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Review – Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon
Author: David Grann
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

Review:
Over the last few months I have been focusing more on reading non-fiction books because I’ve been feeling so burnt out on the vast majority of the fiction books that I’ve been reading (or trying to read). So when the quarterly reading challenge picked this book for the Summer reading challenge, I knew without a doubt which of the 3 choices I was going to read (the other options were Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead). What drew me to this was not on another series of events in history that I’d never heard about, but also because it was how the FBI came to play such an important role in law enforcement (in fact when the events in this book took place, FBI agents couldn’t legally arrest folks, they needed local law enforcement to actual arrest the folks).

The mystery surrounding the deaths of multiple Osage Indians was one that had spanned many years and different types of death, from execution style shootings, to a bombing to poisoning that appeared to mimic illness. There were few commonalities between the victims and witnesses and people trying to solve the murders were also being killed – it was a mystery that would take many years to solve. But there was one commonality between all the victims (but don’t worry, I’m not cruel enough to tell you what or who that is)…I will admit that for me, the solving of the murders and the steps that the FBI took to solve it, was more interesting to me than the background of the FBI (probably because I’ve read enough about J. Edgar Hoover to really not care too much although in part, his personality and persistant was key in the eventual solving of the murders).

More interesting to me was how the US government treated the Osage Indians who were all individually wealthy because of the discover of and subsequent selling of oil leases for their land and yet were treated like (for lack of a better term), delinquent children. Having guardians assigned to these Indians as a way to control them (needing approval to access funds that were rightly theirs, people marking up merchandise the Osage wanted to purchase 4-5x the normal cost and other shady business practices). This was another of those dark periods in history that are valuable to study and yet have been hidden away until an enterprising researcher discovers it and decides to start unraveling the mystery.

Killers of the Flower Moon was an solid mystery and intriguing examination of a lost time period. I found the pictures that were sprinkled throughout of the victims and the FBI agents who eventually solved the crime, as well as the murderer(s) themselves. A solid 4 star read.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Stalking Jack the Ripper – Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: #1 in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Audiobook Narrator: Nicola Barber
Run Time: 9hrs, 26min
Audiobook Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

Review:
I have to admit that the premise of Stalking Jack the Ripper intrigued me, but I was a bit disappointed with how it all played out. I liked the idea of a female practicing forensic medicine in this time era – since it was so not done. But Audrey Rose as a character was horribly annoying and for someone as skilled as she was supposed to be in understanding people and crimes, also naïve. Now I will say that Thomas Creswell will definitely described as being eye (and most definitely ear candy).

The historical aspect of the story was fun and I liked how the author took portions of the real history about Jack the Ripper and his victim’s to make the story more believable. There was a pretty substantial author’s note at the end went into some more detail about why she opted to cover the parts that she did. But when considering both the character development and the historical aspects of the story – the historical definitely won out over the actual characters in the story. I did like how the author tied the story up at the end, so there were no open ends…but don’t worry – I won’t tell you guys what happened because that would ruin all the fun 🙂

Nicola Barber isn’t a new narrator to me (although I’m totally blanking on what else I’ve listened to her narrate right now) and I enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper more than I may have if I had read it. I found that she had a solid range of voices that fit all the different characters from the naïve young girl, to the hot forensic science student to Audrey Rose’s cantankerous old father. I never had any moments where I had to stop and think about what character was speaking at a given time. In fact, I found myself hoping for some traffic on my commute home (yeah, I should probably burn in hell for that), so I could listen to a bit more. While I wanted to slap Audrey Rose upside the head, at least the narration was solid.

I’m kind of conflicted if I will read (or most likely listen) to the second book when it comes out – I kind of what to and yet, if Audrey Rose is as naïve in the next one, I just don’t know…

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Audiobook Review, Review, Uncategorized

 

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Review – The Edge of Lost – Kristina McMorris

the edge of lostThe Edge of Lost
Author: Kristina McMorris
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy provided by Author

Description:
On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

Review:
There are some authors when a new book comes out that you drop everything and read, Kristina McMorris is one of those authors and added to that, its been a LONG two years since her last book was released. So when the Edge of Lost popped as a author donated book in one of my Goodreads groups, there was almost virtual bloodshed over who got to read it first (unfortunately, I lost out and had to wait not so impatiently). So when it finally showed up in the mail, I gazed in adoration at it and then couldn’t convince myself to pick it up and actually read it (yeah, you read that right). I probably have it in my hot little hands for close to 2 weeks before I read it – I think it was trepidation of knowing once I finish it, then there would be a long wait for her next book and I just couldn’t do it…but anyways, earlier this week, I found myself in a situation where I had time to just sit and read (while waiting for my cell phone to charge) and damn, if I didn’t devour it (i mean, I read nearly the whole entire thing in about 2 hours).

As with her previous books, Kristina draws you into the time period for the book, this time the 1920’s and 1930’s which is a bit of a departure from her previous World War 2 focused books. In the beginning, we met Shanley Keagan, a young child in Ireland. As I was reading these chapters, I felt like I was reading (in part) a fictionalized version of Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) – the similar descriptions of life in Ireland just resonated through me. I’ll admit this isn’t an area of history that I’m familiar with, but after finishing the Edge of Lost, I want to read some more about it.

As the story progresses, we get to experience the trials of being an immigrant through the eyes of an Irish family in New York, the daily struggle to survive and to make something of themselves in the Land of Opportunity. But for me, the best part of The Edge of Lost was when Kristina transitioned to telling the story of Tommy Capello, a prisoner on the rock (also known as Alcatraz). Alcatraz is a place that even now, 80 years after the setting of this book that still brings shivers to peoples spines. Many of us probably grew up hearing stories about Alcatraz and the prisoners that were houses there and how it was believed to be inescapable (but is it really?). Its one of those places that is on my bucket list to visit (I was bummed when I was just in San Francisco and didn’t get a chance to go out there).

The Edge of Lost kept me on the edge of my car seat (as I sat there reading) and I was kind of unhappy when I had to go back to work and couldn’t finish reading it (that’s the sign of a good book right?). 4.5 stars for the Edge of Lost and now begins the waiting game for her next book.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Book Review

 

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Review – In Doubt – Drusilla Campbell

in doubt In Doubt
Author: Drusilla Campbell
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
EVERYONE WANTS THE BOY TO PAY FOR HIS CRIME.

ONLY ONE WOMAN WANTS TO SAVE HIM.

Defense Attorney Sophie Giraudo is about to open a new legal practice in her hometown of San Sebastian, California, when the beloved governer is shot and seriously wounded during a celebration in the town park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself is the identity of the would-be assassin: a seemingly gentle teenager named Donny. Driven by her desire to understand what could make a person with no history of violence suddenly commit such a terrible act, Sophie reluctantly agrees to take him on as a client, knowing that, at least, it will bring her some income. But soon she realizes that she also has personal motivations for taking the case: a desire to prove to her overbearing mother that she is not the reckless and self-destructive tennager she used to be, to prove to her ex-husband, who happens to be the prosecuting attorney, that she can win her case, and to prove to herself that the traumatic events of her adolescence no longer define her.

As she digs deeper into Donny’s past, Sophie begins to suspect that he might not be the cold-blooded killer everyone thinks he is. Does Donny’s narcissistic mother really have her son’s best interest in mind? Is Donny’s mentor who runs Boys Into Men, a program for disadvantaged youths, the altruistic man he claims to be? Is Donny a deranged murderer, or a victim of his circumstances acting out of desperation? As Sophie races to uncover the truth, she is forced to come to terms with her past and to fight for what she knows is right…even if it means risking her reputation and possibly her life.

Review:
I’ve quite often come across Ms Campbell’s books in my library, but have never actually picked one up – in fact, I’ve even borrowed them at least once – but for some reason they kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile and then being returned unread. However, when I saw In Doubt in the automatic approval list at NetGalley, I was intrigued enough by the description that I took a chance and downloaded it. I will say that if I had seen the descriptor of Jodi Picoult meets John Grisham prior, I likely wouldn’t have downloaded it because neither of those authors are favorites of mine (in fact, I’m not a fan of the marketing method that compares one author to others, mostly because to me, they never seem to live up to the recommendation – or they far exceed it).

This book seemed to be particularly apt with the amount of public shootings that have gone on the last few years, in particular, the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in Arizona – but what if you looked at the shooter – quite often, we the public are so quick to judge the shooter, never really knowing what may have been gonig on in their background. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, anything excuses the shooting and death of people, but there may be external reasons that affected the individuals behavior (and not just mental health ones, like is automatically assumed). In Doubt attempts to do just that.

What happens when a defense lawyer decides to take on the case of a young man who shot and grievously wounded the governor. He never even denies doing it – but he also doesn’t know why. Without getting too much into a spoiler realm, Ms Campbell wove a story that was believable and made me feel sorry for Donny.

I will say that I felt some of the storyline towards the end started to bordering a bit on the over angsty side – it went a bit too far for me – but that was only enough for me to drop my original rating from 4 stars, down to 3.5.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

the cuckoo's callingThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
Series: #1 in the Cormoran Strike series

Description:
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Review:
I’ll be the first to admit, I probably never would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been revealed that the author was J.K. Rowling. I’ll also admit that while I loved the Harry Potter books, her other book (A Casual Vacancy) got put aside before I hit 100 pages, because it wasn’t working for me. But after seeing several good reviews from people I trust on Goodreads, I decided to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. That being said, if you are looking for a very fast paced mystery, you aren’t going to get one. It would much better be described (and i’m stealing words from a friend here) as a character study wrapped up in a mystery.

The mystery itself was really straight forward – who killed Lula Landrey – an up and coming star, who was believed to have committed suicide. But that honestly wasn’t the most interesting part of the book, in fact, I actually figured out the who-done-it about half-way through (don’t actually ask me how, because I don’t think there was anything that actually pointed to the answer, it was just a feeling), but rather the development of the characters and how they all interacted with each other. In fact, I think one of the most impressive parts of the story was how there were characters who we never actually met (Charlotte, Michael and Cormoran’s father) but who all played significant roles and had profound influences on the intricancies in the storyline. They were often used to highlight weaknesses in characters, or internal conflicts that might not otherwise have been revealed.

While I didn’t enjoy The Casual Vacancy because it was heavy on characterization without much moving the plot forward, I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling because there was a story being told, as the characters were being developed. Overall, I gave Cuckoo’s Calling 4 stars, but like stated above, if you want a fast paced mystery, this isn’t the book for you.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Exposed – Laura Griffin

exposedExposed
Author: Laura Griffin
Series: #7 in the Tracers series

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
With the click of her camera, Maddie Callahan inadvertently added herself to the hit list of a criminal mastermind the FBI’s been investigating for months. Agent Brian Beckmann is determined to protect the sexy photographer, but she may be his only lead.

As a forensic photographer, Maddie is used to seeing violence up close, but she’s never before been a target. When a freelance photo shoot goes awry, she realizes she may have seen, and perhaps photographed, the kidnapping of a key witness in a federal probe. And although her camera was stolen, Maddie has something that could be even more valuable to investigators. With the help of her colleagues at the Tracers crime lab, Maddie uncovers DNA evidence that provides a desperately needed break in the case.

Although Brian is reluctant to involve Maddie, she’s determined to help with the investigation and the two set out to track a vicious criminal known as The Doctor, whose far-reaching violence has led to multiple deaths. But as the task force gets closer to catching the deadly Doctor, Maddie is in more danger than ever…

Review:
Going into this, I wasn’t so sure what I was going to think because unlike the previous books in the series, I didn’t really know these characters, they hadn’t really been mentioned before. Or rather, I think Brian had a cameo in a previous book, but he wasn’t that well characterized and I had never met Maddie. Thankfully, I ended up enjoying the book and finishing the series up to date. In fact, I read not only the complete Tracer series, but the 2 kinda linked series books that came first in the space of about a month and a half (but its not like I have any obsessive traits, right?) – lol.

I liked the idea of having a non hard science (for lack of a better word) main character. Since the vast majority of the other main characters have been someway involved in a science like DNA analysis, or forensic anthropology (which apparently I have issues spelling…). Plus the whole crime scene photography thing has always been of interest to me – I love seeing that part of crime dramas on TV – how various angles and shots can help with solving the crime. (yes, I’m a geek, what more can I say).

I think my main gripe was that I was more interested in the crime than the romance between Maddie and Brian. It wasn’t that their relationship wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as interesting…lol. But it wasn’t like it was bad (yes, I know I’m wavering…). I think if I knew more about both of them, that connection might have been there a bit more and made it more enjoyable. But I’ll be interested to see where the series goes in the future and if they make another appearance. Overall, I gave Exposed, 3.5 stars, but rounded up to 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Merciless – Lori Armstrong

mercilessMerciless
Author: Lori Armstrong
Series: #3 in the Mercy Gunderson series

Review Copy Provided by the Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:

Torn between her duties to the FBI and her need to keep her loved ones safe, former black-ops army sniper Mercy Gunderson must unleash the cold, dark, merciless killer inside her and become the predator . . . rather than the prey.

Newly minted agent Mercy Gunderson is back and ready for action— unfortunately, she’s stuck doing paperwork in an overheated government office building. But she gets more than she bargained for when she’s thrown into her first FBI murder case, working with the tribal police on the Eagle River Reservation, where the victim is the teenage niece of the recently elected tribal president. When another gruesome killing occurs during the early stages of the investigation, Mercy and fellow FBI agent Shay Turnbull are at odds about whether the crimes are connected.

Due to job confidentiality, Mercy can’t discuss her misgivings about the baffling cases with her boyfriend, Eagle River County sheriff Mason Dawson, and the couple’s home on the ranch descends into chaos when Dawson’s eleven-year-old son Lex is sent to live with them. While Mercy struggles to find a balance, hidden political agendas and old family vendettas turn ugly, masking motives and causing a rift among the tribal police, the tribal council, and the FBI. Soon, however, Mercy realizes that the deranged killer is still at large—and is playing a dangerous game with his sights set on Mercy as his next victim.

Review:
Its been nearly two years since there was an installment in Armstrong’s Mercy Gunderson series. I have been stalking her website since finishing up the previous book, hoping for some word – and it finally materialized. Although, I’ll have to admit, I wish that I had time to go back and read the previous book in the series, because I don’t remember anything about Mercy becoming an FBI agent, and yet, that is where the story opens upon her return to South Dakota following her training…but I digress

Merciless has the suspense that I have come to expect in Armstrong’s books, and was balanced just right with the romance. It was fun seeing Mercy and Dawson (because typing Mason just seems weird, since even she calls him Dawson) trying to figure out their lives and merge them together. It seemed real – it wasn’t perfect like stuff so often is portrayed – I felt like I was getting to know them on a higher level. The mystery was intriguing – I will have to admit that the who done it didn’t reveal itself to me until right before everything went down and looking back, I think that Armstrong did a good job of integrating clues without it being completely obvious. There was also a certain amount of angst, which I am personally, not a fan of and which is why ultimately, I ended up giving it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Book Review

 

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