Friday, September 30, 2022

Shadowman by Ron Franscell


When one thinks about a serial killer, the first locations that come to mind are California, Florida, Texas and other populated areas.  Manhattan, Montana, with a population less than a thousand doesn't spring to mind.  But in the 1970's, four people were killed in a very short time.  

The first was a boy playing with a friend who was shot as if from a sniper.  It was put down as an accident, perhaps a hunter who never knew his stray bullet hit someone.  The second was a Boy Scout, who was killed in his tent one night while sleeping there with a friend.  The boy was bludgeoned then stabbed while his friend never awoke.  A young woman, 22, disappeared after a night out with her friends.  Then at the same campground, a seven year old girl was taken in the night from her tent, her older sister still sleeping.  

The local police knew right away that this was beyond their resources.  They called in the FBI.  The FBI also made little progress although they did find the last two victims' bodies, burnt and smashed and scattered around an old deserted farmhouse.  But a new investigative unit had been created back at FBI headquarters.  Called the Behavioral Science Unit, it was headed by an experienced crime investigator, Howard Tetan and a criminal psychologist, Patrick Mullany.  They believed that it was possible to create a profile of the offender from the characteristics of the crime and the crime scene.  This case was the first one in which their theories were put to the test.

When the killer was revealed, it was a shock to everyone in Manhattan.  Twenty-five year old David Meirhofer was the son of the richest businessman in town.  Most people thought of him as a pleasant, helpful guy about town, a little odd but nothing too strange.  But David hid his well of rage deep behind a smiling face and when he was arrested, he confessed to all four murders.  Police believe he killed other victims but it was never proven.

This was a fascinating book for true crime readers.  The author extensively researched the crimes and the birth of criminal profiling.  In additional material after the crimes were solved, he also outlined potential other cases Meirhofer may have committed and disclosed that other members of the Meirhofer family also had sexual perversions that resulted in crimes.  This was my first read of a Ron Franscell book but it won't be the last.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Actual Innocence by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer


To most readers, Barry Scheck is known for his dedication to freeing those falsely convicted and imprisoned.  He and Neufeld, as public defenders in New York, created the first Innocence Project and have worked in the field for many years.  Although the work has been ongoing, the same problems with false eyewitness accounts, corrupted lab results, jailhouse snitches and other issues are still issues. 

'In 1999, the Innorcence Project reconstructed sixty-two cases in the United States of the sixty-seven exonerations in North America to determine what factors had been prevalent in the wrongful convictions.  Mistaken eyewitnesses were a factor in 84 percent of the convictions, snitches or informants in 21 percent, false confessions in 24 percent,  Defense lawyers fell down on the job in 27 percent; prosecutorial misconduct played a part in 42 percent, and police misconduct in 50 percent.  A third involved tainted or fraudulent science.  Among the more troubling findings is that several of these factors are more pronounced in the conviction of innocent black men.'

Although this book was disturbing to read, a more disturbing event is that I recently read a similar book by David Rudolf, another defense attorney.  Although his book is recently released (2022) and this one was written in 1999, the factors and wrongs continue on.  Although DNA tests can now quickly tell if an arrested person was involved, the tests have to be run in order to be used.  There are thousands of rape kits, for example, gathering dust on police shelves and money must be allocated in order to test them.  The system must do a better job of arresting those who truly could be guilty and convicting only those who are.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers interested in the legal system.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell


Lucrezia is twelve when she meets her future husband, Alfonso the duke of Ferrera in Italy.  He is engaged to her older sister.  Lucrezia is the third daughter of the family and has no thoughts of marriage.  She is unlike the rest of the females of her father's court.  Lucrezia has no interest in poems and embroidery; she longs for freedom and is an artist who admires wild animals as well as the exotic animals her father keeps in the castle.

But a royal female is meant to solidify alliances.  When her sister dies on the eve of her wedding, Alfonso and his family suggest that he marry Lucrezia instead.  He is twice her age and twice her size.  She marries him having seen him only that once with no idea what marriage entails and no idea of what sex is.  

She soon finds out that her life will be very different.  Although Alfonso is a loving husband at first, he is adamant that he be obeyed in all ways.  Lucrezia is to speak when he allows, to associate with who he chooses and to be available to him whenever he wants.  His two sisters are much older than Lucrezia and caught up in court intrigues.  She only trusts her maid, who is the daughter of Lucrezia's wet nurse when she was a baby and who she grew up with for several years.  

Alfonso commissions a marriage portrait of his beautiful bride.  He makes it clear that she is to sit for the portrait for hours if the artist and his apprentices need her to.  People are starting to talk about her and her continued lack of pregnancy.  As the marriage approaches a year, it is expected that she would be bearing an heir.  Alfonso knows about the rumors that none of the women he has bedded over the years have had a child and is determined to secure his inheritance and the future of his name.  When Lucrezia continues to not get pregnant, she starts to see a change in her husband and starts to fear that she will never leave the court alive.  

Maggie O'Farrell is one of my favorite authors and I eagerly await her books and devour them.  She has an apt ability to create characters the reader immediately bonds with and her exhaustive research insures that the reader is caught up in the time and place of the story.  This book brings home the horror of being basically a small child expected to give herself over and over to a man who is twice her size and who can do whatever he pleases.  Her horror as she realizes the precariousness of her position and even of her life is drawn exquisitely.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk


Janina is an older Polish woman.  She chooses to live isolated out in the country by herself.  She ekes out a living by watching the vacation cabins near her whose owners don't dare brave the winters there and by doing some teaching to the village children.  Outside of that, she studies astrology, translates Blake into Polish and watches the animals who surround her.  She adamantly opposes hunting although she lives in what could be considered a hunting refuge. 

Janina doesn't bother to learn people's names but gives them her own nicknames according to their physical characteristics.  When a neighbor, Big Foot, is found dead Janina and another neighbor discover him.  He is in his house surrounded by the remains of a meal of deer which Janina knows he hunted illegally.  

Soon other deaths occur.  A man found upside down in a well.  Another who dies after a village dance.  Janina is sure that the animals are rebelling and she tells the police that incessantly but they refuse to listen to her.  Her partner in translating Blake is a police IT specialist so she hears tidbits about the investigation and the fact that the police just consider her an elderly crank.  Can Janina find the killer before them?

This novel was shortlisted in 2019 for the International Booker Prize and was longlisted for the International National Book Award.  Janina demonstrates the invisibility of older women in societies around the world when others' eyes track past them and their opinions are ignored as ramblings of the elderly whose brains are no longer functioning at their best.  It also explores obsessions as Janina leads a very structured life with firm beliefs on certain subjects that she will not be swayed from.  Although it is set overseas it could be set anywhere as the elderly, especially women, are ignored throughout the world.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Ulverton by Adam Thorpe


Ulverton tells the story of a small English village from 1650 to 1988.  The story is told by different characters from each time period and many are written in thick dialogue, challenging the reader to pay close attention.  There are scandals that are passed down through the year, changing into village legends.  Families standing and prestige rises and falls.  The economy of the area changes from rural farming and a great estate to finally, a development of houses for those who want to move out to the country and the low income housing that is included.  This is a first novel and it is a remarkable debut.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Under The Whispering Door by TJ Klune


Wallace is a lawyer and embodies all the things people dislike about them.  He is structured, demanding and cold and always places tasks and rules above people.  When he awakes and finds himself with a reaper at his own funeral, he has to take into consideration the fact that he might be dead.

When he gets to Charon Crossing, the teahouse where the final door resides and meets Hugo who is the ferryman who helps the dead make the final crossing he starts to believe.  But he isn't ready to accept.  He was in good health!  He wasn't ready to go!  Wallace tries to change the situation by negotiating, running away and demanding to see someone higher up.  But slowly he accepts that he is dead.

But Wallace realizes he hasn't ever lived.  There are other people at the teashop.  Hugo's grandfather and his dog are there.  Mia, his reaper and Hugo are there along with an assortment of those who have died and are waiting to be taken to the door.  Slowly, over the days Wallace remains he starts to love these people and adopt them as his family and as he changes and becomes more open and loving, they accept him as family also.  Is he finally ready to go through the door?

This is a lovely book with characters that the reader will remember long after the book is over.  It was a Locus Top Ten Finalist For Fantasy Novels and one of Buzzfeed's Best Books of 2022.  Hugo is a loving character from the start and Wallace's change from a self-centered man who wanted only empty accomplishments to a man who discovers love is life affirming.  Wallace and Hugo's love affair makes the reader hope for a happy ending although it is hard to imagine what that will be when one of them is dead.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt


On August 4, 1892, an event happened in Falls River, Massachusetts that shocked the world.  Andrew and Abby Borden were found dead, hacked to death, in their locked house, in broad daylight.  Who would do such a thing?  Why? 

The other occupants of the house were Andrew's daughters, Emma and Lizzie, and a maid Bridget.  The daughters were in their thirties and were spinsters, locked into living in a house devoid of love.  They called their stepmother Mrs. Borden and resented her.  Their father had a reputation for a quick and vicious temper.  

Days after the murders, Lizzie was arrested and jailed for the murders.  Nine months later her trial was held and she was found not guilty but the two sisters lived under the guilt of public opinion for their remaining years.  

This is Sarah Schmidt's debut novel.  She is Australian and it is interesting that this murder has reverberated down through the years and around the world, fascinating all that have heard of it.  Schmidt has chosen to tell the story through alternating narrations, Lizzie, Emma, Bridget and a mystery man, Benjamin.  She uses the man to suggest he was on the scene and that was why a weapon was never found.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Honor by Elif Shafek


Twin girls are born in a Kurdish village, Jamila and Pembe.  As they grow, they are inseparable but in their society women are not allowed to choose their lives.  Jamila falls in love with a man named Adem but he ends up marrying Pembe instead.  He takes her to London and they have three children, Iskender, Esme and Yunus.  Jamila stays behind and becomes known as the Virgin Midwife.  The two sisters still love each other as much as ever but are torn apart.

Years later, the scene is set for a tragedy.  Adem has turned out to be not much of a husband.  He is a gambler and faithless and finally deserts the family, leaving Iskender to be the head of the household while still in school.  Pembe is unhappy but has no options.  Iskender is burdened with his responsibilities and an aggressive leader in the immigrant gangs formed to fight off the attacks of the skinheads who insist immigrants don't belong in their London.  Esme dreams of being a writer, while Yunus is adopted by a group of squatters and free thinkers who introduce him to thoughts he never would encounter otherwise.

The family is torn between the old ways and their new lives where they need to adapt in order to fit in.  When Pembe starts a friendship with Elias, a chef, it puts a tragedy in motion.  Muslim women are not allowed to have any contact or relationship with a man outside the family, no matter how they are treated at home.   Although Pembe and Elias try to keep their friendship a secret, it is eventually discovered by Yunus and then by Adem's brother.  The uncle tells Iskander he is responsible for solving this issue for the sake of the family's relationship.  Iskander responds by confronting his mother and stabbing her and she dies, leaving Iskander to be imprisoned.

Elif Shakef is one of my favorite authors.  I love how she uses the background of her country and its religion and culture to write intricate books that describe characters caught in the restrictions their society imposes.  Women are given little freedom or choice while the men are burdened with the responsibility for everyone's life in the family.  As the characters fight against their destiny, things open and change and new ways of living are found.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers and those interested in other cultures.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo


Glory is a novel that uses analogies to talk about the state of countries in Africa, although it could be anywhere in the world.  In this country, Jidada, once the populace had thrown out the English colonists, Old Horse was elected President.  But as with most any politician given power, he wanted more and more until there was a coup throwing him out and installing Tuvy, another horse as the President.  

But the population is tired of the corruption that takes jobs and money and leaves those on the bottom hungry and without hope.  They are tired of the kidnappings, the murders, the rapes and the vanishings used to intimidate any opposition.  When an election is held, the opposition wins but Tuvy remains in office through corruption and election stealing.  Will this state of affairs ever change?

This book is loosely based on the overthrow of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe but it's reach and story reaches much further.  It shows how easily revolutionary ideals can be corrupted by power and how easily those in power reach for violence and repression to continue their rule.  The novel is shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  It has many literary innovations.  The use of repetition throughout the novel reminds readers of a chant, which is common in the African culture.  The use of animals as characters is perhaps a play on Animal Farm and used to show how easily power corrupts wherever it is found.  It is unique enough that I won't be surprised if it is the Booker winner in 2022.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

City Of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett


Shara Thivani, a junior diplomat, has come to Bulikov, once rulers of the world when the Divinities were alive but now under the rule of her home country.  But she comes in disguise for Shara is actually a high ranking spy and the descendant of the man who killed the Divinities.  She didn't want to come here as her first love lives there but she owes a debt.  Her teacher and mentor was here to study the past and the mysteries still hidden there and has been murdered.

Shara is accompanied by her 'secretary', Sigrud.  He is never far from Shara's side as she rescued him years ago from a prison and years of solitary confinement and he is loyal to her to a fault.  He is a giant of a man, an assassin when need be and her protector always.  She is also helped by governor Turyin Mulaghesh, a woman in the military who only wants a new posting to a tropical setting.  

As Shara investigates the murder of her mentor troubling things start to occur.  There is activity going on that suggests all of the Divinities might not be dead.  Someone is buying up all the metal they can for unknown purposes.  She encounters her past love, Vo, and he seems to be mixed up in all the issues Shara is starting to unveil.  There is an Unmentionable Library where the artifacts of the Divinities are stores and it appears that someone has broken into it.  The city is still in ruins from the time of the defeat of the gods but there seems to be a group of rebels who want to take their country out from the rule of Shara's.  What will she uncover next and will she survive her knowledge?

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the bright stars of the fantasy genre.  His novels are often set in, and use, cities as another of their characters.  In Shara, he has created an interesting ambivalent character who the reader will be intrigued by.  Sigrud is another character whose presence and actions linger long past the end of the book.  This is a spy novel, a mystery and an action novel and is recommended for fantasy readers.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Sequence by Lori Andrews


Dr. Alexandra Blake is working on the origins of the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed thousands all over the world.  She is a genetic scientist working for the government at an agency called AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology).  But things are about to change.  The Institute has just gotten a new Director and he is a colonel and definitely military all the way through.  Alex has been used to working in the lab without much oversight and doing things her own way.

But the new Director, Jack Wiatt, has other plans.  He wanted the FBI and will do anything he can to find a way to get that assignment.  He has started by getting a serial killer case assigned to the AFIP and taken away from the FBI since one of the victims was military.  Alex is appalled.  She loves working on the DNA of diseases and finding vaccines but has no interest in using DNA to catch criminals.  But Wiatt could care less what Alex wants and the case is soon under investigation by a team.

Alex is a free spirit especially in her personal life.  She is balancing two men, a musician who comes and goes and a Senator who seems interested but maybe not as much as he is interested in politics.  As she grudgingly works on the criminal case, she finds her scientific mind engaged and she becomes interested.  The killer is striking every eighteen to twenty days.  Can the team find him before he strikes again?

I enjoyed this book.  Alex is an interesting character and a good role model for young women interested in following their dreams.  But I'm not sure it should be advertised as a murder mystery.  The criminal aspect seems to be in the background most of the time and the emphasis is placed more on the political maneuverings of a government agency and on Alex's love life.  This is the first in a series and I'd be interested in reading more to see if the cases become more criminal.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Slewfoot by Brom


He has been sleeping for many years, weakened by the changes around him.  The place is New England, the year 1666.  He has many names.  The wildfolk call him Father and Protector.  The villagers call him Devil, Slewfoot, Satan.  He has now awoken and is figuring out what and who he is and how he fits into the world.

Abitha has immigrated to the village from England where she was alone.  She has come to marry Ethan, one of many women who come to America for this chance to start over.  Ethan is shy and quiet and totally under the thumb of his brother Wallace.  But he and Abitha form a relationship and she helps him start to become his own man.

Then Wallace gives them the news.  He inherited everything when his and Ethan's father died and Ethan has been making payments for his farm to Wallace and is about to pay it off.  But Wallace is in debt and has given Ethan's farm to his debtor as payment.  Ethan protests and the sheriff agrees he gets the chance to make his final payment and own the farm.  Then Ethan dies in an accident.  Agitha fights for the chance to finish Ethan's payments and is granted it.  But can a woman alone bring in the crops and make the payment?

The work is hard and especially for a slight woman on her own.  But Agitha is about to get help.  She comes from a line of wise women who used herbs and charms to heal.  Her background draws Slewfoot and she helps him discover his way.  In return he uses his strength and magic to help Agitha.  When she pays off the farm, she makes powerful enemies in Wallace and his friends.

Soon they find a way to destroy her.  They accuse her of witchcraft and she is condemned to death along with any who testify for her.  She is full of despair but Slewfoot is not through with helping her.  Can he save her?

I listened to this novel and the narrator set exactly the right tone.  She read with an English accent which is what Agitha would have had and probably many of the villagers as well.  This novel is marketed as a horror novel and it has plenty of that but it brought home to me in a way nothing else has the sheer terror a woman accused of witchcraft in that time period must have felt.  No one believes anything you say.  You are tortured and tormented in tests that you are set up to fail.  The crowd mentality takes over and everyone is against you, either because they believe you are a witch or because they are afraid they will be the next one accused.  Then you are sent to die for something you know is false.  This book is recommended for readers of both horror and historical fiction.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

In The Shadows Of The Sun by Alexander Parsons


There have been Stricklands on the ranch since the 1800's.  These days, those living at the ranch are the family's two brothers, Ross and Bayliss and their families.  Ross is married to Sara and they have two children, a daughter and an 18 year old son.  Bayliss is married to Alida and they also have a daughter.  Alida isn't happy with the farming life as she had to give up her teaching career to live there. 

The year is 1941 and the war is raging.  As the United States declares war after Pearl Harbor, it creates a family controversy.  Jack, Ross and Sara's son, is determined to join the army and his father is determined to keep him on the farm.  But once he is of age, it doesn't matter what his father wants and Jack goes off to war.  He is stationed in Bataan and is taken prisoner where he remains for several years.  His family is wrongfully notified that he was killed in the battle where he was taken prisoner and the effect of his death tears the families apart.  The government is confiscating the ranch for a shooting range and the brothers must decide on what they will do.  Marriages will end and one brother will be caught up in a tragedy that affects them all.

Although there are lots of World War II novels, this one is unique in its picture of how the war affected those who remained behind.  The presence of a family member in danger affected everyone in the family and if that presence result in death or disfigurement, it could be a blow that the family could not come back from.  Even if there were no family members in danger, war can ask sacrifices from everyone and the willingness of undergoing those sacrifices can vary greatly.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Towers Of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson


In this novel, the Last Battle is about to begin.  The various players are drawing together and getting ready.  Rand has reached a good place with himself where he no longer is bitter nor does he doubt himself.  Perrin and his armies, including those of the Whitecloaks, are headed towards a meeting with the others.  Mat and Thom and Noal are off to rescue Moiraine who everyone had given up for dead.  All the members of Elayne's family have reunited, her mother back although she had been thought dead, her brothers back to celebrate her return.  Egwene has taken Elayne's brother as her Warder, tying them together.  

But all is not good.  Rand has decided that the only way to handle the Dark One is to break the seals that keep him entombed so that he can redo and strengthen them and this causes controversy and discord.  Something is going on with the men who can channel and their leader has not been heard from in a while.  The Seanchan are still trying to conquer the world and to imprison any Aes Sedai they can capture.  And of course, there is no promise anything will survive the Last Battle, even the World.

This is the thirteenth novel in the series and was written after the death of Robert Jordan, the series creator.  His wife chose Brandon Sanderson to use Jordan's notes to finish this book and the last one.  I think it was a good choice.  The plotlines all are moving forward but there is a lighter feel to the books.  They had gotten very dark and heavy and this novel gives the reader hope that there may be a way to defeat the Dark One and save the world.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

American Injustice by David Rudolf


David Rudolf started his law career as a public defender in New York.  After several years there he moved to North Carolina where he has lived his life and made a name for himself as the defense attorney you want if you are innocent and being charged with a crime.  In this book he exposes the errors of the justice system and how it is stacked against those being charged with a crime.

Using real cases, he exposes the systemic problems.  Many defendants agree to serve less time for a crime they didn't commit rather than face a jury and possibly serve much more time.  Rudolf states that fewer and fewer cases are actually going before a jury and most are adjudicated by a deal before trial.  Of those going to trial, there are many pitfalls facing the defendant.

One issue is forced confessions.  Most people say they would never confess to something they haven't done, but after hours of interrogation, lies from those in charge and horrible predictions of what will happen without a confession, many do confess.  The most striking case of this would be the Central Park jogger case where five young men confessed to the rape of a victim they had nothing to do with.  Another issue is confirmation bias where a police officer decides he knows who committed a crime and ignores any evidence to the contrary.  Rudolf represented a doctor who came home to find his wife horribly murdered.  The police decided he must have done it although there were witnesses to his whereabouts from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 that night as he rotated between three hospitals.  There was plenty of evidence pointing to a more likely candidate but once the police found out the doctor had been having an affair, all other evidence was ignored.

Another issue is forensic prejudice.  Although such evidence should be scientifically based, the forensic examiners work every day with the police.  There is a tendency to shade the evidence to help the police make a case.  The most famous example readers will have heard of is the case of Michael Peterson where the medical examiner lied on the stand about his credentials and made statements of certainty that the victim was killed by blows to the head.  This case was made into the series The Staircase.  The medical examiner was later found to have lied on the stand and shaded evidence in multiple cases and lost his job.  Although Rudolf's cases were based in North Carolina, this is not just a one state problem but rather the cases he had access to.  

Those readers interested in our justice system will find this book interesting but come away with a sour taste in their mouths about the abuses of power rife in the system.  With the advent of DNA and its validity in finding both the innocent and guilty, there have been thousands of cases of people released from prison after being wrongfully convicted.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Mother's Milk by Edward St. Aubyn


This novel is part of the Patrick Melrose series of novels that detail the life of the Melrose family.  In this novel, Patrick and Mary are starting their family.  Robert is the first child and immediately becomes their entire world.  A few years later Thomas is born.  The two have very different reactions to their role as parents.  Mary focuses almost exclusively on the children, sacrificing her relationship to Patrick to more fully meet their needs.  Patrick wants his single life back when he only had to worry about his own needs and is depressed.

But there are other relationships.  The couple both have mother issues.  Mary is over devoted to her children because she felt abandoned and criticized.  She still feels criticized by her mother in everything she does.  Patrick's mother has changed entirely since the death of his father.  Although Patrick always expected to inherit the family money, his mother became entranced by a con man, Seamus, who convince her to start a soulwork center and she eventually gives her entire fortune, including the ancestral house to Seamus and the foundation.  Patrick begins to drink heavily and have affairs.

This is one of the four Patrick Melrose novels.  It was a Booker Prize nominee in 2006 and a New York Times Notable Book.  Although not cheerful, it is a searing portrayal of the family relationships that exist between parent and child and between marriage partners.  The reader feels that if Patrick was a different man, he could solve his issues and find ways to carve out a more successful life but that is not his case.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Unmasked by Paul Holes


For most of his working life, Paul Holes was a California forensic homicide detective.  As such, he worked on many of the famous cases people have heard of.  He was there for the autopsies of Laci Peterson and her unborn baby Connor.  He was involved in the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard and her rescue eighteen years later.  He uncovered several serial killers.  Paul's main interest was cold cases, those which other detectives had given up on.

The main case which drove him was that of the Golden State Killer.  He started in Northern California as a serial rapist.  He would break into houses where a couple was, subdue and tie up both and then rape the woman as the man was forced to listen.  Children in the house did not deter him and he raped several young girls.  Then when he felt the police were getting too close, he moved his hunting grounds further south and now killed the couples after the rape.  Then he just stopped. 

This case was one that many detectives had worked on over the years and one that was still of interest to many law enforcement personnel and journalists.  Holes worked on the scientific front so was involved in the introduction of DNA as a law enforcement tool.  The early DNA was simple but over the years DNA analysis become more and more intricate and involved and could identify culprits from smaller and smaller samples.  Paul was involved in the eventual discovery and arrest of the Golden State Killer by using a new genetic technique that merged DNA and genealogy to first identify any of a killer's family relationships then work backwards on the family tree identifying suspects and narrowing the list down to the eventual culprit.

But such work takes it toll.  Paul's early marriage ended in divorce and he didn't see his children that often.  A second marriage was to a woman in the field and started much better but soon had the same issues.  Paul was obsessed with his work and would sacrifice almost anything to bring criminals to justice and unfortunately that included family relationships.

I've been aware of Paul Holes for a while.  I first heard of him in Michele McNamara's book, I'll Be Gone In The Dark and Holes talks about his relationship with her as they both searched for the Golden State Killer.  Then I saw him on a crime show where he investigated cold cases.  He is currently working with another cold case journalist, Billy Jensen, on a podcast called The Murder Squad.  He continues to work with families to solve their cold cases and bring them closure.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Birds Without Wings by Louis De Bernieres


In this novel, Louis De Bernieres takes the reader to a small village in Anatolia where the people speak Turkish but write it in Greek because the only school teacher is a Greek nationalist fanatic and refuses to teach anything else.  The village is on the verge of change after staying the same for as long as anyone can remember.  It is the last days of the Ottoman Empire and the country and the inhabitants are about to get caught up in world affairs and world wars as the powers of the world decide what will happen to this area.

But outside of that, the novel is all about the people in the village.  There is the most beautiful girl and her friend the ugliest.  The beautiful girl is loved and loves a goatherd and the ugly one is loved by a fisherman.  There are the two friends who take on the identities of the bird whistles made for them by the potter and who are separated when war comes because one is Muslim and one is Christian.  There is the Muslim cleric who loves nothing more than his horse.  The richest man in town is betrayed by his wife and he takes her to be stoned and she is abandoned to a brothel in town.  He takes a mistress who lives with him for many years and who becomes friends with the two girls who love local boys.  

Readers will learn much about the culture of this area but De Bernieres is also writing on a more global level.  We see how artificial the divisions of religion and occupation and wealth are and how much alike all people are.  All want friendship and love, someone to tell their hurts and successes to.  The world intrudes into the smaller friendships we make and countries squabble and go to world to conquer each other but life is led on the individual level.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Mother-In_Law by Sally Hepworth


Lucy lost her mother early from cancer.  Since then, she always thought she'd have another chance when she got married to have a maternal relationship with her husband's mother.  But it isn't to be.  Ollie's mother, Diana, isn't a warm and friendly person.  Instead, she is distant and cold showing almost no interest in her children or their mates.  

Even when Lucy thinks she has done something that will bring she and Diana closer, she is wrong.  When Diana gives her a special necklace on her wedding day for her something borrowed, Lucy is touched, that is until Diana makes a point of telling her that it is just borrowed and she expects it back.  Surely grandchildren will make a difference but the only difference is that Diana ignores Lucy's wishes on how the children should be raised and does whatever she thinks is best.  Diana and her husband Tom are wealthy but they won't even consider helping their children financially with things like house down payments or even health issues.  Diana believes that she and Tom made their own way and so should the children.

But now Diana is dead.  The police tell the family that it could be suicide as they found a note.  But there are unanswered questions.  Diana told everyone she had breast cancer but there's no record of it in her medical records and no sign of it at the autopsy.  There was a bottle of drugs beside the body that is a common drug used for suicide but again no sign of it being in the body.  Diana changed her will right before she died and instead of her children, Ollie and his sister Nettie getting the inheritance they had been expecting their entire lives, the estate is all left to a charity.  

Now the police are thinking it may be murder rather than suicide and that the murderer must be a family member.  Are they right?

Sally Hepworth is an Australian author who has carved out a space for herself in the publishing world.  She specializes in family dramas that have a bit of mystery contained within.  Readers will recognize each character's type as someone they are familiar with and the inevitability of Diana's death and it's fallout makes for a compelling read.  This book is recommended for readers of either mystery or woman's fiction.

Monday, September 5, 2022

A Bright New Thing by Brianne Moore


Astra Davies is what is known as a 'bright young thing'.  From a wealthy family with an estate, she dashes around London from parties to house parties to balls to dinners.  She doesn't have a thought in her head except to have fun and be with her friends and maybe, just maybe, get married although she isn't sure that's what she wants to do.  But then disaster strikes.  Her parents die and the family secrets are slowly revealed.  Her father had made bad investments and Astra finds herself left without money or marketable skills.

There's one man she is attracted to but Lord Jeremy Harris is in the same boat as she is.  His estate is in as much danger of poverty as hers is.  But no one is likely to ask Astra to marry them anyway.  She has run afoul of a scheming socialite who tries to ruin Astra by spreading lies and finding ways to separate Astra from her friends.  She even finds ways to set a spy on Astra to try to find out scandals about her.  All her schemes leave Astra ostracized by society. 

But Astra isn't one to let fate determine her way.  She is left part of a business along with an airheaded, half alcoholic young man but she straightens him out and together they find a way to save the business by offering new products and focusing on new technologies.  She finds a way to spike her rival's worst schemes against her without retaliating on her level.  Most importantly, she finds a way to honor her parents' biggest secret which involves a family member Astra had never heard of.  Can anything keep her down?

Brianne Moore has written an interesting feminist tale of resourcefulness and ingenuity.  In 1930's England, women of Astra's social class were not business entrepreneurs but instead had rigid social rules to follow.  Readers will be fascinated to read of Astra's transformation.  I listened to this novel and the narrator had exactly the right voice and narration style to match Astra's personality.  This book is recommended for readers of women's fiction. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter


Will Trent and Sara Linton are about to have dinner with her parents when they hear the blast.  Black smoke pours up into the sky and they both know that means an explosion.  Will is an investigator in the Georgia State Investigative agency and Sara is a medical examiner for the agency.  The blast has come from close to Georgia Tech and the hospitals around it and they drop everything and start running towards the sound.

But they don't get there.  As they run, they come upon a car wreck that has just happened and there are injured people.  Sara stops to examine them and see how badly they are hurt and Will tries to help survivors out.  But they both soon start to sense that this isn't just any car wreck.  They have come upon the perpetrators of the bomb and more than that, they are accompanied by a woman who was kidnapped in broad daylight a month ago.  Before Will can react, the men kidnap Sara and leave Will on the side of the road, badly beaten.

In the hours afterward, things become a bit clearer.  Sara has been kidnapped by a white supremist group who is apparently planning something big to spread their message.  The other woman worked at the CDC and it is unclear if she was kidnapped for her knowledge.  All Will knows is that the woman he loves is gone and he didn't stop it.  Now he will do anything to get her back including going undercover with the group and risking his own life.

This is the ninth novel in the Will Trent series.  Readers who follow the series have probably already fallen in love with Will and want nothing more for him than some happiness.  Sara is what brings him that and it is nerve-wracking to read and wonder if this will be the story that rips the two apart forever.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Strange Angels by Jonis Agee


Heywood Bennett is the owner of a large cattle ranch in Nebraska.  On the ranch with him are his three children.  Arthur is the oldest and the acknowledged son.  Heywood married his mother and lived with her.  But he had other children.  He brought Cody home when Cody was around fourteen.  Cody's mother was his first love and was his mistress for many years.  Then there was Kyra, Heywood's daughter.  She was Lakota and no one knew much about her mother except that she had left Kyra and had disappeared to follow parties and drinking.

When Heywood dies, the children are left the estate equally.  Arthur is outraged as he had always thought he would inherit it all and had already made plans to sell the ranch as part of a country club.  He tries to find another will or anything to prove that he was the only real child and should inherit everything.  Cody and Kyra basically want things to remain the same.

But things never do.  Cody falls in love with the neighbor, Latta Jaboy.  Latta is older than Cody and suspicious of love since her former husband cheated on her all the time, including with Kyra.  Kyra and Latta detest each other and when Latta brings over a horse from Ireland, a fifty thousand dollar investment in the future, Kyra and a cowboy steal him, setting many events in motion.

I loved this novel.  Cody will win the reader's heart while the twists and turns of events will intrigue them.  It is clear the author knows the environment she is writing about.  Ranch work and much of the Lakota heritage is discussed and explained.  Jonis Agee was born in Nebraska and is a professor of writing at a university there.  This book is recommended to women's fiction readers and those interested in the ranching life.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Love Can Be edited by Louisa McCune and Teresa Miller


This anthology talks about the ways pets and animals in general enrich our lives.  It was sponsored by the Kirkpatrick Foundation so that all money generated can be donated to pet charities.  There are articles by various authors as well as poetry and sketches of the animals.  Some of the animals written about include cats, dogs, horses, bears and birds.

Authors include the following:  Ursula K. Le Guin, Julia Alvarez, Blake Bailey, Rick Bass, P. C. Cast, Wayne Coyne, Kim Doner, Delia Ephron, Reyna Grande, Joy Harjo, Amy Hempel, Juan Felipe Herrera, S. E. Hinton, Brandon Hobson, Dean Koontz, Jill McCorkle, Teresa Miller, N. Scott Momaday, Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Orlean, Ron Padgett, Elise Paschen, Diane Rehm, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Wade Rouse, Alexander McCall Smith, Lalita Tademy, Clifton taulbert, Michael Wallis and Mary Logan Wolf.  This book is recommended for nonfiction readers who love animals.