For February and March 2020, it appears that I was in the mood for murder. Hmm.
First title this month was Death in Focus by Anne Perry. This author has been recommended to me several times. Just as I did with my reading binge with Louise Penny, I wanted to start at the beginning of one of Anne’s series with Charlotte and Thomas Pitt or William Monk. 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.”
This is a quick-moving story, with 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, except for Elena’s sister, who appears at the beginning of the book and then just disappears.
Elena is not the strong and independent character that I had hoped she would be. She is fairly naive and 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 timeline of this novel, I had hoped for a more daring heroine, with other supporting women characters.
Next was Chase Darkness with Me, by Billy Jensen, co-host of the true crime podcast, Murder Squad with retired investigator Paul Holes.
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 must dig 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 own moniker that stuck). Her research was in-depth and expansive: she dug into police reports and reinterviewed, all while writing narrative about her findings, which became this book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. Through her investigation, she 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, and her writing pulls you in, as gruesome as this case is.
Unfortunately, Michelle dies a sudden death in April 2016, and the book is left unfinished. However, 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 amazing 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 His Garden: Conversations with a Serial Killer, by Anne K. Howard, a far different title than my previous two. Anne, 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.
This weird friendship 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.
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