Categories
Adventure audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Dark Horse (ALC Review) by Gregg Hurwitz

I have to say that as someone who can’t always read a lot of pages due to my eye problems and resulting headaches, that audiobooks are a lifesaver.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for reaching out to offer my first Advanced Listening Copy! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Scott Brick narrate Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz. I have not read or listened to anything else in this series of books, and while I didn’t feel lost at all, I do think a bit of knowledge of the background characters and events might add to overall enjoyment.

***on that note – I don’t know how long it is going to last but the first two books in the series are free to read/listen with kindle unlimited at the time that I wrote this post!!

AUDIO-Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Horse
  • Series: Orphan X, #7
  • Author: Gregg Hurwitz
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Publisher & Release: Macmillan Audio (Minotaur Books) 02/08/22
  • Length: 14h30m (432 pages)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of vigilante justice, spy thrillers, action novels, and a bit of snarky banter

Here is the synopsis:

Gregg Hurwitz’s New York Times bestselling series returns when Orphan X faces his most challenging mission ever in Dark Horse.

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission–The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn’t interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area–supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated–a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man–no matter how just the cause.

So I want to focus more on the audio, since I am reviewing an ALC! Scott Brick is probably, as far as I know, one of the most prodigious narrators out there, I mean he read the Foundation universe by Asimov, Dune, at least some of the Lee Child books, some Erik Larsson, among other things.. and I think this is another amazing performance by him.

He has to voice cartel drug leaders, sicarios, Evan Smoak of course, teenage girls, and pretty much everything in between, and I don’t think he faltered once.  My favorite character was the weapon aficionado named Tommy –  the way Brick had him saying “MonGOlian CLLUSter-forNIcation” had he cracking up.  I think he’s a master, really.

About the book itself – so as I said I have not read any of the Orphan X books, but Hurwitz does a good job recapping who is who and bringing first time readers up on current events.  Obviously there is a bit of a storyline from book to book but it can be read as a standalone for sure.

There was good action throughout the book, good pacing, and a surprising amount of introspection from various characters as well.  I liked Smoak as a main character, the OCD was something a little different and I loved what he did at the end of the book.  Josephine was his little found-family-co-orphan and computer hacker. I liked her too. I want to go back and find the rest of her story, and that of her dog…named Dog!  It seemed like Tommy the weapons guy was featured in the prior book as well so I do definitely want to go back and read the series.

There are many things I could quote too to show the humor included throughout the book, but I will wait until a finished copy is out.  I did like the themes here of starting to trust people, self reflection, honesty with peers, and the whole debate of the morally gray, vs just evil drug lord.  The comparison of their parenting and values was actually pretty interesting and made Evan think about his own life quite a bit.

Anyway – I would definitely recommend this audiobook, the book itself, and potentially the series for fans of vigilante type novels, action books, with hints of romance and humor and found family elements as well.  It was overall good narration and good writing!

…and … there is a lion

 

Categories
audiobooks Crime Fiction Thrillers

Mr. Mercedes (Book Thoughts & Audio) by Stephen King

I am finally adding King into my backlog book rotation.  I find it utterly embarrassing, as a reader, that I haven’t read many of his books.  I thought they were all horror but he has branched out into many other genres including serial killers, thrillers, and cops, which is where Mr. Mercedes falls in.

I would also listen to anything Will Patton narrates, including the Bible, dictionary, or cereal box, although he truly delivers another WOW performance in the audiobook

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mr. Mercedes
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2014
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: I am starting to think King is a must read author e

Here is the synopsis:

WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
#1 New York Times bestseller! In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable

I always love the “unlikely heroes” theme and this book just nailed it so hard.  Bill Hodges is one level of personal hell away from eating his father’s gun when the killer that got away decided to contact him.

Teaming up with his computer savvy lawn trimmer, Jerome, and eventually the psychologically challenged cousin of a victim, Bill goes off the legal path to nail the bastard.

What a ride!  The chapters from the killers point of view were some mix of disturbing, funny, and just WRONG.  He was not the most interesting serial killer, but sometimes I think it’s more about the circumstances and delivery than creating anything other than a deeply traumatized, crazy dude bent on inflicting harm.  Not to say Hartsfield isn’t interesting but I certainly wasn’t rooting for him, he just seemed predictable.

Either predictable or Hodges was just that good!  Their dynamic over the chat room communications was fun to read

Not a book for the faint of heart or easily upset, but totally worth it.  Am I going to hell for laughing at the dog having the only Black name in Jerome’s family? Maybe, but I loved the family dynamic and also the found family one.  Give me ALL the unlikely allies stories

As with the other King books, Mr Mercedes is extremely well written as well. I like how he really gets into both the det-ret and the killer’s heads. I also love how Will Patton brings out all the inflections and nuances of the story in the audio. Whatever tone the author is going for, Patton amplifies it to perfection. I won’t hesitate to recommend anything he narrates, and I am thanking whoever pushed for the Patton and King combination because it’s unbelievably good.

All things considered: yes there is violence, gore, racism, and incest, but if you want a really memorable story I feel like these things can become part of a well done plot. I like my thrillers memorable and ya don’t get that when all the hard things are sugar coated

All the stars for this first installment of the Bill Hodges Trilogy

A brief note on the audio: Narrated by Will Patton, an Audie award finalist for this performance, released in 2014 by Simon & Schuster audio. 14 hours and change,

Categories
audiobooks Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

It’s nonfiction November, and I have had this e-book on my digital shelf forever! Between the time of year and a friend’s recommendation, I finally read it. 

Quick verdict: a bit hard to follow at times, but I feel like everyone should be aware of this part of  indigenous history and the crimes involved

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
  • Author: David Grann
  • Publisher & Release: Doubleday, April 2017
  • Length: 352 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨

Here is the description:

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
      Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
      In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 
      In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating

So Killers is an extremely interesting story with an investigative journalism and true crime feel.  i feel like if I hadn’t switched to the audiobook, parts of it would have been drawn out and slower to read, especially the third section.

The book is about the Osage and their exploitation, murders, and lack of justice during the 1910’s thru 1930s. After the tribe moved to a rocky, hard to farm area following the Louisiana Purchase and further movement west, prospectors struck liquid gold and the tribe became rich on oil. After that, they were prime targets of greedy men and women all over the country. Then the murders started.

Split into three sections, the first about the Osage and the victims, centered around one lady and her family in particular. The second section was about the investigation into the murders and the eventual FBI involvement, and the third from today’s perspective about the author’s research and viewing of the area.  He dropped in and saw how depressed the tribal lands looked in present time, with some descendants still looking for answers about the murders. 

I think it’s an important and brutal part of history to be aware of, but honestly wasn’t a fan of the telling. I read parts 1 and 3 and listened to Will Patton 🖤 narrate the second. The whole book felt loosely strung together and it was impossible to keep track of so many names; I felt lost through most of it.  There were sooo many names and descriptions in part one, and eventually I told myself that the names are less important than the history in general, but this ruined some of the true crime, whodunit part of the book for me

That said, there is also a lot of good, interesting, and exciting information and many exciting stories provided about the events and murders, of both the tribal members and of those investigating.  Anyone too close to the source usually ended up dead as well.  I couldn’t believe how much corruption and greed there was, for some reason I thought a lot of that outlaw justice and exploitation was over by the 1920s, but I was very very very wrong.

One of my favorite facts was about all the Sherlockian private eyes that were trying to investigate – this was funny only in that I never knew there were pipe smoking detectives trying to play Sherlock back in the early 1900s. I cringed when someone did a lobotomy and poked a murdered victim’s brain with a stick.

What I will carry forward is the knowledge that these injustices happened, and that justice for these people was hard fought, inconclusive, and fleeting at best.

Overall: read or listen to it for sure if you have interest in Native American, American history, true crime, history of law enforcement

** a quick note on the audio: published in 2017 by Random House Audio, 9 hours and 7 minutes long.  Narrators are Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, Danny Campbell.  I will obviously listen to anything that Will Patton reads, I feel like he could make a cereal box interesting.  Each narrator read one section.  Ann Marie Lee was okay, but not amazing, and I think the author should have read Danny Campbell’s section.   If the text is a little dry I would say switch over and give audio a try

Categories
audiobooks Crime Mysteries

Cold Mourning (Audio & Book Review) by Brenda Chapman

I was looking for something like a police procedural, and was drawn to Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman because I recognized the audio narrator as an actress / producer / director who also had a cameo in one of my favorite movies ever – Smoke Signals.

Unfortunately, despite the premise and excitement, Michelle St. John ruined the book for me. I can appreciate her native storytelling cadence but maybe one needs an ear for it? She mostly monotoned with little to no inflection, emotion, voice changes, sentence breaks, and she gasped loudly and frequently. I rarely dnf an audio but it was just too hard to listen to.

About the book:

  • Title: Cold Mourning
  • Series: Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery, #1
  • Author: Brenda Chapman
  • Publisher & Release: Dundurn Press – March, 2014
  • Length: 392 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟✨ for fans of police procedurals and those looking for Indigenous characters.  The Audio might be a good experience to hear a native voice

Audio: approximately 9 hours, narrated by Michelle St. John

Description:

When murder stalks a family over Christmas, Kala Stonechild trusts her intuition to get results.

It’s a week before Christmas when wealthy businessman Tom Underwood disappears into thin air ― with more than enough people wanting him dead.

New police recruit Kala Stonechild, who has left her northern Ontario detachment to join a specialized Ottawa crime unit, is tasked with returning Underwood home in time for the holidays. Stonechild, who is from a First Nations reserve, is a lone wolf who is used to surviving on her wits. Her new boss, Detective Jacques Rouleau, has his hands full controlling her, his team, and an investigation that keeps threatening to go off track.

Old betrayals and complicated family relationships brutally collide when love turns to hate and murder stalks a family.

It could have been residual boredom but the book didn’t quite do it for me either, although the series 100% definitely has potential. Kala Stonechild is a First Nations detective on a reservation in northern Canada, and she moves to Ottawa to try her hand in a major crimes unit. While there she looks for an old friend. I don’t read many books set in Canada either and I did like how the cold climate factored into the story.

The crime & mystery was a decent story, and Kala had to navigate the boy’s club detective force and follow her instincts, despite being picked on and dealing with racism. The major giveaways of the case were much more luck than skill, although I think the point was to introduce Kala and Rouleau more than set them apart as amazing detectives.

They felt more like real people with real failures.

Some story lines were not relevant to the central plot and others were just poorly presented, like it took forever to figure out who Stonechild was searching for in Ottawa, and I never understood the whole Jordan thing back home.

Overall- I would like to read another in the series to see how Chapman improves, and how the detectives get on together

Audio: DNF / 1 star

Book: 3🌟

Categories
Crime Mysteries Suspense

Unholy Murder (Book Review) by Lynda LaPlante

Thank you so much to Bookish First and the publisher for my finished paperback review copy of Unholy Murder!  Thankfully I remember most of the British slang I had to look up whilw reading Judas Horse, so this was a fairly smooth reading experience!

This is my first read in the Tennison series, though I have liked her DS Jack Warr books quite a bit.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Unholy Murder
  • Series: Tennison, #7
  • Author: Lynda LaPlants
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 08/19/21
  • Length: 416 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: Yes for fans of crime drama

Here is the Book Blurb:

A coffin is dug up by builders in the grounds of an historic convent – inside is the body of a young nun.

In a city as old as London, the discovery is hardly surprising. But w hen scratch marks are found on the inside of the coffin lid, Detective Jane Tennison believes she has unearthed a mystery far darker than any she’s investigated before. However, not everyone agrees. Tennison’s superiors dismiss it as an historic cold case, and the Church seems desperate to conceal the facts from the investigation. It’s clear that someone is hiding the truth, and perhaps even the killer. Tennison must pray she can find both – before they are buried forever…

In Unholy Murder, Tennison must lift the lid on the most chilling murder case of her career to date . . .

A coffin is unearthed at a dig site attached to an old convent, and the police are called in case there is a body inside! Has the ground been de consecrated? Who would kill a nun and why? Tennison and DS Boon end up having to solve a murder that must have happened at least 25+ years ago.  I didn’t realize that these books take place in the 80s, once Jane took her typewriter out of a cupboard I kind of went “ohhh so that’s why these guys don’t have cell phones!”

There was a lot of interesting information about the church, sisters vs nuns, convents and burial rites in the book.  Lots of different theories tying into the murder(s), one of which was that the builders were involved. Or was it other nuns? A local priest? The Bishop had done some serious, serious cover ups in the past so the plethora of potential suspects and theories kept it interesting for me.  The church looks real great in this one but it was interesting to see internal politics in play.

Most of the theories had some grain of truth in them too, and LaPlante keeps me turning the pages for sure. It was a good mystery but not so much of a thriller, I think the “crime drama” or mysery genre fits it well. I would have never guessed who either murderer was.

My main issue with the book was that I just really didn’t like Tennison very much. I do wonder if reading the prior books would help connect to her more though.  None of her personal relationships seemed realistic. The book happened over a fairly short period of time and Jane was practically in love with a guy she had just met and shagged one or two times. She is a good investigator but needs to learn to work with the team – it was a little bit satisfying that she had gotten reprimanded for keeping things to herself, and then someone died as a result – like maybe she will learn to trust in the future finally?

I think Barnes, Boon, and Stanley were my favorites, they all had a turnaround related to their jobs and came up big at the end.

Definitely recommend this author for fans of crime dramas, she is a great writer as far as keeping things flowing and interesting

Who is your favorite crime drama author? I think I like British crime dramas more than American ones

Categories
Crime Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Book Review: Satan’s Gold by Michael Ray Ewing

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Michael Ray Ewing for my free copy in exchange for an honest review! It was also super nice that he signed the book!

Normally I am impeccable with these due dates but this arrived on it’s pub date, so I ended up pushing it back a bit.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Satan’s Gold
  • Series: A Tyler Jackson Thriller, #1
  • Author: Michael Ray Ewing
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Canyon Press, 03/10/21
  • Length: 301 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 neutral

The entire financial world is networked, but banks have an Achilles’ heel

An elusive ex-CIA financial analyst known only as Daemon has stolen billions from the Russian Federation, and now he’s determined to plunder the richest prize of all-the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Only one man stands in his way-disgraced former FBI Agent Tyler Jackson, who is destroying all he loves in his feverish attempt to capture Daemon and prevent a worldwide economic collapse.

Jackson has been chasing Daemon for two grueling years. But can Jackson and Dixie, a female hacker wanted for unleashing a deadly computer virus, find Daemon before he makes his next big move?

If you like page-turning suspense and characters who would stop at nothing to achieve their objectives, read Satan’s Gold today.

I don’t think I’m smart enough to enjoy this book. A genius computer/financial hacker basically threatens to shut down America via bankrupting the Federal Reserve, and it’s up to ex FBI agent Jackson and his outlaw team of hackers and retired military to track the terrorist down.

I’m not sure exactly how the guy did it, because computer jargon, but I get that they are all really good at computer hacking and that the FBI and CIA are at odds.  There is a ton of fast paced action in this book and although I read it quickly and enjoyed the fast pace, I just felt this huge disconnect from the book itself.

I think it’s because I don’t understand one word of the computer lingo. I also see that this is a finished copy and honestly the typos are intense, mostly in people’s names…it would be ok for an ARC but all evidence points to this as a finished copy.  The names would change from Ralph to Ralf, Quentin to Quinten, Byrnes to Keynes… Etc… and there were typos by omission.  I will stick to my review policy and dock that star for a poorly edited finished copy.

The other thing is that there are SO many characters, I had to make a character map.  Some of them added something to the book and others just confused me.  I think Jackson, Dixie, Pavak, and O’Connell were a good team to start and hope that moving forward they stick together.

I think this would be a great movie though. I would cast Hugh Jackman and Raphaël Personnaz as Tyler and Alec, respectively.

Great idea for a book overall, but execution and overall presentation felt like it needed work.  I would watch that movie though. Going with a fairly neutral 3🌟


Meet the Author!

(From Amazon): Michael Ray Ewing is the winner of the prestigious Emerging Writers Gateway Contest for best new crime thriller. Satan’s Gold was inspired by his work as a Bell Labs engineer on the United States Federal Reserve’s network, FEDNET. An avid mountain biker and resident of Arizona, Mike writes about people who risk everything for the sake of doing what they know is right.

Image: Michael Ray Ewing, Author
Categories
audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Book Review and Musings: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This week I read another backlist TBR book!  I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo back in college but really didn’t remember it.  What I can remember is talking about the book with my dad and being in complete disbelief that two people can read a book so differently!

So that’s my muse of the day: how do people read books differently, notice different things, focus on totally opposite aspects?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Series: Millennium, #1
  • Author: Stieg Larsson (trans- Reg Keeland
  • Publisher & Release: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, September 2008
  • Length: 465 pg
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes but maybe on audio if the Swedish pronunciations throw you off!

Here is the synopsis:

Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

What a book and mystery!! I liked the format of having two separate storylines, one for Blomkvist and one for Salander – each storyline was vaguely connected, while not necessarily related. Salander’s storyline established her history, personality, and potential, while the other introduced the magazine, plot, characters. Once the storylines merged the book never slowed down!

As a younger person I was so interested in the action and kick-assery, that I couldn’t believe my dad read it and was focusing more on the characters. Throughout the years for some reason Salander was a favorite character study of his, and I can appreciate that a little more now.

After Salander wrapped up her…troubles …for the time being, she was able to progress as a person emotionally as well as professionally and I think she had a great storyline. I don’t think Blomkvist would have gotten the mystery and link about hating women without her. He was the more static character but multifaceted too at least. Henrik also haha I loved that old shark.

Anyway – I think the Swedes have a certain distinct style of writing thrillers and mysteries that also incorporates a little more horror and grotesque than most other cultures. I read The Wolf and the Watchman maybe last year and the absolute horror story involved reminded me of the hatred and violence in this book. Men that hate women would have been a good title to keep😳. This book wasn’t just about a disappearing heiress – there was a corrupt sadist acting as a guardian of state Wards, biblical justifications for brutal torturing and murders in the past, a few romantic subplots, it was really a thriller once it got going. I wasn’t sure if the book wanted to be an investigative thriller or a psychological drama but it can be all of it, right?

Overall: I totally loved it, and I also was really glad for some reason that – now bear with me – anytime a Nazi pops up they are usually the criminal, but while the Nazi in this book was obviously a shithead – he wasn’t one of the main antagonists, more like some crazy old guy.

I had no freaking idea who the real criminal(s) were.

I also listened to a few chapters on audio and think Simon Vance is a great narrator. He took the guesswork out of the pronunciations and did fantastic voices.

My only gripe was literally the last paragraph of the book, why end it on a Misunderstanding? When that device wasn’t used throughout the rest of the book? I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review — Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the free advanced copy of Last Call in exchange for a. Honest review! All opinions are my own!

I am coming to love the true crime genre, except this book reads more like a history/biography.  The author focuses on the victims and the history of, and violence in queer New York City, paying little eventual attention to the trial and investigation of the murderer himself.  On that front I am staying neutral on rating and recommending as a true crime!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Last Call
  • Author: Elon Green
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 3/9/12
  • Genre: true crime, history
  • Length: 260 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 & neutral, check it out if the content sparks interest

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Overall this is not a bad read at all.  I am left to assume that there’s either not a ton of info available on the trial and murderer, his motives or interviews, or that’s just not what the author was primarily getting at. I think the murders themselves were well described and covered as well as the investigation, but the trial and post apprehension of the killer was practically nonexistent so my curiosity is only amplified now.

The odd part is that the book was SO painfully detailed up to that point that the ending felt bizarre.  There are pages and pages on unrelated things like where the victims’ parents’ went to high school, and a whole chapter on a piano player who was not even involved in the killings except as someone that played in the bars and spotted the killer once. I just frankly don’t care about that guy’s time on a cruise ship or where the murder victims parents grew up.  For all those minute details, the trial consisted of about… Heck I don’t know, one or two pages?

The book offers a fairly comprehensive history of certain gay bars and queer violence in New York City, among other towns, but the majority of the book is about the victims more than the crimes.  Some parts of their lives were actually interesting, and other parts, like sex life details and queer metro life such as “subway sammies” made me cringe a little bit as a healthcare worker.

Tracking the history of law enforcement and queer violence was probably where the book shined most.  Some parts seemed to have some organizational issues (for example, one random paragraph mentions another serial killer spotted in a bar, and he was never mentioned again), but the history of the bars and violence, right up through Cuomo Sr and Giuliani were well organized and presented in interesting ways.

The killer was portrayed in the final section of the book with a brief look at his college years and professional career, not in any kind of chronological order.  It doesn’t seem like a huge effort was made to find where he did the killings or even why, as no true motive was established. The only part of the trial consisted of one family member’s statement so I guess it was all based on the victims families?  Where is the detail for this part of the story? I’m guessing sealed court documents or something but this is just not mentioned.

Overall: I know the author wasn’t focused on the killer, but he could have trimmed some of the inane details and had plenty of page space to at least talk about the post apprehension and trial period.

Last but not least: I think it’s time for a good old fashioned @OneReadingNurse medical digression! Right at the end, an interviewee mentions PReP on the last page of the book.  I guess I don’t think about AIDS much in healthcare these days unless it is noted that a patient is HIV or AIDS+, but the piano player from above asserts that the Queer community  assumes undetected HIV is the same thing as uninfected, which seems scary to me. PReP is covered by most insurances and asserts between 74-99% effectiveness based on the goal of use, according to the CDC.   https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html It seems affordable and/but I didn’t realize people even in 2020 are just turning to drugs vs safe sex practices? What about other STDs? I guess that guy’s statement would require more research but it seems like the last thing the author wants readers to think about is how there are still extremely unsafe sexual practices occuring, which is something these people definitely need to be aware of.  I didn’t know it, anyway.

Thank you again to Celadon Books for my copy!!  I am stating neutral on the rating and again say check it out, releasing 3/9, if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Crime Historical Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Review: Germania by Harald Gilbers

Thank you so much to Thomas Dunne Books & St Martin’s Press for the lovely finished copy of Germania in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

I would start by profusely apologizing for my turnover time on this book, reading has been a little bit impossible as my work schedule still averages 4-5 12hr nights a week! The good news is: this is my last back logged book!! Literally all my books now are publishing in February or later! Yay for small victories and let’s hope the pandemic winds down soon so the hospital can go back to normal

Anyway anyway, without further adieu..

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Germania
  • Series: Richard Oppenheimer #1
  • Author: Harald Gilbers (tr. Alexandra Roesch)
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, December 2020
  • Length: 348 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for mystery/investigative/WWII fans!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no other choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.

In Germania, Richard Oppenheimer used to be a detective for the Berlin police, but as a Jew under Hitler he is now forced to work a menial job. One SS agent is stumped when a serial killer starts leaving desecrated bodies in front of WW1 memorials, and he consults (forces) Oppenheimer to help catch the killer. Amidst air raids and bombs and constant fear of death in the rubble of Berlin, Oppenheimer and Vogler try to solve this case.

The setting felt so real as well with rubble strewn streets, frequent rain fall, bombed out buildings, and foreigners from everywhere.  It ties in perfectly with the blackouts, oppressive and depressing overall atmosphere of the book.

So much danger, whether from the constant air strikes, Hitler’s regime, or a truly brutal killer, makes this a quietly exciting mystery.  Oppenheimer is clever and an observant investigator, so many pages are spent as he puzzles out the case to his new boss, Vogler.   Some thoroughly brutal descriptions of desecration were enough to really give me the chills about this killer.

I liked the characters too, Richard knows that his life is hanging by a thread but he still feels the thrill of being back on the case.  He is an inherently good person.  I think Vogler is too, he would never admit it but he sticks his neck out for Oppenheimer quite a bit and has at least a small streak of humanity.  I would have liked a little more from the killer – they had a few paragraphs here and there but it was hard to tell when he was the one being featured, and the glimpses were small! I think he had a good and believable arc to insanity though.

As he is investigating, Oppenheimer learns that he is not being told all the facts.  That says, he does a phenomenal job with what he is given.  It’s definitely more of a literary investigative mystery than a thriller, although some parts are exciting.  I don’t know much about German history at all so it was also interesting to read about landmarks, architecture, and some of Hitler’s less than popular Aryan breeding and spy schemes.

It is also my first German translated book.  I don’t think a lot of German words and phrases translate well, which created some blocky language and curious phrases at times, but not enough to affect enjoyment.  Gilbers is a history proficient theater writer, so I felt like I was getting an accurate portrayal of Nazi politics as well as a dramatic and depressing atmosphere.

I definitely couldn’t figure out why the party cared so much about one murderer… But… You’ll find out why when you read it!

I took the 1.5 stars off for the book being a little anticlimactic – I think Oppenheimer should have been more present during the criminal apprehensions, but his role was only to figure out who did it. Also without knowing the German history I had to look up quite a few abbreviations, and lord knows that German words are a mouthful to pronounce. All the points for setting and atmosphere though and for the characters.

I think this is a wonderfully human mystery and would recommend to anyone interested!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Book Review: Trial by Fire by Scott James

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Trial by Fire in exchange for an honest review and feature!  All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Trial by Fire
  • Author: Scott James
  • Genre: Nonfiction, true crime
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, October 2020
  • Length: 384 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for those interested!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In only 90 seconds, a fire in the Station nightclub killed 100 people and injured hundreds more. It would take nearly 20 years to find out why—and who was really at fault.

All it took for a hundred people to die during a show by the hair metal band Great White was a sudden burst from two giant sparklers that ignited the acoustical foam lining the Station nightclub. But who was at fault? And who would pay? This being Rhode Island, the two questions wouldn’t necessarily have the same answer.

Within 24 hours the governor of Rhode Island and the local police commissioner were calling for criminal charges, although the investigation had barely begun, no real evidence had been gathered, and many of the victims hadn’t been identified. Though many parties could be held responsible, fingers pointed quickly at the two brothers who owned the club. But were they really to blame? Bestselling author and three-time Emmy Award-winning reporter Scott James investigates all the central figures, including the band’s manager and lead singer, the fire inspector, the maker of the acoustical foam, as well as the brothers. Drawing on firsthand accounts, interviews with many involved, and court documents, James explores the rush to judgment about what happened that left the victims and their families, whose stories he also tells, desperate for justice.

Trial By Fire is the heart-wrenching story of the fire’s aftermath because while the fire, one of America’s deadliest, lasted fewer than two minutes, the search for the truth would take twenty years.

I hadn’t heard of this tragedy but after a quick Google search (not recommended video viewing for the faint of heart) I became quickly interested. A reporter live at the scene, ironically there for a feature on safety, caught video of this rapidly unfolding horror show that created a mystery for years to come. This is an extremely readable and fast moving book for a nonfiction!

In Trial by Fire, Scott James looks at everyone’s side of the story. From the club owners to the club and band managers, the fire marshall, the foam company that sold the wrong insulation to the club owners, plus survivors, families of the deceased, and more, I feel like a really wide and unbiased portrayal of events was covered here. James even brings in Rhode Island history and legal precedents to set the scene for encountered attitudes and court proceedings. I appreciated the full disclosure elements too.

I think the most interesting part for me was how the media was so biased, and totally seems to have f**ked up a lot of the coverage and facts. The governor tried to clamp down on false information and the club owners tried to stay out of the crap slinging, but there is a really huge issue with bad media coverage and people rushing to believe it. I did learn a lot about how media works though. Another interesting part was … Well… I’m a nurse and love medical bits. I was morbidly fascinated while reading about people’s skin melting off as they tried to be pulled to safety, toxic smoke inhalation, flash points, and triage. Also the hospital coverage and burn treatments, especially the pulmonary advancements were super interesting to me. Thinking about this from a first responder perspective is truly horrifying. I can’t even imagine being inside or outside and just hearing all the screams stop, it’s too terrible to process fully 😳

I learned a ton about everything from fire in general to safety codes, history, the legal system, and human nature by reading this book. I really highly recommend for anyone interested in true crime or investigative journalism type reads. Also there is a huge humanitarian aspect to the book and personal stories of many survivors and victims, if you enjoy a bittersweet success story.

Thank you again so much to St Martin’s Press (Sara thank you!) for my copy, all opinions are my own!

If anyone has read this and/or wants to discuss it, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading!