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.


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