Devil in the White City: Murder Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

From Sandi Rosenthal
Title:  Devil in the White City: Murder Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Author:  Erik Larson
This book intertwines two stories. One of the building of the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893 and the other of H. H. Holmes, a serial killer. Erik Larson writes in such detail, and brings these historical events to life. I definitely recommend this book.

The bone garden : the Sacramento boardinghouse murders

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Wood, William P
 The bone garden : the Sacramento boardinghouse murders
This is the true story of Dorothea Puente who was one of our country’s most prolific female serial killers. The author has first-hand knowledge of the crimes, as he was a deputy D.A. in Sacramento when she was tried for drugging and robbing elderly people in 1982. After jail time, she continued her life of crime in earnest. She opened a boardinghouse where she “cared for” the sick, the elderly, and the mentally ill. She got referrals from local social workers.  She took the tenants’ monthly government checks and cashed them. If any of her charges got difficult, they were drugged, strangled or smothered to death, and buried in the backyard.  This is definitely a page-turner. “The bone garden” will chill you to the bone.

Blind Alley

From Elaine Pasquali
author: Johansen, Iris
Blind Alley
Forensic sculpture, Eve Duncan, Joe Quinn (Eve’s significant other)and Jane (Eve’s adopted daughter) battle a serial killer, Aldo.  Aldo is out to rid the world of the what he believes is the reincarnated Cira.  Cira lived in Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the erupting Mount Versuvius.  Aldo leaves a trail of ritualistically murdered Cira look-a-likes. Jane is one of these look-a-likes.  In order to save Jane, a plan is devised to trap Aldo in the ruins of Herculaneum.  This novel is almost 400 pages and probably would have benefited from careful editing out of about fifty pages.  However, it captured my attention enough to get me to read up on Herculaneum.

Bringing Adam home : the abduction that changed America

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Standiford, Les
Bringing Adam home : the abduction that changed America
 This is the heartbreaking story of the 1981 abduction and murder of Adam Walsh, the son of John Walsh, the host of America’s Most Wanted (AMW) T.V. program.  According to the authors (and later the Hollywood (FL) PD), the case is now solved and closed.  Les Standiford is a well-known author and Joe Matthews is a retired detective and polygraph expert from Miami-Dade PD and is now an investigator on the AMW program.  Joe assisted the detectives early in the investigation of the murder, and was called upon by John and Reve Walsh in 2006 to conduct a complete, methodical private investigation to solve the crime once and for all. Joe was given access to all the original police files. The Walshes suspected all along that Ottis Toole, a drifter and admitted serial killer, was Adam’s murderer.  Toole had confessed to the killing several times over the years, and then recanted. But he knew things that only the killer could know.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Toole died in prison serving other charges in 1996. He was never charged with the murder.  The book serves as an indictment of the Hollywood PD, the Broward County authorities, and of the incompetent investigation of the murder.

The most dramatic evidence is a photo taken of Toole’s Cadillac floorboard carpeting. You absolutely must see this photo, enhanced by Luminol to detect blood, to believe it. Incredibly, this (and other damning) evidence was there for the detectives to see all along.  Some passages were difficult to understand due to the coincidence that many surnames began with “H”, such as, “Hoisington made an effort to do what Hessler ordered, but by the time Hoffman and his partner Hickman had finished with Toole … “.  (There are also characters named Hart, Hughes, Haggerty, and Hardaman, I kid you not). Another confounding aspect of the book was the typographical errors. There is reference made to a Gerald Schaffer, Toole’s one-time cellmate. Schaffer’s name is misspelled twice later in the book. There is a Cast of Characters section in the back, but it is of limited usefulness. Fans of true crime will most probably like this book.

It comes with a warning, however: the subject matter is very disturbing and sometimes graphic.

The Devil In The White City

From Jeninne O’Callaghan
author: Larson, Erik
The Devil In The White City
Erik Larson’s, The Devil in the White City, has readers exploring Chicago and the madness of the World’s Fair circa 1893.  This non-fiction book follows the lives of two men – one being an architect who strived to create the most elaborate celebration in the whole world and the other a psychotic serial killer who uses the fair to claim his victims. 
I thoroughly enjoyed how Larson was able to intertwine and show similarities between the lives of these two drastically different men.  I initially picked up this book for a suspense thriller, but found myself very interested in the historical aspect of it all.

Child 44

From Eileen Effrat
author: Smith, Tom Rob
Child 44
Set in Stalin’s Russia (1953), Leo Demidov, a  decorated World  War II
hero, is now a rising star in Russia’s State Security Force.  He routinely
interrogates thousands of his countrymen for “crimes against the state”-
a sentence of execution or banishment to the gulag.  All this he fervently
does for the “good of the state” and the very comfortable lifestyle
afforded  his family.    Then one day his life begins to unravel. He
uncovers a series of brutal child murders. How can this be? There is NO
crime in   this  utopian  worker’s paradise.  How can a serial killer
possibly exit?  Facing the grim facts, Demidov begins to investigate.
Deterred by his superiors and the corrupt political and judicial
systems, Demidov becomes a fugitive himself as he begins to unravel
these connected child murders. Smith bases his novel on the very real
serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo  (the Rostov Ripper) , who murdered women
and children in the 1980’s. For a meticulous and well researched look at
life in Stalinist Russia  and a very good mystery,  this book is strongly