes to mention often how a victim couldn’t have known the man they were talking to was a serial murderer. Duh. It’s not like he had the words written on his forehead. I don’t think any reader anywhere would assume the victim could just guess this.

I also felt evidence was lacking. Sure, we get a run down of what happened to the victims, how they first met Naso, how he killed them and what is then from the police investigation. We get a little background info on both the victims and Naso, and in the end, we do get a look into the trial and the supposed “list of 10” the book is based upon, of which six have been identified as people murdered by Naso (four he was convicted of, two they didn’t have sufficient evidence of).

For a short case book on the murderer that’s not too bad, but it still feels lacking. You can easily decipher this from police reports and the trial. I wanted to see additional research: the author talking to the victim’s families, talking to Naso’s family members, or at least trying to if they didn’t want to. Talking to officers who worked on the case, the D.A., and so on. And then, I also wanted to know more about the list of 10. I was hoping the author would at least have suggestions as to who the remaining four victims were, and a lead on at least one of them.

What also bothered me is that for about a decade, if the years are correct, Naso lived in Sacramento and supposedly didn’t kill anyone. Now I know serial killers can be dormant, but this usually has a reason – they’ve found a wife or steady girlfriend, they have young children they need to take care of, and so on. For Naso, he just didn’t do anything in Sacramento despite no life-changing circumstances, and then picked right up when he moved again. Right. Something doesn’t strike right.

About the list of 10, rather than do a search for missing people in the area, and running it through the missing persons database… why not look for the location itself? The list obviously states the dumping grounds of these victims. Naso, being a narcisstic bastard, didn’t even bother to write down their names. But he did write: “girl on mt. tam” and “girl near heldsburg mendocino co.” and so on. So how about, rather than to find missing people in the area, just go look for the bodies? Or better yet, look for bodies that have not yet been identified in the area or murders yet unsolved, and see if it matches Naso’s modus operandi.

Maybe that’s been done. I don’t know – the author never mentions it. The way he mentions it, police hardly did anything with this evidence despite working on the case for a year before it going to court, which I find highly unlikely. He apparently did some investigating too, but never found any of the girls mentioned on the list, or their possible dumping ground, or even a missing person who could match one of the girls on the list.

Six of the locations on the list match up with Naso’s victims, so it’s probably safe to assume the other four do too. It breaks my heart to think those victims may never be found, or if they’re found, their remains may never be matched and their identity may remain unknown. Naso himself isn’t talking either – he agreed to talked to the author, then refused to, so there’s not even an interview with Naso himself included in the book which I thought was another show of lack of research. I had at least expected an interview with Naso.

The author mentions the book is about the victims, not the murderer. I agree – I detest men like Naso as much as anyone else does. However, if we wish to understand what compells people to do these despicable things, if we wish to take a look under the veil and discover what brings people to kill another human being, then it’s necessary to talk to people like Naso, at least interview them once and get it over with. If you’re writing a book about his horrible killings, at least try to interview him and see if he’s willing to open up about anything. That would make the book’s research look far more complete, in my opinion.

So, while I picked up the book because I wanted to know more baout Naso and his victims and the book definitely accomplished that, I disliked the speculation on behalf of Naso and especially his victims, the lack of research, and also how repetitive the book was. The author mentioned five times (that I counted) that Naso’s son had schizophrenia. I can remember that after two mentions, thank you. The inconsistencies annoyed me too, especially the ones present when the author crawls into the victim’s minds.

Anyway, if you want to know more about Naso and his victims, the book does give more insight, not much more than what you can find online but if you wan’t to go look for it, it’s all nicely bundled up in this book. Not that bad, but not that great either.


Book Review: Multiple-Victims Murder by Arnon Edelstein

Title: Multiple-Victims Murder
Author: Arnon Edelstein
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Mass murder and serial murder: An integrative look

The term “Multiple-victims murder” refers to the murder of several people at the same time, or one after another, by the same killer, in a repetitive pattern. Usually these incidents count a high toll of victims and create significant anxiety increase in the public. Yet, the rate of finding murderers in these cases is relatively very low, especially in serial murders; that is if they are ever caught at all.

A comprehensive and critical overview of contemporary research on Multiple-Victims Murder

Multiple-Victims Murder examines the various categories of mass murder and serial murder and suggests a new category: “mass-serial murder”. It presents and criticizes the most up-to-date research and theoretical literature in this field, and suggests an integrative theoretical model. This groundbreaking volume is intended for criminologists, psychologists, sociologists, students and readers who are interested in truly understanding the complicated aspects of this fascinating field of investigation.

As a criminologist, I can’t pass up a book written by a professor in criminology, especially not when it focuses on serial murder, one of the areas I researched the most during my studies. Multiple-Victims murder, what this book is about, refers to the murder of several people – this can be all at the same time, or one after the other but by the same killer. So we have one person killing several people, either all at once, or at different times: the mass murderer and the serial murderer.

Multiple-Victims Murder refers a lot to other theories and other authors that criminologists will certainly be familiar with. As such, it seems to be written primarily for criminologists, psychologists and sociologists. You can’t compare it to a regular “true crime book” that is written for anyone who wants to know more about a certain crime, this book is clearly more academic in its nature.

However, I really enjoyed that part of it. It felt familiar to come across many of the names I’d seen in my studies, and to look at what their view is in regards to multiple-victims murder. The author suggests some innovating, groundbreaking ideas, including an integrative theoretical model that definitely seems to have its merits, although further research of the underlying theory, in particular empirical research, would be necessary.

Book Review: The Scholl Case by Anja Reich-Osang

31944612Title: The Scholl Case
Author: Anja Reich-Osang
Genre: True Crime, Nonfiction
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In December 2011, a corpse was found in a forest in Ludwigsfelde, a small and peaceful town south of Berlin. The body was hidden between pine trees, covered with leaves. The victim was Brigitte Scholl, sixty-seven, cosmetician and wife of Ludwigsfelde’s former mayor Heinrich Scholl. There were rumours that Brigitte was raped and killed by a serial killer. While the police hunted for the murderer, parents kept their children indoors, and joggers avoided the forest. Three weeks later, the police arrested the victim’s husband.
The residents were shocked. Heinrich Scholl was well-respected in his community, regarded as the most successful mayor of East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This charming man had it all: a successful career, influential friends and a marriage of almost fifty years. But behind closed doors, it was a very different story. Friends and family were staggered at the picture that emerged during the trial.
In 2012, Heinrich Scholl was pronounced guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. To this day, he pleads not guilty. Journalist and author Anja Reich-Osang followed the trial and talked to family, friends and Heinrich Scholl himself. She tells a gripping story about marriage, sex and politics, where nothing is as it seems.

The Scholl Case is the true story of the murder on Brigitte Scholl, a sixty-seven-year-old cosmetician and wife of former mayor Heinrich Scholl. One day, Brigitte took her dog for an afternoon stroll in the woods and never returned home. Her husband, son and police officers searching the area found her body and that of her dog. In the weeks after the murder, Heinrich Scholl showed behavior police classified as bizarre, and was later apprehended for the murder and put on trial. He was convicted, but still pleads his innocence to this day.

In this book, author Anja Reich-Osang investigates the Scholl family, their past, their present, their relationship with each other, friends and neighbors. I enjoyed reading about small time life, and was particularly impressed with the way Heinrich Scholl, despite having a horrible childhood, managed to climb the ranks and become mayor, and very succesful in practically everything he did. Marriage seemed like his least succesful endavor, although going from there to suggesting he killed his wife is a far stretch.

Based on this account, I certainly wouldn’t classify the Scholl marriage as a happy one, but just because you’re unhappy about the state of affairs, you don’t just go and kill your wife and dog. Despite reading the book and getting to know Heinrich and his wife, even if just a little, I’m nowhere closer to deciding whether he’s guilty or not – often at the end of true crime I can make up my own mind about what I think is the truth, but here I’m still in the dark. That’s nothing bad on the author’s side, though, the research was well-done and very detailed.

I also enjoyed the writing style, which was fluent and practically swept me through the events and life history of Heinrich and his wife.

What I will say is that the case left me kind of perplexed: I could not believe they’d convicted this man on such flimsy evidence, and conflicting testimonies.

Book Review: Vile by Benjamin S. Jeffries

27507455Title: Vile: Peeking Under the Skin of Murderers
Author: Benjamin S. Jeffries
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Experience 42 horrific stories about the world’s more extreme killers in this comprehensive tome of grisly lusts and depraved pleasures of people who started out human and became something else. Read not only what they did, but why they did it often from the killer’s own words. Meet legendary murderers Jack The Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Henry Lee Lucas, and Ed Gein. Become intimate with lesser knowns, such as Edmund Kemper, Louis Wagner, and Carl Panzram. Bear witness to depraved sexual sadists Albert Fish, Gary Heidnik, and Richard Ramirez. Discover the insanity of Joseph Kallinger, The Shoemaker, Tsutomu Miyazaki, Japan’s demented child killer, and Gordon Stewart Northcott, twisted ax murderer and pedophile. Take a sinister trip to where violence is the beginning and death is a welcome release.”

In Vile: Peeking Under the Skin of Murderers, author Benjamin S. Jeffries investigates 21 serial murderers throughout history, from Jack the Ripper to Albert Fish. There seems to be no real reason why some murderers get included and others are left out, except perhaps the gruesome nature of their crimes – only the most vile killers get their case featured in this book.

Each chapter focuses on a different murder. Despite only being a few pages long, the chapters do pack the most interesting info about the case, and quickly dives into the murderer’s past, their psychology, the people they targeted, and how they eventually got caught and were tried. Most of the cases were familiar to me, but I did learn some new facts, and for the ones I already knew, the book refreshened my memory.

Some chapters were stronger than others. I wasn’t particularly fond of the Jack the Ripper chapter – the author did a far better job describing the crimes in which the murderer was actually caught than he did with this unsolved case.

The quick one-paragraph profiles of murders of the past at the end of the chapter were a nice addition, but I didn’t always see the link between that murderer and the case presented, and some paragraphs didn’t really say much while others summed up events nicely. Overall, a good read if you want to know more about these horrible serial murderers, and it inspired me to look up more about some of the cases I wasn’t familiar with.

Mini-Reviews: Supernatural Serial Killers, In The Company of Evil, The Writing Dead


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.

Supernatural Serial Killers

Tite: Supernatural Serial Killers

Author: Samantha Lyon, Daphne Tan

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Albert Fish held the genuine belief that the murders he committed were upon instruction from God. Peter Stumpp, who started practising the “wicked arts from twelve years of age”, was convinced he was a werewolf. There are many more murderous individuals like them. Supernatural Serial Killers explores the association between serial killers and the supernatural. The crimes committed by these men and women usually involved sexual deviance, cannibalism and violence toward children. In sixteenth century Europe, the problem became so significant that ‘Werewolf Witch Trials’ were conducted – many have no idea that it was possible to be tried and convicted for the crime of being a Werewolf, but Lycanthropy was a serious and major social concern in the 1500s. In this book, approximately twenty supernatural serial killers are discussed, including their background, crimes, trials and defences.

Review: I really liked this book. As a firm believers in the supernatural, and a fan of true crime, I knew I had to read this one. And it was interesting, even for people who don’t believe in the supernatural at all. A lot of serial killers (in any case, at least the sixteen cases presented here) turned to the supernatural to explain their crimes, or cover them up. Some claimed to be vampires, others acted on behalf of the devil, or even on behalf of God. It’s an interesting study, and as a criminology student, I enjoyed it all the more.

In The Company of Evil

Title: In The Company of Evil

Author: Michael Thomas Barry

Genre: True Crime, Nonfiction

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

California’s picturesque shores have always been a magnet for outcasts and criminals. Read about 64 of the most horrifying crimes ever committed in The Golden State, from the early 1950s into the 1980s. These accounts tell of mans inhumanity toward his fellow man and provide an inside look at infamous serial killers, assassins, sadistic rapists, bank robbers, kidnappers, Satan worshippers, and a plethora of other notorious criminals. Revisit The Sex Club Slaying, The Chowchilla School Bus Kidnapping, and the Real House on Haunted Hill. Be glad you’re not on the helpful list of “The Lonely Hearts Killer” or “Souls for Satan.” Written in an accessible, chronological sequence and enhanced by over 60 photographs, each entry provides an “introductory” overview of the crime, the parties involved, evidence gathered, and leading theories about solutions. This reference is indispensable for the first step study of modern crime in California.”

Review: A recounting of some of the infamous, and less well known murders haunting California in the last thirty years. Some of the cases were intriguing, but the information was short and not as extensive as I had hoped. It did lead me to find out more about the cases that intrigued me the most, and it’s a fairly decent guide. I would’ve preferred more details on the crimes, and less history of California, though.

The Writing Dead

Title: The Writing Dead

Author: Thomas Fahy

Genre: Nonfiction, Horror

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Conversations with the creators, executive producers, and writers of today’s top horror shows

The Writing Dead features interviews with the writers of today’s most frightening and fascinating shows. They include some of television’s biggest names—Carlton Cuse (Lost and Bates Motel), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies), David Greenwalt (Angel and Grimm), Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, The Terminator series, Aliens, and The Abyss), Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica), Brian McGreevy (Hemlock Grove), Alexander Woo (True Blood), James Wong (The X-Files, Millennium, American Horror Story, and Final Destination), Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files and Millennium), Richard Hatem (Supernatural, The Dead Zone, and The Mothman Prophecies), Scott Buck (Dexter), Anna Fricke (Being Human), and Jim Dunn (Haven).

The Writing Dead features thought-provoking, never-before-published interviews with these top writers and gives the creators an opportunity to delve more deeply into television horror than anything found online. In addition to revealing behind-the-scene glimpses, these writers discuss favorite characters and story lines and talk about what they find most frightening. They offer insights into the writing process reflecting on the scary works that influenced their careers. And they reveal their own personal fascinations with the genre.

The thirteen interviews in The Writing Dead also mirror the changing landscape of horror on TV—from the shows produced by major networks and cable channels to shows made exclusively for online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Studios. The Writing Dead will appeal to numerous fans of these shows, to horror fans, to aspiring writers and filmmakers, and to anyone who wants to learn more about why we like being scared.

Thomas Fahy, New York, New York, is associate professor of English and director of the American Studies Program at Long Island University, Post. He is the author of numerous books, including the young adult horror novels Sleepless and The Unspoken, and editor of The Philosophy of Horror and Alan Ball: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi).

Review: Some excellent insights into writnig horror, based on thirteen interviews from some of the best horror writers out there. Since I know most of the TV series the writers worked on, I was very intrigued to read more about their thoughts and insights. An enjoyable, engaging book that fans of those TV shows will no doubt love.

Book Review: Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder

21706Title: Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder

Author: Steve Hodel

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

In 1947, California’s infamous Black Dahlia murder inspired the largest manhunt in Los Angeles history. Despite an unprecedented allocation of money and manpower, police investigators failed to identify the psychopath responsible for the sadistic murder and mutilation of beautiful twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short. Decades later, former LAPD homicide detective-turned-private investigator Steve Hodel launched his own investigation into the grisly unsolved crime — and it led him to a shockingly unexpected perpetrator: Hodel’s own father.
A spellbinding tour de force of true-crime writing, this newly revised edition includes never-before-published forensic evidence, photos, and previously unreleased documents, definitively closing the case that has often been called “the most notorious unsolved murder of the twentieth century.”

Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder is a difficult book to rate. In the book, retired LAPD homicide detective, now private investigator, Steve Hodel launches an investigation into the unsolved murder of the Black Dahlia. After his father passed away, Steve had the opportunity to look into one of his father’s personal photography albums and discovered a picture in there of a woman he recognizes as the Black Dahlia. At first, he believes his father probably just met her at some point. Yet, he’s determined to find out more about the connection between his father and Elizabeth Short.

However, the deeper he starts digging into the past, the more he comes to realize his father might be involved in the Dahlia’s murder. And not just in her murder, but in the murder of other young females too.

It must be horrible to find out your father is a murderer. Although I’m not one hundred percent convinced of Mr. Hodel’s guilt, I do feel sorry for Steve, and how it must make him feel. It must take courage and a special kind of integrity to keep digging, though. Regardless, if George Hodel is the murderer of Elizabeth Short or not, he was not a loveable man – as the reader discovers through Steve’s recollections of the past, George Hodel was once put on trial for raping his own daughter, he was quite tyrannical, had four wives and over a dozen girlfriends, and was very much into sadism.

However, if that makes him the murderer of Elizabeth Short remains to be seen. The book is part memoir of Steve’s childhood with his father, his father’s life and the trial regarding his raping of his own daughter, and I thought I wouldn’t like those parts. However, I did like them. They’re writing with an easy flowing style, more so than the rest of the book, and George Hodel, despite being a rather cruel, self-absorbed man, does make an interesting person to read about.

The evidence linking George Hodel to the Dahlia crime is circumstancial at best. At least, for the first 90% of the book. The handwriting analysis didn’t convince me (handwriting analysis has often been debunked, and I’m quite skeptical about it), nor did the military-watch near the crime scene that matched Hodel’s watch, and to be honest, I found most of the evidence rather flimsy.

He also talks a lot about an LAPD cover-up. I skipped that chapter for the most part. For one, I don’t believe in cover-ups. They might happen, but they’re rare, and when someone isn’t convicted or even tried as a suspect, I choose to believe it’s because of lack of evidence rather than a cover-up. I find that it’s a sensationalized reaction given too often just for cases where there’s simple not enough evidence to do anything. The theory that George Hodel committed the crime with another man involved too, a friend of his, doesn’t persuade me either. Killers are solitary beings, and the Dahlia murderer doesn’t strike me as the kind of murder you’d commit with two people – it seems the work of a solitary predator.

Either way, by the end of the book I was nowhere near convinced. Then, however, comes some of the new evidence released by the LAPD, and what convinced me of the strong possibility of George Hodel’s guilt there was the phone conversation he had at some point at his home residence (the LAPD wired his house, they too considered him a strong suspect). You don’t say those things unless you’re guilty. I don’t want to give away more, in case you want to read the book, but this convinced me at least of the strong possibility of George Hodel being the murderer of Elizabeth Short.

However, I don’t follow Steve Hodel’s other claims in regards to the other murders. There’s simply not enough evidence to link Hodel to any of those cases. The cases don’t even have the same M.O. (victims differ too much in age, murder method differs a lot). What I can believe, is that Hodel killed Elizabeth Short – the link with sadism is rather evident, the staging of the body relates to surreal art, and Hodel was a fan of both surreal art, and of Marquis de Sade’s writing. Based on the LAPD-gathered evidence, combined with Steve Hodel’s claims, George Hodel seems a strong suspect.

Book Review: The Boston Strangler by Gerold Frank

30845340Title: The Boston Strangler

Author: Gerold Frank

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

New York Times Bestseller and Winner of the Edgar Award: The definitive true crime account of Boston’s most notorious serial killer—and the exhaustive manhunt that ensued in the wake of his rampage.
On June 14, 1962, twenty-five-year-old Juris Slesers arrived at his mother’s apartment to drive her to church. But there was no answer at the door. After waiting a half hour, Juris shoved his way inside. He found fifty-five-year-old Anna Slesers lying on the kitchen floor, dead, the cord of her housecoat knotted tightly around her neck and turned up in a bow.
Between 1962 and 1964, twelve more bodies were discovered in and around Boston: all women, all sexually assaulted, and all strangled—often with their own pantyhose. None of the victims exhibited any signs of struggle, nothing was stolen from their homes, and there were no signs of forcible entry. The police could find no discernable motive or clues. Who was this insane killer? How was he entering women’s homes? And why were they letting him in?
More than a gripping chronicle of an American serial killer on par with Jack the Ripper, The Boston Strangler is a shocking story about what happens to a city under a siege of terror. Drawn from hundreds of hours of personal interviews, as well as police, medical, and court documentation, author Gerold Frank’s grisly, horrifying, and meticulously researched account was awarded the Edgar for Best Fact Crime.

I first heard about The Boston Strangler – the man, not the book – through a true crime TV show, the name of which I can’t recall. However, even back then, I was wary of Albert DeSalvo being the murderer. DeSalvo wasn’t a good guy by any means, but capable of such murders? And why? Anyone who investigates the strangler case knows that it’s a weird one: eleven (or thirteen) murders by strangling, using nylon stockings tied around the victims’ neck.

The first victims were middle-aged to elderly women. The second group of victims were young girls, twenty-somethings. Killers don’t just change their target victims overnight.

Gerold Frank’s book is an in-depth investigation of the murders. He starts by describing the victims, what happened to them, possible suspects, and the first half of the book reads very well. The cases are gruesome, so the book isn’t for the squeamish or faint of heart, but it provides an interesting insight into the profile of a man capable of such killings. Psychiatrists, profilers, people used to working on serial killings, all come up with a profile that doesn’t even closely resemble the man eventually charged with these murders.

Then for the latter half, the book focuses on Albert DeSalvo, his confessions, the trial that confined him to stay in Bilgewater Hospital for the rest of his life.

The book has a phenomenal wealth of information, now just from the victims, the alleged killer, the police forces, but also from psychis who were brought in to work on the case, regular people in Boston describing the fear that gripped the city, and more. The writing flows well, at least for the first part. I found that the second part dragged on much longer, and became slighty repetitive.

Either way, if you want to get a more in-depth knowledge of the killings that haunted Boston from 1962-1964, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Book Review: True Crime Addict by James Renner

26114508Title: True Crime Addict
Author: James Renner
Genre: True Crime, Nonfiction
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When an eleven year old James Renner fell in love with Amy Mihaljevic, the missing girl seen on posters all over his neighborhood, it was the beginning of a lifelong obsession with true crime. That obsession leads James to a successful career as an investigative journalist. It also gave him PTSD. In 2011, James began researching the strange disappearance of Maura Murray, a UMass student who went missing after wrecking her car in rural New Hampshire in 2004. Over the course of his investigation, he uncovers numerous important and shocking new clues about what may have happened to Maura, but also finds himself in increasingly dangerous situations with little regard for his own well-being. As his quest to find Maura deepens, the case starts taking a toll on his personal life, which begins to spiral out of control. The result is an absorbing dual investigation of the complicated story of the All-American girl who went missing and James’s own equally complicated true crime addiction.
James Renner’s True Crime Addict is the story of his spellbinding investigation of the missing person’s case of Maura Murray, which has taken on a life of its own for armchair sleuths across the web. In the spirit of David Fincher’s Zodiac, it is a fascinating look at a case that has eluded authorities and one man’s obsessive quest for the answers.

As a huge ‘missing persons’ buff (seriously, one of my more macabre and less known hobbies is searching the internet and browsing through various forums on the topic), I just had to read True Crime Addict. Like James Renner, the author, I’m a bit of an addict too. Heck, I studied criminology because I find crime, cold cases and missing people fascinating. So the author and I had a lot in common, and the disappearance of Maura Murray definitely was no new topic for me. However, it never became an obsession, not the way it did for James Renner, who spent the better part of several years trying to find out what happened to this young woman.

One night, Maura Murray’s car got into an accident. No one got hurt, a neighbor saw it happen, briefly talked to Maura, and went inside to call the police. It was snowing, but despite that, the police arrived in minutes. But when the police arrived, Maura was gone. No one has heard or seen her since. In this true crime memoir, James Renner investigates the case and tries to find out what happened to her.

The case was intriguing, and I’ve made up my mind about what happened to Maura. It may not be the truth, but based on Renner’s investigation, it seems the most likely thing. If you want to read my thoughts, scroll down to the bottom of the review (I don’t want to spoil it for potential readers). The author’s writing is funny and intelligent, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Can’t wait to read his other ones.

My opinion: I think, since there were no hints of struggle or foul play, and with the problems she had with her father, Maura decided to start a new life somewhere. The family’s reluctance to talk to anyone about the case also tells me this. That, or something happened at the party Maura went to earlier that night, since everyone is deliberately vague on that.

Book Review: The Bad Nurse by Sheila Johnson

23450150Title: The Bad Nurse
Author: Sheila Johnson
Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Murder By MedicineIn the small southern town of Ider, Alabama, everyone knew Karri Willoughby as a devoted nurse, loving wife, and mother of two small children. When she was accused of killing her stepfather Billy Junior Shaw with a fatal injection of the anesthetic Propofol, outraged friends and family rallied to her defense.

Overnight Karrie became a media sensation, portrayed as an innocent young woman caught up in a terrible tragedy—until four years later, when she walked into court and pleaded guilty as charged. Only then did the full scope of her crimes emerge.  Nurse Karri was unmasked as cold-blooded, conniving murderer.

Investigative journalist Sheila Johnson draws on hundreds of pages of previously unseen police records, interviews, recordings and videotapes, to create a haunting real-life thriller of medicine, family, and betrayal.

Includes Dramatic Photos

Karri Willoughby seemed like a normal person, who loved her family, was a devout Christian, worked as a nurse, and who seemed the perfect woman in almost every way. At least, that was how she appeared to her faithful and loyal followers on her blog. In The Bad Nurse, author Sheila Johnson tells the real story.

Enigmatic and sympathetic Karri Willoughby killed her stepfather, Billy Shaw, over a money dispute, giving him a lethal dose of medication she brought along from the place she worked at. For months, she tried to convince her friends and online followers of her innocence, right until she walked into the court room and plead guilty. The author investigates Karri’s motives, her behavior prior to pleading guilty in court, how the murder happened, and communication between Karri and other inmates that betray she’s not the person she pretended to be at all.

While the book was an entertaining read, and it did focus a lot on the manipulative aspects of Karri’s personality, it came across as repetitive – repeating the same passage and/or sentiment several times. It also didn’t seem that well-researched. It does show communication between Karri and other inmates, some snippets of what people had to say about Karri, and so on, but it doesn’t really mention much about the toxicology rapport and the forensics of the murder. It’s mentioned but not detailed enough for my liking. Rather than on the murder, the book focused on the aftermath, and Karri’s manipulative ways.

Not bad at all, and definitely an interesting read, but I generally prefer books that focus more on the crime itself.


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.