True Crime: A List

I have always loved a good mystery. I think that’s why I’ve started getting into true crime. I don’t enjoy the “ripped from the headlines” type – it’s just too exploitative IMO. What I like are the crimes set in the past so we can see how the murderer was caught, what forensic science was like at the time, how the justice system has changed. With that in mind, here’s my list of 10 true crime stories worth checking out.

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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen. I’m going to start with my favorite. If you haven’t heard of serial killer H H Holmes, it will blow your mind that this guy was real.

The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr. It’s a close second, definitely recommended if you’re a fan of the show Bones.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale. This one is a great, easy read.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. I’m a big fan of this author, and this was his first book that I read.

Catch Me if You Can by Frank Abagnale. It became a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. More lighthearted than the other books on here because no one died.

Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest by Gregg Olson. I thought the legal process in this one was fascinating.

The Black Hand: An Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History by Stephen Talty. I heard DiCaprio was going to star in the film version, but no details on when.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore.  This one is different because the crime was committed by a whole company, not one person. Really good, but infuriating.

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist. The author did a great job getting the feel of the city in this one. Previously reviewed here.

Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. So many details about John Wilkes Booth that I never knew.


Right, that should give you plenty of good choices at the library! Let me know in the comments of you read true crime!

 

 

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Book Quote 6/23

“One night, during a storm, an engineer named W. W. Bradfield was sitting at the Wimereux transmitter, when suddenly the door to the room crashed open. In the portal stood a man disheveled by the storm and apparently experiencing some form of internal agony. He blamed the [radio] transmissions and shouted that they must stop. The revolver in his hand imparted a certain added gravity.

Bradfield responded with the calm of a watchmaker. He told the intruder he understood his problem and that his experience was not unusual. He was in luck, however, Bradfield said, for he had “come to the only man alive who could cure him.” This would require an “electrical inoculation,” after which, Bradfield promised, he “would be immune to electro-magnetic waves for the rest of his life.” The man consented.

Bradfield instructed him that for his own safety he must first remove from his person anything made of metal, including coins, timepieces, and of course the revolver in his hand. The intruder obliged, at which point Bradfield gave him a potent electrical shock, not so powerful as to kill him, but certainly enough to command his attention. The man left, convinced that he was indeed cured.”

Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen

loving the story telling in this one so far!

 

My Top 10 Mysteries

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. The prompt for this week was Top 10 books from your favorite genre. According to Goodreads, Mystery is my biggest shelf – by far. It was hard to come up with my 10 favorites – I have 2000+ that I’ve rated – but here are 10 that I love to reread. I’m going to force myself to choose just one from each author, but it’s so hard!

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie This one is not the first Hercule Poirot – that one is The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It’s not the most famous – Murder on the Orient Express wins that title. But for some reason, I think it’s my favorite.  It’s clever, occasionally funny, and plays fair with the reader. The cover could be better, but it does hint at what’s going on in the plot.

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In the Best Families by Rex Stout This series has sort of fallen out of fashion. I think that’s a shame, as it features two of the most memorable characters in mystery – Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. This is definitely not the place to start if you want to try it out – I’d suggest starting at the beginning with Fer-de-Lance – but this is where it all culminates into the most suspenseful and shocking climax.

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King I’m going to be controversial here and say that I actually prefer King’s version of Sherlock Holmes to the original. I know, heresy! But this is an older, more mellow version of the sleuth and the writing is – sorry, Sir Arthur – much, much better. The series declines as it goes on, but the first 3-4 were just perfect, and this cover is my favorite.

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh Another author who is frequently forgotten by modern writers. I will admit that her treatment of queer characters is problematic. But most mystery writers of the era didn’t even admit that they existed. This book is a Stately Home murder with our handsome copper Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn on the scene.

Miss Seeton Sings by Heron Carvic This series might be unique in that it had 3 different authors, each of whom kept the characters in the original. Carvic created the character and his version is both funny and biting. Miss Seeton herself is an elderly retired art teach who just keeps blundering into the most appalling crimes and stirring things up, but all without realizing what’s going on.

A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird Set in a fictional county in England, this series features a hardworking inspector, his clueless constable, and in this book, some nasty secrets dating back to World War II. Aird had to juggle the timeline around in later books to keep up with publication, but in this one, her characters are old enough to remember the war and the chaos it caused.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly Set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, everything in this series is shaped by race. The main character, Ben January, is Black. So is the victim. That means that the White police are going to hush things up as soon as possible. But Ben refuses to allow that to happen. So much history in here, and none of it pretty.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander This series is not very long – the author died after book 5 – but I enjoyed it so much it still makes the list. This is the first in the series about historical figure Sir John Fielding, a 18th century criminal court judge and founder of London’s first police force.

Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews As a Southern woman with a large extended family, I can neither confirm nor deny that this is what we are like. My family weddings never involved Spanish moss, peacocks, or murder. But murder isn’t off the table, that’s all I’m saying.

The Thin Woman by Dorothy Gilman Another great comic mystery series. Ellie Haskell is just trying to get through a family reunion when she hires a male escort to pose as her fiance. Then the aged relative dies and leaves them an inheritance – jointly. Now they’ll have to figure out how to live together before someone kills them both.


Did I tempt you with any of these favorites? What was on your list? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave a link to your list. Happy reading!

 

Encore Review: The Colony

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The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman

Themes: illness, superstition, compassion, love, science
Setting: Molokai, Hawaii 1866-1970s

Leprosy. It’s a horrible disease. It makes your extremities fall off. It’s horribly contagious. It causes nasty oozing sores that spread germs to everyone you pass by. It’s always fatal. And there’s still no cure.

Except that none of this is true. Well, it is a pretty horrible disease, if not treated. But there is a very effective treatment available. It’s not very contagious at all. Only a small portion of the population is susceptible to it in the first place. Even then, only some of them get the worst form. It’s more a matter of nerve damage and swelling. And diagnosis is a matter of minutes, so getting started with the right treatment now takes just days.

What a change from the past. This book is all about the bad old days of leprosy, and in the United States, it didn’t get worse than in Hawaii. Hawaiians were some of those that for some reason were particularly prone to catching leprosy. And back then, there was no treatment available. They could diagnose it, all right. Then they would pack you up and ship you off, without another word, off to Molokai, the leper colony. Good luck to you.

Incredible story, and it’s all true. At least, the author says it’s all true. Apparently there’s some controversy. But it made for great reading. It was shocking stuff. I couldn’t believe how they treated lepers like criminals. It’s not a crime to be sick. (Although in this country, I often wonder.) But they were treated like they had done something wrong by getting a disease. I couldn’t put it down. 4 stars.

Napoleonic Wars – Update

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The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

I mentioned a little while ago that I wanted to read more about the Napoleonic Wars or the Peninsular Wars. I thought I’d post an update on how that was going. I realize that that post didn’t get a lot of love – sad! – but for those few of you who are interested, here’s the breakdown so far.

Finished:

Nelson’s Trafalgar by Roy A. Adkins, review here

His Majesty’s Dragon and Throne of Jade, both by Naomi Novik, alternate history of the conflict with dragons! Lots of fun, more about the dragons than the actual events of the war.

None But You, Captain Wentworth book 1 by Susan Kaye. Reimagining of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Wentworth is in the naval war against Napoleon but then retires, so there’s only a slight connection.

Currently reading:

The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer. Historical fiction based on real people. Lots of detail, lots of descriptions of Lord Wellington’s Spanish campaign.

Napoleon’s Wars: An International History 1803-1815 by Charles Esdaile. I gave up on this one, then picked it up again. Lots of information, but not presented in a context where I really understand what’s going on. Doubt I’ll finish it, but we’ll see how far I get.

To Read:

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern. Looking forward to this one.

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer. Also based around Lord Wellington but different emphasis.

For You Alone, Captain Wentworth book 2. Again, only slightly connected, but I’ve had this duology on my list for some time.

Black Powder War, Temeraire book 3. Not sure how much of the war is in this one, but I think it has some of the eastern campaign.

Decided Against:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Reading the book descriptions made me conclude that I wouldn’t enjoy this one right now. Maybe someday I will pick it up, but it sounds like a long saga of events with no conclusion and that doesn’t appeal to me.

Conclusions:

If you are interested in the war or the navy or 19th century history, I would recommend Nelson’s Trafalgar. Great book. If you are into dragons and like the idea of an alternate history with lots of locations, I would recommend the Naomi Novik series. It’s a lot of fun. If you want some romance with history added, I would recommend Persuasion by Jane Austen. The reboots are okay so far, but not anything like as a good as the original. If you like historical fiction with some romance, I would recommend the Georgette Heyer books. She also wrote historical romances, but the emphasis here is on the history, not the romance. Picky distinction, but it’s there.

I’m beginning to get a little tired of this, so I think I will just keep it as a interest for the rest of the year but not feel like I have to read all these books at once. We’ll see what else I can find.

 

 

Book Review: Nelson’s Trafalgar

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Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy Adkins

Nonfiction

Summary:

In this account of the Battle of Trafalgar, Roy Adkins stunningly evokes the unsurpassed violence of nineteenth-century naval warfare. For more than five hours, sixty ships fought at close quarters as their occupants struggled under the constant barrage of cannon and musket fire, amid choking fumes and ear-splitting explosions. Nelson’s navy was severely outgunned; twenty-seven British battleships carrying 2,150 guns faced thirty-three French and Spanish ships carrying 2,640 guns. Yet the British gunners, quicker and more disciplined, carried the day. While the men maneuvered the ships and kept the cannons firing, the women tended the sick and helped the boys carry gunpowder cartridges to the gun decks. When Nelson died in the midst of the battle, French Vice-Admiral Villeneuve remarked that “to any other nation the loss of a Nelson would have been irreparable, but in the British Fleet off Cadiz, every captain was a Nelson.” Adkins has drawn on a broad range of primary source material to write this powerful, unforgettably vivid history that captures as never before the harsh conditions in which sailors lived and died, the mechanics of nautical combat and the human costs of the conflict. 

Review:

Absolutely brilliant. If you have an interest in history, particularly European or military or maritime history, you must read this book.

Let me start with what it is not. It is not a biography. The various figures central to the conflict are briefly profiled, but certainly not in any depth.

It is not about politics. Or economy, or the history of the war, the causes of conflict, or even about any of the land battle related to Napoleon.

It’s about the Battle of Trafalgar. It’s about the weeks immediately preceding the conflict, followed by an incredibly detailed account of the events of the battle itself, drawn from primary sources and supported with charts, maps, and portraits of the people involved. And then it’s about the consequences of this battle. It is everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t want.

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Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté,

The author does a great job of explaining the events, which I expected, but he also explains the significance of the battle as well. Without going into too much detail, he sets the whole event in its historical context.

I really can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad my library had this book. I’m giving it 5 stars.

 

Currently reading, 3/18 – Napoleon!

Hey fellow readers! I’m back. I didn’t mean to take such a long break, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to say, so I — didn’t? Say anything? Lame excuse, I guess, but there it is.

But today I’m back with a my current reads and plans for the rest of the month. I was looking at my library request list and realized I had several books on there about the Napoleonic Wars. Why not do them all in one big lump? So that’s what I have planned for the rest of the month. Here’s the books on my TBR list:

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. – done! This was a reread since I thought this one would sort of ease me into the whole subject. Lots of fun, combines fighting Napoleon with dragons. This is the first in the series and I really enjoyed revisiting this one.

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Hey, it’s got a blurb from Stephen King. Can’t be all bad!

None But You, (Captain Frederick Wentworth, #1) by Susan Kaye – done! Written as a companion to Jane Austen’s book Persuasion from the hero’s perspective. Not as good as I hoped, but I will still read the next one.

Napoleon’s Wars: An International History 1803-1815 by Charles Esdaile.  Currently reading. Already happy with it because it has several maps and color photos of paintings. Over 500 pages.

Not reading yet, but I’m also planning on reading:

Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy A. Adkins

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susannah Clarke, reread – also the TV series!

Can you think of any good ones I have missed? Maybe I’ll watch Night at the Museum 2 as well!

 

 

 

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Review

12786118 The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of the Moving Pictures

by Edward Ball

Synopsis: From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

Review:

I am a sucker for historic true crime. I love reading about crime, detection, and the law from the past. This one sounded pretty interesting. I really liked the movie aspect of the story, more about the early days of film.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t really work for me. It’s a joint biography of two men in the 19th century, inventor Eadweard Muybridge and rail tycoon Leland Stanford. I liked the story about the building of the railroad – and the many references to Utah in there – and the story of the inventor/photographer was pretty interesting too. But together, they didn’t make any sense. The only connection, as far as I could tell, was that that had a brief business connection. But I’m sure that millionaire Stanford had lots of business dealing with a lot of people.

But the author chose to drop plenty of hints about the murder and then drop it for another chapter about the plight of Chinese workers on the railroad. Honestly, I finally just got bored and let it go. I need a better book about the the building of the railroad. This one just didn’t work for me.

Anatomy of Evil: a review

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Title: Anatomy of Evil (Barkder and Llewellyn, book 7)

Author: Will Thomas

There’s an unwritten rule that any Victorian crime series must have a Jack the Ripper episode. The Cyrus Barker detective series is no exception. Robert Anderson, New head of Scotland Yard, asks for his help in tracking down the Whitechapel killer. It’s 1888 and all of London is terrified. The killer seems to be targeting prostitutes, but there’s a sense that he’s lurking out there with a knife and no one is safe.

Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewellyn take temporary jobs at Scotland Yard. At first, they try to get to know the area. They travel the streets on foot, night after night. They get to know the bars, the factory workers, the alleys, until they are thoroughly at home. Then they set about finding a killer.

I enjoyed this book, and I liked the characters as much as I did in previous books. We get a glimpse into the royal family in this one, which was good. I listened to it, and the narration really added to my enjoyment of the book. In the end, though, there was something lacking. I’m not sure what it was, but it just wasn’t my favorite. Still, I really like this series and I’m looking forward to the next book.

A Lack of Temperance – a review

A Lack of Temperance by Anna Loan-Wilsey

Hattie Davish arrives at her new job as a secretary to an older woman. But whe she get there, she finds that her employer is missing and she’s right in the middle of a storm over temperance. Her employer is the president of a large protest organization and they’re hosting a rally that week. But her new boss turns up dead and the police haven’t got much to go on. Hattie better figure out what’s going on before she become a victim herself.

I liked this series debut. The setting, Arkansas in the late 19th century, was well done. I liked the resort town. It’s certainly one that’s not overdone, so I hope that the writer keeps the books in the same area. But I wasn’t as crazy about the main character as I was about the setting. I felt that she was a little inconsistent and times and not especially likeable. Still, she might grow on me.

Overall, recommended. I received this book for review from LT Early Reviewers program.