True Crime Book Review: Couple Found Slain by Mikita Brottman

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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.

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here are some of the new books coming to our shelves this week for you to add to your book list!

The Defense Lawyer: The Barry Slotnick Story by James Patterson & Benjamin Wallace – Takes readers inside the courtroom to witness defense lawyer and Bronx-native Barry Slotnick, known for his brilliant legal mind, sharp suits and bold courtroom strategies, as he never loses a case for his notorious and dangerous clients.

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard – When her son is released from prison after serving time for the negligent homicide of his girlfriend, Thea is committed to helping him make amends until attempts on their lives are made, leading her to believe that those who are threatening them having something to hide.

Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang – An ICU physician at a busy NYC hospital, 30-something Joan, a workaholic with little interest in having friends, let alone lovers, is required to take mandatory leave until the day she must return to the city to face a crisis larger than anything she’s encountered before.

You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by Zora Hurston – Spanning more than 35 years of work, this anthology showcases the writings of one of the most acclaimed artists of the Harlem Renaissance, providing a window into her world and time.

Robert B. Parker’s Bye Bye Baby by Ace Atkins – Boston PI Spenser takes on a new case in this installment in Robert B. Parker’s iconic New York Times best-selling series.

Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann Krentz – When her speed dating experiment leads her to Harlan Rancourt, who—long believed dead—needs her help locating a legendary lab, psychic investigator Olivia LeClair must use her unique gift to get them to the top-secret lab before innocent people die.

Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn – A 30-something, Oxford-educated, British Nigerian woman with a high-paying job and good friends, Yinka, whose aunties frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, must find a date for her cousin’s wedding with the help of a spreadsheet and her best friend.

Desolation Canyon by P. J. Tracy – While coping with the loss of her brother, an LAPD detective discovers the body of a successful attorney in Swan Lake at the Hotel Bel-Air bar, leading to a series of shocking revelations about a sinister cabal.

One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner – Searching for a young man who disappeared without a trace, missing persons expert and recovering alcoholic Frankie Elkin, with her very life on the line, goes up against something very dark to find what she is looking for.

Targeted by Stephen Hunter – When the court in where he is accused of reckless endangerment from his last assignment is attacked by violent operatives, Bobby Lee Swagger must rely on his instincts, shooting skills and the help of a mysterious rogue sniper on the outside, to save the very people who accused him.

~Semanur

True Crime Book Review: The Five by by Hallie Rubenhold

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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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True Crime Book Review: The Man From the Train by Bill James

The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
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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.

Christine’s First Top Ten!

I’m not sure I can really do my 2021 reading list justice with a list of only ten books. So with some emotional support from my co-workers, and after a long talk with my cat, I was finally able to take a deep breath and chose twelve.

Reflecting over the past year, each one of these books takes me back to a time and place of extreme joy and extreme pain. Each one is a mile marker that reminds me to keep breathing, keep moving, and when all else fails- shut out the world and grab a good book.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin: Reunited over bingo after 45 years, these two grandmothers find that their love for one another never faded. Hope, love, and realizing that it is never too late to live authentically and with all your heart!

Good Kids, Bad City by Kyle Swenson: True crime set across the decades in Cleveland, Ohio, this is the story of a still unsolved murder and the longest wrongful incarceration of three men and their fight for justice.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: A young woman sets out to find community and herself. What she discovers is the true meaning of intersectionality and standing in her own self-love.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole: A thriller that is a little bit ‘Rear Window’ and a little bit mole people. Gentrification, murder, evil pharmaceutical companies, and the most unexpected heroes.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton: A fictional rock biography that spans decades that reads and feels like non-fiction. This story explores the music industry, generational trauma, sexism, and race.

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymulina: This short thriller is narrated by a young girl, who happens to be a ghost trying to help her father get justice for another young girl. Part murder mystery, part Australian Aboriginal tale, this story will sit with you long after you finish the book.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: A darkly humorus story about two sisters- the beautiful and popular one and the responsible one. They have nothing in common, including how they deal with their traumatic childhood. One sister becomes a serial killer, the other learns how to clean up a crime scene.

Skye Falling by Mia MacKenzie: A Black queer woman in her 30’s enjoys her life of no attachments and no responsibilities until the 12 year old egg she donated to a friend she’s lost contact with shows up one day. You will laugh just as much as you cry while you go along for a truly amazing ride!

The Deep by Rivers Solomon: How did the mermaids in the Pacific Ocean come to be? This is their origin story. Beautifully written, Solomon speaks to community, healing, and reclaiming your identity.

The Push by Ashley Audrain: A psychological drama about motherhood, family, and murder (?) that will have you holding your breath and gasping out loud.

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey: Three friends, affectionately called The Supremes, hold tightly to each other through decades of all that life can throw at them. All while Eleanor Roosevelt’s ghost is watching over them. Really.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur: A young female impersonates a man in order to find her father and solve ongoing murders. Set 600 years ago in Korea, this story will pull you in and not let go until the final word.

Trent’s Top 10 of 2021

It is always difficult to narrow down my annual list to ten titles. The top five were easy to slot in, but there were another eleven I wanted to list. I have once again included the honorable mentions that did not make the final cut so that all the books I think were remarkable are included.  

This year’s list sees the return of a few of my perennial favorites, though sadly, there is no new Steph Cha book for me to add to the list, and I am not picking up the final volume of The Expanse series until later today. Here is what made me 2021 Top Ten list:

10. Eathereater – Dolores Reyes

A young woman begins to feel compelled to eat dirt soon after her mother dies. When she does eat earth, she has visions of people with a connection to that soil. Though the locales are unsettled by her ability, people begin leaving jars of dirt with notes pleading for her assistance. This short novel was truly unique and unsettling.

9. Bullet Train – Kotaro Isaka

Bullet Train is an odd balance of fast-paced action, quirky humor, and Japanese psychological thriller. Mayhem ensues when a mix of criminals-for-hire and a youthful psychopath end up on the same train for several interrelated reasons. I have always had a soft spot for books set on trains, and the Shinkansen is a key to the story as the Orient Express in Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit. The movie adaptation is set to be released next year.

8. All Systems Red – Martha Wells

All Systems Red and protagonist Murderbot are unexpectedly charming. It is surprisingly easy to relate to Murderbot, who wants little more than to be left alone so they can watch their soaps. Funny and fast-paced, this slim novella left me excited to read the rest of the series.

7. Razorblade Tears – S.A. Cosby

Ike, a Black man, and reformed convict turned successful business owner, and Buddy Lee, a White good old boy ex-con with a penchant for drinking, would not normally associate with each other. However, when their married sons are murdered, both Ike and Buddy Lee are left with feelings of shame and regret over the strained relationships they had with their sons. Together, they start to look into the death of their sons. 

6. Murder on the Red River & Girl Gone Missing – Marcie R. Rendon

Often my favorite crime novels are when the crime or mystery component takes a backseat to characters and setting to the point of the crime being almost superfluous. Renee “Cash” Blackbear, one of the disproportionate number of American Indian children removed from parental care and raised in various white foster homes, spends her days as a Minnesota farm laborer and truck driver and her evenings drinking and shooting pool in the local bars. Cash occasionally serves as an unofficial sidekick to the local Sheriff, and when a body is found in a field, Cash begins to dream of the victim’s house and family. Cash and 1970s Minnesota Red River Valley are the reason to keep reading – and I wish there were more to read.

5. Untamed Shore – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet was the Night is on most of the 2021 notable books lists, same for Mexican Gothic last year and Gods of Jade and Shadow the year before that. That Untamed Shore managed to go largely unnoticed is a tragedy. This bildungsroman-cum-noir is more compelling and relatable than Velvet was the Night or Mexican Gothic.

4. The Secret Place – Tana French

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is consistently outstanding. I completed both Broken Harbor and The Secret Place in 2021.  Broken Harbor was perhaps my least favorite of the series, and still very good, whereas, The Secret Place may be my favorite so far. French continues to cycle familiar characters from previous books into starting roles to excellent effect. I am excited to start the final installation of the series sometime soon. 

3. The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Vietnam War is coming to an end, and as Saigon is about to fall, a Captain begins to plan his General’s escape from the county. Together, with a select few, they flee Saigon on one of the last army transports over-crowded with other refugees. The Captain, half-French half-Vietnamese, a man of two minds, is a communist agent whose role is to observe and report back on the military cadre as they establish themselves in America. As suspicion of a mole rises, the Captain must deflect attention away from himself at terrible costs. This was a poignant and relevant contemplation of war, refugees, politics, and film considering the parallels of the recent withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan.

2. The Queen’s Gambit – Walter Tevis

I started reading The Queen’s Gambit shortly after seeing that Netflix has released a new series based on the book. The story follows orphan Beth Harmon as she discovers and embraces her natural genius for chess. Beth’s struggles with loneliness and addiction are simultaneously exacerbated by and inhibiting to her meteoric rise in the national chess rankings.

1. The Library At Mount Char – Scott Hawkins

It is not too often that a book manages to be so thoroughly unique, strange, and enjoyable from start to finish. After my wife finished reading it, she insisted, nearly daily, that I read it immediately, not so I would enjoy an excellent book, but instead to have some to share in the same “what just happened” experience. I have since hunted down several RRPL staff members to ask them what they thought of The Library At Mount Char.

Honorable Mentions

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti – After receiving a brain cancer diagnosis at seventy, one of the world’s richest women tells her children that she wants to announce her death early so that she can read her obituaries, which ultimately reveal devastating secrets.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult – With everything perfectly on track, Diana O’Toole finds things going off the rails when she is quarantined during her dream vacation in the Galapagos due to a virus, forcing her to reevaluate herself and her life when she makes a connection with a local family.

The Sisters Sweet by Elizabeth Weiss – After her sister exposes the family’s fraud and runs away to Hollywood, Harriet, who has only ever known life onstage posing as a conjoined twin in a vaudeville act, begins to form her first relationships outside her family, which forces her to make a difficult decision.

Autopsy by Patricia Daniels Cornwell – New chief medical examiner and forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta is given a highly classified case involving two scientists who were found dead on a private space laboratory in the latest addition to the series following Chaos.

The Midnight Lock by Jeffery Deaver – When he is fired as a consultant for the NYPD, Lincoln Rhyme decides to risk jail to solve a case involving “the Locksmith”—a sociopathic intruder who can break through any lock or security system every devised, terrorizing the entire city.

The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton – As German tanks roll across the border and into Paris, an American heiress joins the resistance and becomes known as the Postmistress because she delivers information to those in hiding and uses her charms and skill to house the hunted and deliver them to safety.

Someone Perfect by Mary Balogh – When she accompanies her friend Maria to Everleigh Park, where Maria must stay with her half-brother, whom she loathes, Lady Estelle Lamarr, as family secrets unravel around her, must stay away from this dark, dour man who believes she is his perfect match.

~Semanur

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

These are the books we are adding to our collection this week. Click on the blue text to go to our catalog and place a hold today!

The Becoming by Nora Roberts – Able to walk between the world of man and the world of magick called Talmh, Breen Siobhan Kelly must take the next step on the journey to becoming all that she was born to be when one member of her bloodline, the outcast god Odran, plots to destroy Talamh.

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon – Jamie and Claire reunite after the Jacobite Rising but worry that their grown family, finally together, will be torn apart by the American Revolution in the latest addition of the popular series following Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.

The Christmas Promise by Richard Paul Evans – The #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Noel Collection presents this heartwarming new novel in which love and faith help restore the true magic of Christmas for the people we care for most.

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett – Turning her writer’s eye on her own experiences, the brilliant author transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be.

Flying Angels by Danielle Steel – After her brother is wounded in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Audrey and her best friend Lizzie enlist in the army as flight nurses in a new novel from the New York Times best-selling author of over 150 books.

Fear No Evil by James Patterson – When Dr. Alex Cross and Detective John Sampson are attacked by two rival teams of assassins in the rugged Montana wilderness in the latest addition to the popular, long-running series following Deadly Cross.

Harsh Times by Mario Vargas Llosa – Describes the international conspiracies and conflicting interests during the Cold War that led the CIA to assist in perpetrating a coup in Guatemala in 1954 in the new novel from the Nobel Prize in Literature Award-winning author.

City of Time and Magic by Paula Brackston – Believing that Liam was kidnapped by Lydia Flyte on a mission to Regency England, Xanthe is shocked to discover their involvement with a group of unscrupulous Spinners who sell their time traveling talents to wealthy bidders.

The Deathwatch Beetle by Kjell Eriksson – Even though she is no longer with the police, when Ann Lindell receives a tip that Cecilia Karlsson, who disappeared four years ago from the island of Gräsö in Roslagen, has been seen alive, cannot help getting involved.

The City of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Filled with unforgettable characters, unique situations and a gothic atmosphere reminiscent of his beloved Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet, this posthumous collection offers imaginative and enchanting stories that sum up the career of this amazing writer.

~Semanur

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones & New York Times Magazine – This ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began on the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery reimagines if our national narrative actually started in late August of 1619, when a ship arrived in Jamestown bearing a cargo of 20-30 enslaved people from Africa.

The Left-Handed Twin by Thomas Perry – When Jane, who helps disappear people, agrees to help a woman escape a crazed ex-boyfriend who is friends with members of a Russian organized crime brotherhood, thus begins a bloodthirsty chase through the northeast where nothing—and no one—can be trusted.

Guild Boss by Jayne Castle – After being kidnapped and drugged in the colony world of Harmony, Lucy Bell’s safe return is met with skepticism while she is still being hunted by a potential killer in the latest addition to the series following Illusion Town.

The Wolf by J.R. Ward – Forced into bartering drug deals for the infamous Prison Colony, wolven Lucan finds things getting hot when he meets Rio, the second in command for the shadowy Caldwell supplier who needs his protection—and his love.

Clive Cussler’s the Devil’s Sea by Dirk Cussler – Dirk Pitt discovers a 60-year-old, forgotten plane crash in the Philippe Sea while recovering a failed hypersonic missile from Luzon Strait, in the latest addition to the long running series from the author known as the “grand master of adventure.

Mercy by David Baldacci – As the long search for twin sister Mercy reaches its conclusion, FBI agent Atlee Pine, when the truth is finally revealed, will face the greatest danger yet, one that could cost her everything.

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson – In near-future world plagued by superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, heat waves, and deadly pandemics, one man has a big idea for reversing global warming despite the possible consequences for the planet and all of humanity.

Tom Clancy Chain of Command by Marc Cameron – To implement his most ambitious plan of all, a ruthless billionaire must get President Jack Ryan out of the way and assembles the most ruthless mercenaries alive to kidnap the First Lady.

Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn – The Chiss, led by the Nine Ruling Families, feel their bonds of fidelity, stability and integrity are being eroded by a cunning foe trying to sabotage the Ascendancy in the third novel of the series following Greater Good.

The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally – The son of England’s most famous author, Edward Dickens is sent to Australia to make something of himself—or at least fall out of the public eye—where he works hard to prove to his parents and himself that he can succeed in this vast and unfamiliar wilderness.

~Semanur

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

There are many exciting new book releases coming and you don’t want to miss it…

Will by Will Smith with Mark Manson – A product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, and a reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave behind, in this memoir, one of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich – The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author presents this unusual novel in which a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store’s most annoying customer.

A Christmas Legacy by Anne Perry – After her friend gets unceremoniously fired with no references right before the holidays, Gracie takes the recently-vacated job herself to try and figure out what happened in the latest novel of the series following A Christmas Resolution.

The Dark Hours  by Michael Connelly – LAPD Detective Reneé Ballard, investigating a New Year’s Eve murder along with an unsolved murder, teams up Detective Harry Bosch once again when their two cases—one old and one new—intersect, while an undetected killer watches their every move.

Dark Tarot by Christine Feehan – An ancient Carpathian, Sandu Berdardi, finally finds his life-mate when Adalasia explodes into his mind seamlessly and guides him on a dangerous quest while consulting her deck of cards in the latest addition to the series following Dark Song.

Heard It in a Love Song  by Tracey Garvis Graves – Newly divorced and lonely, Layla Hilding cautiously gets to know a newly-separated dad whose daughter attends the elementary school where she teaches music in the new novel from the best-selling author of The Girl He Used to Know.

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King – A collection of short stories from the best-selling author of Writers & Lovers explores desire, heartache, loss and love in tales about a neglected teenage boy befriended by housesitting college students and a booksellers unspoken love for his employee.

Never by Ken Follett – Navigating terrorist attacks, illegal arms trading and smear campaigns, Pauline Green, the country’s first women president, is caught in a complex web of alliances with the most powerful counties that are being orchestrated by the enemy, and only those the most elite skills can stop the inevitable.

Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution by H. W. Brands – A best-selling historian presents a dramatic narrative of the American Revolution that reminds us that before America could win its revolution against Britain, the Patriots had to win a bitter civil war against family, neighbors and friends.

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski – In this personal exploration of feminism, sexuality and power, of men’s treatment of women and women’s rationalizations for accepting that treatment, the acclaimed model and actress presents essays that chronicle moments of her life while investigation culture’s fetishization of girls and female beauty.

~Semanur