As an avid listener of true crime podcasts, I am drawn to stories that focus on the victims. In this case, everyone is a victim. In many ways each person-both the murder victims and their son, their killer-was the victim of untreated mental illness. The family history leading up to the deadly event is just part of the story. The rest of the story is Brian’s and what happens to the criminally insane. This is a well-researched, deep dive into life in a mental institution. Readers are left wondering about Brian and his fate. Lots to unpack and discuss.
Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols. Annie Chapman. Elizabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly. Everyone knows the moniker Jack the Ripper, but very few know the names of his victims. For over a century the focus has been on the killer and the nature of his crimes, the meticulous and brutal murder of prostitutes. Author Hallie Rubenhold flips the script on traditional Ripper lore, and presents the lives of the five women whose lives have been reduced by history to their victim status and alleged unsavory activities. These women were more than victims. They were servants, business owners, wives, and mothers. The press of the day was so eager to allay fear amongst Londoners that they painted a portrait of a madman who preyed on prostitutes. This narrative was not only false, it prevented the truth about these women to be known. They were not perfect, but their greatest crime was being born poor women and being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is a fascinating look at poverty in Victorian London as well as an exciting new chapter in the Jack the Ripper case. Modern day true crime fans will appreciate that author’s work in humanizing and respecting the victims of these brutal crimes.
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On June 9, 1912 in the town of Villisca, Iowa, all six members of the Moore family and two house guests were bludgeoned to death with an axe. An investigation yielded a number of suspects, one of whom was actually charged with the murders. But two trials later, the case remained unsolved. Bill James, a statistician, baseball analyst, and crime writer, set out to connect the Villisca Axe Murders to a single, prolific, and heretofore unnamed killer.
Between 1898 and 1912 dozens of families were bludgeoned to death in their sleep. These victims were in Nova Scotia, Florida, Oregon, Kansas, and Arkansas among other locations. During this time local police assumed most murders were committed by someone known to the victims. When they could not find a suspect, the cases went cold. James’ theory was the killer was an itinerant worker who used the railroad system to move about, slipping in and out of night under the cover of night. James believes he has correctly identified the man who murdered at least 59 people and could be responsible for another 94 deaths.
This is a meticulously researched book and the authors present a cogent argument against the The Man from the Train. His case is plausible and compelling, offering a fresh look at a number of 100 year old cold cases.
This was one of the first cases we discussed in Riverinos and it remains a group favorite. Feel free to join us Wednesday, January 19th at 7:00pm, when we talk about Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Register here and we’ll send you the Zoom link.
Victim F: From Crime Victims to Suspects to Victims by Denise Huskins
What happens when you are accused of fabricating the worst night of your life? How do you deal with the fact that the people meant to help you think you’re the criminal? This case is wild! With a stranger abduction, rape, mistaken identities, secret organizations, cops with tunnel vision, it’s no surprise that this case was referred to as the real life Gone Girl. Victim F follows Denise and Aaron through Denise’s abduction, the tragic aftermath, and ultimately their recovery efforts as well as lawsuits. A fantastic true crime read.
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As an avid consumer of all things true crime, it’s always exciting to discover "new to me" cases. The kidnapping of George Weyerhaeuser is one such case. I also enjoy these “old-timey” cases; I find the distance between myself and the time of the crime offers me a bit of an emotional break from modern cases. Anyone else feel that way? Well, Deep in the Woods does not disappoint. The crime itself was strange and frankly, fascinating, the trials stranger, and the ending, the epilogue, the strangest of all. I listened to this one thanks to Netgalley and Tantor and found the narration to be perfection that added to the enjoyment of the story. Fans of historical crimes, kidnappings, and totally bonkers cases will enjoy this one.
Teen & Middle Grade:
Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult by Susan Ashline
In October of 2015, 19-year-old Lucas Leonard was beaten to death by his parents, sister, and other members of their church. The beating was punishment for Lucas’ admission that he practiced witchcraft, wished his parent’s dead, and had committed other even worse and unspeakable crimes. Lucas’ family were members of the Word of Life Christian Church in Chadwicks, New York. The church was founded by the Irwin family, evangelical Pentacostals, lead by Jerry Irwin. Following his death, leadership transferred to his daughter, Tiffanie. It was Tiffanie who instructed the punishment of Lucas and his younger brother that fateful night.
Without a Prayer introduces readers to the Irwin family, tracing the roots of the Word of Life Church and documenting the church’s transformation from church to cult. The second part of the book follows the trials of the six members of the church indicted for the Lucas’ murder.
Because Tiffanie and her congregants documented everything, Susan Ashline had access to hours of video and audio materials, tens of thousands of text messages, and court documents to aid her reporting. The result is a horrifying and compelling story of the ascent of dangerous religious zealot. This is a must read for true crime fans and those interested in cults and cult behavior.
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The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede was originally published in January 2002. The book chronicles how the citizens of Gander and neighboring towns sheltered, fed and supported 6,579 airline passengers and crew whose U.S. bound planes were forced to land. This was as a result of the September 11th attacks. At 9:26 a.m. Tuesday, September 11th the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shut down its airspace, forcing over 4,000 planes to land at the nearest airport. Inbound flights from Europe were diverted to Canada. 38 planes landed at Gander International Airport. The airport in Gander marks the closest point between Europe and the U.S. and is a preferred emergency landing spot.
The population of Gander is fewer than 10,000 people but they took up the challenge of helping people in need. Many citizens took passengers home with them. Others brought basic supplies (blankets, towels, toiletries, etc). The passengers could not get to their luggage. Schools, churches, Salvation Army centers, and community centers were opened to serve as shelters. Bus drivers, who were on strike, came back to work to transport people to shelters. Stores stayed open 24 hours a day and often donated necessities. The good deeds went on and on.
The Broadway musical “Come From Away” is based on this book.
Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday (Halloween will always hold that title) but I do rather love an excuse to consume copious amounts of food, try out new recipes, and acceptably nap on the couch in the middle of a family gathering.
If you are in need of some Thanksgiving kitchen inspiration, take a look below at some of my recommended titles for creating and sharing a delicious feast with your friends and family. Whether you are hosting a large group, people with special diets, or perhaps you are attending an intimate gathering, there is something for everyone in this curated collection.
Request one of these fabulous cookbooks today or stop in and see us at the library. What are some of your favorite cookbooks to break out for the holidays? Share in the comments!
A sample of titles available from the library –
by Kenneth D. Miller
by M.R.S. Keshtgar
by Daniella Chace
by Connie Jones
by Audre Lorde
by Caitlin M. Kiernan
by Kate Pickert
by Hollye Jackobs