Book Reviews: My February & March Reads - It's All About Murder

April 01, 2020
It's time for book reviews!  I'm actually combining February and March into this review, including those books I read about murder.  Hmm. I wonder why I was fixated on that for the last couple of months? The virus quarantine hadn't even started yet!

Anne Perry is an author who has been recommended to me several times and has been on my "want to read" list. As I did with Louise Penny, I wanted to go to the beginning of one of Anne's series such as Charlotte and Thomas Pitt or William Monk and start from the beginning. However, she has written so many books in those series, it was a list far too intimidating to start either one. While doing my research on the Libby library app, I came across this new release from Anne and the start of a new character series, Elena Standish. Goodreads describes it: "an all-new mystery series set in pre-World War II Europe, where an intrepid young photographer carries her imperiled lover's final, urgent message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power."  Enjoying fiction set in this time period, I grabbed it. 

This is a reasonably quick-moving story, and it includes a twist at the end that, for me, is an essential ingredient in excellent murder-mystery fiction. The different characters and their parts in the story came together smoothly, with the exception of Elena's sister, who appears at the beginning of the book and then just disappears. 

Elena, in my opinion, is not as strong and independent character that I had hoped she would be. She is fairly naive and somewhat dependent on men to assist her as she travels to deliver her crucial message. While that type of plot may fall in line with the time, as a recently released novel, I hoped for a more daring heroine, with other supporting women characters.  

In January, I subscribed to a handful of true crime podcasts, one of them called "Murder Squad."  With hosts investigative journalist Billy Jensen and retired investigator Paul Holes, they discuss unsolved murders and missing person cases. I recommend it to true-crime junkies. 

In his first book, Billy explains how he went from writing about unsolved murders to using his skills to help investigations after the police were at a roadblock. His best weapon? Social media. In some cases, Billy dug deep to find answers, using the power of social media and its community to find clues that law enforcement didn't see. After reading this book, you may be enticed to do your own desk-jockey investigating cold cases.

Billy's friend, Michelle McNamara, another true-crime journalist, was on an investigative journey of her own -- finding the identity of the Golden State Killer. Her research was in-depth: she dug into police reports, reinterviewed witnesses, and eventually became friends with investigators tasked to the gruesome unsolved murders attributed to the serial killer. One of those investigators? Paul Holes, the retired investigator now on the Murder Squad podcast with Billy Jensen. 

The book is intriguing - she writes as she investigates, and her writing pulls you into the story. Unfortunately, due to her sudden death, her book was unfinished. Billy Jensen and Michelle's researcher, Paul Haynes, worked together to construct the rest of her book for publication using her notes and masses of other information Michelle collected.  They did an incredible job tackling that puzzle, adding the incredible final act that she would not be alive to witness.

While the book is a fantastic read, it is a shame that Michelle could not finish the book. While Billy and Paul did a commendable job, they could not copy the style of narrative that Michelle wrote so wonderfully. As you read, there are notations where Billy and Paul did the writing, but it reads more fact-based without the same feeling as Michelle's. Nonetheless, it's a captivating book I can certainly recommend.  

Another true-crime book recommended on Kindle Unlimited was "In His Garden," which is far different than the previous two books. Anne Howard, a practicing lawyer, interviews serial killer William Devin Howell (while in prison for one of his murders) for this book. Through visits, letters, and phone calls with Howell, she connects the background and timeline of his killings, and the reason he buried his victims in the place that he did. It was only after the last case against him was over that he finally told Anne, and only Anne, the complete details of his killings.  

Anne's weird friendship with Howell was the reason that Howell came to trust Anne instead of the media for his story. Anne handles herself well with Howell, and because of her profession, she certainly knows the thinking and manipulation of these types of killers.  

If you like true-crime, then one of these books may just be for you. 

Maybe not read it at night. 


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1 comment:

  1. I am way too sensitive and suggestible for murder mysteries! But those you reviewed do sound well-written.


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