Back in the 70's my parents had a book about the Zodiac Killer on their shelves. Being a curious kid I picked it up, and man, did it scar me. I had niBack in the 70's my parents had a book about the Zodiac Killer on their shelves. Being a curious kid I picked it up, and man, did it scar me. I had nightmares for weeks and the worst part of all was that he was never caught. Graphic descriptions of horrific murders embedded into my psyche and I remembered the murders years later when I saw Gary L. Stewarts book claiming his birth father was non other than Zodiac himself.
Remembering how thoroughly messed up the Zodiac saga left me, it was with quite a bit of interest that I picked this book up. Gary Stewart was abandoned by his father when he was in infant. In adulthood he was contacted by his birth mother. The first half of the book is a lot of Gary's extensive family history both of his adopted and birth families.
The second part of the book chronicles Gary's attempts to prove that the Zodiac killer was really his birth father Earl Van Best Jr. After meeting his birth mother Judy, Gary is given enough information to allow him to obtain a booking photo of his birth father. Shortly after receiving the picture of his father, he was watching an A&E special about the Zodiac Killer and boom, it hits him, his father looked exactly like the sketch on the wanted poster for Zodiac. For the rest of the book he tries to present proof for his theory. How much you enjoy this book will probably be tied to how much you buy Gary's story. On his side, his father's picture does look like a dead ringer for the Zodiac composite sketch and both the father and Zodiac have undeniably similar handwriting. I think he does an especially good job of connecting certain interests of his fathers with references made in the Zodiac letters. Where he starts to lose me is the part about a supposed police cover up because his birth mother was married to a police officer at one point. I want to see facts not conspiracy theories. It was because of this supposed cover up that Gary's DNA was never tested by the police and compared to the known sample of Zodiac. DNA testing is so common now, you can even buy a kit at Walgreens to mail out. I don't know why the publisher wouldn't offer to pay for the test to put the matter to rest once and all before the publication of the book. In any case it cannot be denied that Gary has some interesting circumstantial evidence to make you go hummmm. His father seemed to be in some of the right places at the right times. It just kind of bothered me how the authors wrote the book as if Earl Van Best Jr. committed the Zodiac murders definitively. Gary's squabbles with birth mother Judy also made for some uncomfortable reading. I don't think the adoption reunion went as smoothly as either had hoped.
In the end, the lack of absolute proof proved distracting to me. If you read the Wikipedia page there is a long list of people who claim to know the true identity of Zodiac and Gary Stewart is just the latest. Even if you don't believe Gary's story, it still proved fascinating to me. ...more
It started out as an interesting enough 1930's true crime story but it stalled out about half way through. The primary story is about Bob Irwin, a gifIt started out as an interesting enough 1930's true crime story but it stalled out about half way through. The primary story is about Bob Irwin, a gifted, mentally ill artist who murdered three people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bob's story wasn't enough to fill a book so it is padded with stories of other crimes that occurred at the time as well as general observations about life in the 1930's. I enjoyed the filler stuff and the other crimes were ones I had never heard of but the main focus of the book grew thin after awhile. The murder that took place was a very sad story but there isn't all that much to say about it. It didn't even require in depth detective work because Bob was so mentally ill that he turned himself in for the reward money. This was an okay enough book but it never reached the high bar set by my all time favorite historical crime book, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The way Larson was able to capture the ambience of World's Fair and set it against the back drop of a truly chilling murder was captivating. I think the author was going for a similar effect here using a New York neighborhood in the 1930's but ultimately the story failed to hold my interest for very long....more
Shannan Gilbert goes out on an escort call to a remote part of Long Island. While she is inside the house something goes wrong and she emerges hysteriShannan Gilbert goes out on an escort call to a remote part of Long Island. While she is inside the house something goes wrong and she emerges hysterical and runs off into the night never to be seen again. The search for her leads to the discovery that some one has been using Gilgo beach as a dumping ground for bodies. Who that may be is still yet to be determined.
This book chronicles the lives of the known women whose bodies were discovered during the search for Shannan Gilbert. Maureen was a struggling single mom who couldn't get a job. Melissa was a talented hair dresser. Megan was a single mom who was raised by her grandmother. Amber was a drug addict led astray by her big sister Kim. The thing that they all had in common was that when they were down and out they turned to Craig's List to sell their bodies. Law enforcement saw them as throw aways but the author humanizes them as real people who were in impossible situations. They were women who had families and children and they were doing what they had to in order to survive. For some that meant providing for a child, feeding a drug habit, or buying a birthday gift for a mother. Unfortunately their risky lifestyle made them easy prey for the person who took each of their lives.
Usually I won't pick up a true crime book where the killer has not been apprehended. There is just too much conjecture and it usually feels like someone rushed a book out just to make money on a tragedy. This book is an exception. It does not linger on who the killer could be except to mention Dr Hackett who inserted himself into the story. If the police have a profile or an idea of who the killer could be the information is not given here. Even the fact that the killer used Melissa's own cell phone to call and taunt her little sister Amanda only gets the briefest mention. Instead the book focuses on the girls and their families. And what families they were. From the almost heroic Missy who works tirelessly on behalf of her murdered sister Maureen to the unstable Mari who is Shannen Gilbert's mother. The families ran the gamut from helpful to self destructive. The only thing they had in common were all were grieving. The pain that comes through makes you sympathetic to some pretty unlikeable people. From the day they were born some of the girls never had a chance simply because of the family they were born into. Other girls had loving support but they were too head strong to go home. Who killed them is still a mystery but that they were killed was not very surprising. They were dying long before they met up with the man who ended their lives. The question to ask now is what could have been to help them. Nobody should be killed for engaging in the oldest profession in the world but as long as they are forced to operate in the fringes there will be more long island serial killers waiting to prey on them. I hope the other bodies can be identified especially the one of the toddler who was found along with it's mother. Someone needs to be brought to justice but even more than that young women on the streets of one of the wealthiest and most industrialized cities in the world should be able to find help when they need it. I am thinking in particular of Melissa's friend and fellow prostitute who is trying to change her life but is kept of school because she lacks a birth certificate. People who live in the shadows can easily disappear so thank you Robert Kolker for being a light.
I was waiting for my daughter in the library one day and this book caught my eye. I started it while waiting for her because I had vaguely rememberedI was waiting for my daughter in the library one day and this book caught my eye. I started it while waiting for her because I had vaguely remembered hearing something about the case. The book is by Lois Duncan, a very famous author whose daughter was murdered when she was eighteen. How you feel about the book probably depends on how you feel about past lives and psychics. This was kind of a frustrating book to read. The initial pages hook you in and then there is page after page of psychic mumbo jumbo that from an objective point makes no sense. Seriously, you could apply it to anything. Poor Lois spends many more pages hashing it out with her family in an effort to try to make sense of it. The murder happened over twenty years ago when forensics weren't what they are now and the police had no leads that panned out. My not caring for the book has nothing to do with my feelings for Lois herself. She has my utmost empathy. If something like that happened to my daughter I would entertain every crack pot too. However you cannot avoid the fact that if the psychics had something the case would have been solved. The story is a real travel back in time. Lois actually uses a phone book to try to find witnesses. Even with the internet I have not been able to find any progress that has been made in the case which leads to the other reason I felt frustrated. There is no satisfying end to the story. It is beyond awful having your daughter murdered and double that when you can't get justice. I really hope her family gets their answer someday. Very sad indeed....more
I almost didn't pick this up due to the rather unfortunate cover that creeps me out and the sensationalized title. In spite of the disturbing cover II almost didn't pick this up due to the rather unfortunate cover that creeps me out and the sensationalized title. In spite of the disturbing cover I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading this book. It is the perfect marriage of history and true crime. The book is full of stories that mimic the crimes we are all so familiar with today but the catch is that happened a long time ago and have largely been forgotten by the public. Today when something sensational happens in the news the internet spreads it like wildfire and we can watch the trials on TV but back when these crimes occurred they were reported in the paper and then largely forgotten. While some cases caught the public's attention and are still well known today such as Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper, the cases presented in this book have become so obscure that I hadn't heard of any of them. I always tend to think of people who lived a hundred years to have more manners and be a it more refined than the people of today. Turns out they had their share of money hungry crazies too. The wheels of justice seemed to turn faster in the past and most of the murderers recounted in this book met their fate at the end of a hangman's noose. It was particularly interesting to read how the crimes of the past were solved without the benefit of the forensics and DNA techniques of today. ...more
I have been fascinated by the idea of a murder occurring on a train ever since Murder on the Orient Express. Being a true crime buff, because truth isI have been fascinated by the idea of a murder occurring on a train ever since Murder on the Orient Express. Being a true crime buff, because truth is often stranger than fiction, and also a fan of Victorian London, I thought this would be right up my alley. In truth it was very dry, like week old toast dry. Not even butter and jelly could have saved it.
The novel relates the true tale of poor Mr. Briggs. One night while heading home on a train he never reaches his destination. All that is left behind is a hat, not his, and his bloody railway car. He is soon located but is mortally wounded and unable to describe his assailant. Through some dogged detective work and circumstantial evidence a likely suspect is found but he is able to flee before the net is closed. The chase is on and the book goes on to lay out the facts of the case.
While some interesting facts were presented, the author repeated herself a lot. It was clear from the copious notes in the back that the author did her research but the detectives conclusions were repeated in the trial portion of the book too closely. In addition the book suffered from the case itself not being very interesting. As far as I could make out it seemed that Mr. Briggs was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The motive for the crime was rather murky and I don't think fully established. If the killer had been tried today any lawyer worth his salt would have gotten the defendant off based on the case as it was presented here. Since there wasn't any forensic evidence tested like it would be today, the true guilt of the person who murdered Mr. Briggs can never fully be determined which is a draw back to the book.
This kind of true crime historical novel is the type that author Erik Larson does so well. I just don't think there was enough of a story here for a whole novel and the additional information added in for padding was not interesting enough for anything but a brief skimming over or putting you to sleep. ...more
Adam Walsh, Polly Klass, Megan Kanka, Amber Hagerman, names that will strike terror into any parents heart. Names that when heard make you hold your kAdam Walsh, Polly Klass, Megan Kanka, Amber Hagerman, names that will strike terror into any parents heart. Names that when heard make you hold your kids closer and look at strangers harder. Names that now equal unbelievable heartache. Before those children though there was Etan Patz. Etan would have been only 6 months older than me had he lived. I grew up hearing the story of his abduction. When a basement of a former friend was recently dug up to search for his body I hoped that at last the case would be solved for his parents. Sadly it was not to be be and apparently the one person who does know what happened is too mentally ill or evil to tell.
This book does an excellent job detailing the abduction and aftermath of Etan Patz from his NY Soho neighborhood in the 70's. Having grown up in the 70's there was so much I could identify with this story. There were also many painful moments that made this book at times difficult to read. When I got to the passage where Reve Walsh the mother of Adam is sitting at a table with Julie Patz, Etan's mom and she gets the call that her little boy's body has been found, it was so emotionally written that I had to put the book down. Equally heartbreaking is the picture Stan Patz, Etan's dad sends twice a year to the man he believes killed his son. On it are the words what did you do to my little boy?
Thanks to Julie and Stan Patz and all of the parents of the murdered children listed above, the kids of today are safer. There are now alerts, and centers, and all kinds of help that were not available when those children were taken. I recently read a statistic that said 99% of abducted children are found and returned. Sadly that does nothing for the Patz's and wish with all my heart that they could have a final resolution to their case. John Ramsey, Jon Benet's father said in his book that as awful as having his daughter murdered was at least he found her. Even he couldn't imagine the anguish of never knowing where your child's final resting place is.
This author did justice to Etan's story. It was clear that she was very emotionally involved in the case. This book is transcended from a quickly crafted true crime story written for thrills into something that is closer to literature like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. It's the story of how an urban oasis can go to hell in the span of the time it takes one child to walk a block to the school bus. The real life heroes and villian in this story are so richly portrayed that you will keep thinking of Etan's story long after you have finished the last page....more
Living in Florida we are subjected to news coverage every day on this story. If you are intimately familiar with the case then there isn't any new infLiving in Florida we are subjected to news coverage every day on this story. If you are intimately familiar with the case then there isn't any new information here. Ashton's strength in telling the story is revealing what was going on within the prosecution during the trial. I think he woefully underestimated his power over the jury and his ability to get them to see things his way and his frustration with them shows in several unflattering comments about them. The things that mystified me about the case are still unresolved in my mind. How could Cindy buy Casey's lies for so long. According to Ashton she did not want to push Casey to hard for fear she would cut off all contact between Cindy and Casey. Besides she had been believing her bull stories for years by that point. Or how did someone who was described by all to be a loving mother and fond of her daughter all of a sudden one day decide to kill her. That explanation was a little harder to swallow. Ashton lays out his theory of exactly how the murder went down but he never comes out and says how high school drop out Casey figured out how to make chloroform. I can also not visualize her putting the duct tape over Caylee's mouth, I don't know why but I just can't. Casey's boyfriend knew about Caylee and seemed to care about her so it was not like she had to kill her to keep the relationship. Still Aston's book makes a very convincing case for Casey being responsible for Caylee's death even as some loose ends are left dangling. The Anthony's interview with Dr. Phil was far more revealing into their dynamics than this book was. At one point George Anthony admits to Phil that he believed that Caylee's body was in the trunk of Casey's car. Cindy looks over at him and expresses surprise. Really? she said to him. You never expressed to me that. Cindy is always in complete denial while George tries to make peace with losing both his daughter and granddaughter. George Anthony said it best at the end of the interview. When Casey Anthony walked out as a free person from the courtroom, the truth went with her and now no one will ever really know what happened to Caylee. So sad for everyone involved....more
What an incredibly sad story both for the three young victims and for the West Memphis 3. Anyone who reads this book can't help but smack their head iWhat an incredibly sad story both for the three young victims and for the West Memphis 3. Anyone who reads this book can't help but smack their head in wonderment as three young men are convicted on NO evidence. The West Memphis Three were victims of a an overzealous police force and prosecution who crafted the story and then tried to make the "evidence" fit it. Think it doesn't happen all the time, just ask Amanda Knox who served 4 years for the murder of her roommate in Italy in a case that has more than a few echos of this one. If it wasn't for the Paradise Lost documentary film makers, three innocent men, one on death row, would still be incarcerated. This book does an excellent job of dissecting the lack of evidence against The West Memphis 3. If there is a fault with this book it is only that it was written before their release so it feels like the story is unfinished. An updated chapter would greatly enhance the book. In any case for more information readers can turn to Damien Echols own words in his recently written memoir, Life After Death which chronicles the efforts that took place on his behalf and which eventually freed him. I believe similar miscarriages of justice occur all of the time and we need to seriously look at abolishing capital punishment....more
This is a book containing a brief snapshot, most only one or two pages, of some of the most famous crimes in American history. There is no in depth coThis is a book containing a brief snapshot, most only one or two pages, of some of the most famous crimes in American history. There is no in depth coverage of the crimes. For instance the case of the murder of Nicole Simpson's murder is two pages and there must be twenty plus full length books written on that case alone. Instead the strength of the book is what Life magazine does so well, the pictures. The photographs are beautifully done as well as thought provoking. In the OJ case, there is a picture of Nicole and OJ that was taken five years before they were ever married. They both look so beautiful and in love that is hard to believe from looking at the photo how the love story would end. Another memorable photo is one taken of Ted Bundy from the floor looking up into his face. It was just how his victims would have seen him as he was over them killing them. Chilling. The few crime scenes that are presented here are not gory at all and are as tastefully presented as possible. Murder is not the only crime covered here, robbery such as the one that took place at the Gardner art museum also is presented. This is a fun book to look through on an afternoon for the photos alone but for the already crime initiated there will be no new surprises....more
This book is a collection of Dominick Dunne's articles for Vanity Fair concerning true crimes. Unfortunately they are the ones that have already beenThis book is a collection of Dominick Dunne's articles for Vanity Fair concerning true crimes. Unfortunately they are the ones that have already been hashed and rehashed to death (no pun intended). I always liked Mr. Dunne. I have enjoyed his appearances on T.V. as well as the book the Two Mrs. Grenvilles. The best story in the whole collection is the first one where he recounts the murder of his daughter, the actress Dominique Dunne, and subsequent trial of her killer John Sweeney. It is told from the perspective that only a father's rage and despair can provide. It is no wonder then that Dominick Dunne became such a friend to crime victims families. His hatred of O.J. comes from the same place as his hatred of his own daughters killer, the total revulsion for a man who would kill a woman he supposedly loved. In this book the stories of Claus Von Bulow, the Menendenez brothers, O.J. Simpson, and Michael Skakel are told from a not unbiased point of view. Dominick Dunne ran in the same circle as many of the people who knew these killers personally and he is not afraid to name names and reveal his insider knowledge of the cases. What surprised me the most was how many ways murderers were connected to other murderers. For instance Clause Von Bulow, before marrying Sunny, had an affair with Anne Woodward after she murdered her husband and whose story was the basis of Dunne's book the Two Mrs. Grenvilles. The Menendez brother's had many coincidental connections to O.J. Simpson as well. The rich apparently move in the same small circles. Fascinating stuff. The only part that really dragged for me were all of the chapters dedicated to the O.J. case. At the time this book was published it was probably shocking stuff but now from the perspective of ten years later the chapters drag on too long. If you don't know O.J. did it by now you have my sympathy. Everyone and anyone who was connected to the case has written a book, I think even Nicole's dog, Kato has one. If for some reason you should find yourself still interested in the case there is really only one book you need to read by O.J. Simpson. Not that ridiculous I Want to Tell you, the one where he lays out his full confession, (if) I Did It! which contains a forward by guess who, Dominick Dunne! The Martha Moxley murder is also discussed here and Dunne reveals how he was instrumental in bringing Michael Skakel to justice through his thinly veiled recounting of the crime in A Season in Purgatory. Who was his partner in exposing the killer?, none other than Mark Fuhrman of O.J. Simpson trial fame. It's really a small world after all. Even though the crimes in this book are old, very old news, it is still worth reading just to experience Dominick Dunnes distinctive voice again. I was very sad to hear of his passing but I know Dominique was waiting in heaven for him with a well done dad....more
This book may be out of print now and hard to find but it is worth it to find a copy. I had to get mine from a private seller at Amazon. I read a lotThis book may be out of print now and hard to find but it is worth it to find a copy. I had to get mine from a private seller at Amazon. I read a lot of true crime but this book is so much more than that. It is about family dynamics, marriage, home maker vs career mom, cheating, divorce, and so much more.
The gist of the story is that Betty made her family her whole life. She put her husband through school and went about being the best mother she could be. Betty can be kind of a shrew but she goes through the years assuming all is well in her blessed life in La Jolla. One day her husband gets a new office assistant and decides that he doesn't want to be married anymore. Betty loses her mind and does a lot of unseemly things as does her husband and the new woman who has replaced her as Mrs. Broderick. Eventually things boil over and the result is Betty shoots the newly married couple as they sleep. The story of the psychological unraveling of the main characters is fascinating.
There are no sympathetic innocent people in the story except for maybe the kids. As the divorce dragged on, they became manipulators themselves. Bella Stumbo does an excellent job of being even handed in her storytelling. Her writing elevates this to a work of literature rather than another run of the mill true crime story. I would put this book up there with In Cold Blood. This book should serve as a cautionary tale for women who expect their husband and children to be their whole lives. Anyone who is dissatisfied with their mate and contemplating divorce should read this book to see just how bad things could get....more
As I am from South Florida, I am very familiar with this case. To this day John Walsh still features South Florida often in his America's most WantedAs I am from South Florida, I am very familiar with this case. To this day John Walsh still features South Florida often in his America's most Wanted TV Show, which as of the last episode, has now been canceled. This book is best read after Tears of Rage, the book where John Walsh details the case from his own point of view. He gave his blessing to this book which details what everyone has since learned, the Hollywood Police Department was incompetent. It is a testament to John Walsh that he has used his families pain to improve missing children alerts and brought other children home to their families. Sadly there will never be true justice in a court of law for Adam but this book at least identifies who John Walsh himself believes to be the murderer of his son. God bless the Walsh family....more
I was expecting to love this book a little more that I did. I love true crime and this period of history in New York City as recanted in the excellentI was expecting to love this book a little more that I did. I love true crime and this period of history in New York City as recanted in the excellent Poisoner's handbook but it was a tad dry and repetitive in places. The murder consists of a run of the mill love triangle consisting of Augusta Nack,a thoroughly distasteful woman and her two lovers, Martin Thorn and murder victim William Guldensuppe. The murder tale is set against the backdrop of the rivalry between the two great newspapers of the day, William Randolph Hearst's The World and Joseph Pulitzer's The Journal. In an effort to get the scoop they end up creating the news. One cannot help but think of the Casey Anthony trial and the circus surrounding it while reading this book. People should know that if they commit a murder and it catches the public's fancy, then they will be investigated not only by law enforcement but by the media as well and to no end. I don't know if the murder that was examined here can really be called "the murder of the century" but none the less it was an interesting look at what happens when media and murder intersect....more
This is not my favorite Ann Rule book, that would be Small Sacrifices. This book was rather strange for me because this is the first one that she wrotThis is not my favorite Ann Rule book, that would be Small Sacrifices. This book was rather strange for me because this is the first one that she wrote that I can remember where the killer is not in jail when the book is written. In fact no killer is identified at all though several suspects are explored. The true story revolves around a young former state trooper named Ronda Reynolds who is rather unlucky in love. When she is thirty three and newly married to and on the verge of divorce with husband number two, she is found dead of a bullet wound to the head in her closet. She was planning on leaving her two timing husband who was sleeping with his ex, for good the next day. Ronda's death was initially ruled a suicide and the book is about her mother's effort to get the ruling changed to homicide. Along the way Barb, Ronda's mother picks up many supporters, one of whom is the author Ann Rule. After ten long years Barb is finally able to get a jury to rule Ronda's death a homicide but who is the murderer? Is it soon to be ex husband number two Ron Reynolds, one of his awful teenage male children, or Ron's ex wife who he was still sleeping with Katie? We don't know but Ann Rule explorers all of these possible suspects. Ann Rule asks for tips in this case on her website and Ronda's mother maintains a website as well. My main complaint about the book is that it feels like it was written before the story was finished and in actuality it may never be. Ann Rule is not just telling the story, she is trying to make it at the same time. I missed all of psychological dissection of the killer that is present in all of her other full length books. I would still recommend this book and I hope Ronda's killer is one day found and brought to justice....more