Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer–America’s Deadliest Serial Murderer

green river running redby Ann Rule

 Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

            We all have a book on a bookshelf that is collecting dust.  It calls to us, and we want to pull it   down and read it.  A variety of reasons keep it on that shelf.  We have been too busy, we have to read something else, or we are just too tired to read right now… maybe tomorrow.  Our club decided to dust off those books and share with others what we finally found.

Ann Rule is famous for writing about true crime.  Her two most well known books tell of her work with the police in her backyard of Seattle, Washington.  Her personal knowledge and contact with the serial killers in both cases makes her books very personal accounts.  This book presents the facts and emotions around the “Green River Killer,” perhaps the most prolific serial killer in history.  He is serving 48 life sentences in prison.  This serial killer recently took part in an interview with the media admitting that he has killed nearly twice as many women as are now credited to him over a period of nearly two decades.

The author dedicated a large portion of the book to the young women that the Green River Killer murdered.  This means that the reader must spend a great deal of time learning about dozens of the Green River victims.  Rule describes their lives, included the rejection, the abuse, and often the sadness that drove most of them to prostitution.  A missing or murdered prostitute does not create as much urgency in a community that another type of murder might.

Although the book jumps back and forth between the victims, creating accounts that are somewhat confusing, the author deals with each individual–both victim and perpetrator—fairly.  It is sad and amazing that such a horrible killing machine actually existed.  This book is eye opening in many ways and an interesting true crime read.  I would recommend it.  (4.5 of 5)

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Mystery, Tragic Events

The Sherlockian

the sherlockian

Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday Mystery and Book Club   

by Graham Moore

Can you imagine wanting to kill the character that made you one of the most famous writers in the world?  That is exactly what Arthur Conan Doyle did in 1893—he killed Sherlock Holmes!  The public at the time was outraged.  How dare he take away our favorite detective!  Little old ladies, swinging their umbrellas, attacked Doyle in the street.  He was advised by everyone on how to bring Holmes back.  Doyle was even sent a mail bomb.  People were certainly upset.  Then Doyle, for no apparent reason, brought Holmes back from the grave after a seven-year absence.  Why?  What happened?

The author of this book, Graham Moore, takes these and other historical events and mixes them with fictional characters.  He creates two mysteries in one riveting novel—tied together by a missing diary– in two time periods presented in alternating chapters.  This approach worked well in the book because of the connections between the two events.

The first mystery takes in 1900.  After deciding to kill off Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle is pulled into a mystery of his own.  Two young women are murdered in unusual circumstances.  His close friend, Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) serves as his assistant, confidant and friend—or in other words, his “Watson.”  They set out to find justice for the murdered girls and find that the path is quite difficult.

In the second mystery line from 2010, Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the world’s leading scholars on Doyle and Holmes, announces that he has found Doyle’s missing diary.  Green is apparently murdered—strangled with his own shoestring.  It appears that someone wants Doyle’s missing diary.  This diary contains Doyle’s description of the events of his experiences in 1900.  Harold White, a literary researcher, takes on the Holmesian role and sets out to solve the murder and to recover the diary.  Harold also has a “Watson” although a much prettier one.  Her name is Sarah, and she provides Harold with another mystery.  Her puzzle is much more difficult for Harold to solve.

A weakness in the book might be that the characters are not strongly developed and as sympathetic as they could be.  Doyle comes across as a grouchy, mean, self-centered, and not a highly principled man.  He hurts some of those around him and that does not seem to faze him.  This is not the Doyle that has been portrayed in his biographies.

The two mysteries move along in tandem, alternating chapters.  You will learn much about Doyle’s life and work while being entertained by a fabulous young writer, Graham Moore.  There is no real need to be a Sherlockian (one who is obsessed with things about Sherlock Holmes) to enjoy this mystery.  We all agree quite strongly that this is a good book, and we highly recommend it.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Wasn’t crazy about the ending; Great reading experience, fabulous writer; Interesting format; I really liked it, good read; A clever historical fiction novel.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Bill Simmons, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.4 of 5       Rating Range: 4 to 5

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The Accidental Bestseller

 accidental bestsellerby Wendy Wax

Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

This book describes the behind the scenes process of writing and publishing a book in the highly competitive New York publishing market.  That, however, is not what the story is really about.  It is about four women.  They meet at their very first writers’ conference, become close friends, and are still close a decade later.  Kendall Aims, whose marriage is in shambles, is facing a deadline and hides in a mountain cabin to avoid distractions.  She also faces writer’s block—no ideas.  Her friends come to the rescue.  Each one writes a portion of the novel, incorporating secret aspects of their own lives.  Mallory St. James is a workaholic.  Tanya Mason is a single mom who works at juggling two jobs, two kids and multiple deadlines.  Faye Truett is married to a famous televangelist.  She has financed their lives and his religious work by secretly writing “inspirational romances.”  Each of the four writers bases their part of the book on their secret lives.  They help Kendall meet her deadline and more.  Her once promising writing career, recently on the skids, is reborn.  The friends’ joint effort, much to their surprise and concern, becomes a massive bestseller.  The secret writers implore Kendall to take full credit as the author for fear of exposing their personal lives. 

            This is a very entertaining book, perhaps it is too easy to guess what will happen next, perhaps it is a bit too long, but it is a novel that is a good light read.  It is fast paced, well plotted and well written.  The book also has a satisfying conclusion.  It is enjoyable and worthy of your time.  “The Accidental Bestseller” is a bestseller.  It is rated very high and is highly recommended by the club members who read it.

Key Ideas from different club members

 Enjoyable read, perfect for summer;  Great friendships;  Provided great insight into the writing and publishing world;  Writing industry very cutthroat;  Would like to see a sequel, to find out what happened to each of the writers;  I’d like to read the book that the friends wrote;  “Page turner chick book”;  Enjoyed book and characters, liked knowing the outcome of each author’s life;  Couldn’t put it down.   

The Club Members rating this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Kuna, Helen Skalski, Linda Troll, Rae Ann Weaver, (Sharon Shaffer, and William Simmons)

Club’s Average Rating: 4.5 of 5                Rating Range: 4 to 5

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I’ll Walk Alone

I'll Walk Alone

by Mary Higgins Clark

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

Your child has been kidnapped.  He has disappeared and no evidence of him—dead or alive—has been uncovered.  Would your family and friends support you or blame you for the crime?  Would they suspect that you kidnapped your own son?  How would their views change if a photo surfaced that showed you taking the baby?

Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense novels.  “I’ll Walk Alone” deals with the kidnapping of a three-year-old boy while his young babysitter dozed on the grass near the napping child.  His mother is a gifted and beautiful interior designer who is struggling to make her business successful.  She claimed that she was at the home of a wealthy client when the crime took place.  The mother, Zan Moreland, was initially viewed as the brave parent who never gives up hope that her only child will be found alive.  Time passes by with no evidence of the missing boy.  Two years with no sightings or physical evidence to indicate that he might be alive or dead.  Then a picture is uncovered from an event in the park that shows Zan taking her son from the stroller.  Everything changes.  She is no longer admired.  Her former husband, the father of the missing child, turns on her.  It appears that her identity has been stolen or that she is behaving irrationally.  Zan’s friends and even Zan herself begins to worry about her sanity.

The author brings back Alvirah Meehan, the lottery winner and amateur detective, from an earlier novel and introduces some compelling new characters.  Father O’Brien struggles with a confession that he feels compelled to honor as private but realizes that it might help solve the crime.  It also places his life in danger.  Clark’s storytelling is at its best in this exciting tale with many twists and turns.  You will not be able to put it down until you reach the dramatic and surprising ending.

All of the members of our club rated this book very high and recommend it strongly.  Many of the members are already reading more of Mary Higgins Clark’s books and enjoying them.

Key Ideas from different club members:

An easy read and enjoyable; was a real page turner; many twists and turns; puzzling until the end; kept me guessing; do not read many mysteries but was pulled in completely by this one; great, surprising ending; loved the characters; intriguing suspense; really enjoyed it; excellent; Clark is a great story teller; already have read 2 more of her books.

The Club Members rating this book:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Sharon Shaffer, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating:  4.6 of 5       Rating Range:  4 to 5

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September 20, 2013 · 6:01 pm

The Innocence of Father Brown

innocence of father brown    by G. K. Chesterton

    Reviewed by  The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

G. K. Chesterton was a respected writer in the early 20th century, publishing many essays, articles, and books on a variety of subjects from religion to economics.  His most famous character was Father Brown, a short, stumpy Catholic priest who wore shapeless clothing and carried a large umbrella.  He had an uncanny insight into human evil and used it to solve mysteries.  Chesterton wrote 51 short stories and two vignettes about Father Brown, based on Father John O’Connor, who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922.

Father Brown’s approach was more intuitive than Sherlock Holmes’ deduction.  His technique was explained in “The Secret of Father Brown.” “You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully.  I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it.  And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”  His approach is shaped to a great extent because of his position as priest and confessor.  He explained it to his friend Flambeau, a reformed criminal, “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?”  Father Brown always emphasizes rational thought and makes fun of supernatural solutions.

Throughout his stories, Chesterton presents his view of life and the world by emphasizing the importance of education and religion.  Father Brown does not spend his time in a cathedral.  He goes out in the real world:  small towns, individual homes, both urban and rural settings.  He deals with unusual situations, such as a dead man’s body found in an enclosed garden, with no exits, and with the head completely removed.  Another murder takes place in a village where a man’s head is smashed in with such force that no one in the area could have even picked up such a heavy hammer.  Father Brown’s found another death that might have been caused by three different weapons and by several different individuals.  He did not use science, as Sherlock Holmes might have.  He used his understanding of people and philosophic truths.

Although these short stories were well written and interesting, it was easy to lose track of events if you stopped reading in the middle of a story and returned later.  These are not action, adventure stories, but they allow the reader to think through Father Brown’s mystery with him.  We recommend him for mystery fans interested in one of the original fictional detectives.

 

 

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September 20, 2013 · 5:36 pm

The House at Sugar Beach

the house at sugar beach

by Helene Cooper

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club    

The author of this autobiography is Helene Cooper, the White House correspondent for the New York Times.  She was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and lived in a privileged class.  Her home was a 22-room mansion at Sugar Beach.  Living by the sea, with her parents, her sister Marlene, and her foster sister Eunice, provided an idyllic existence of wealth and privilege.  Their fall from grace occurred when President Tolbert and his entire cabinet were executed, and the government was seized in a coup.  The author’s class, called the “Congo” class, was now on the run.  Her family fled to America for safety.  Eunice, her foster sister and close friend, belonged to the Bassa tribe and chose to stay behind.  Cooper went from high school to college, fell in love with journalism, and developed a career in which she traveled and reported on everything, except Africa.  Although she missed the sister they left behind, she made no attempt to contact her.

            The first part of the book talks about the history of Liberia and Cooper’s own family history.  It also introduces her family and friends, explaining how her view of the world changed when the coup took place.  Her mother, Mommee, was a strong figure in her life.  Mommee had “gumption” and helped her family survive the roving bands of soldiers, or more correctly thieves and rapists.  Her mother made a deal with a gang, allowing the soldiers to rape her if they would allow her daughters to be left in safety. 

Cooper then describes coming to America and her experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1980.  This was the first time she attended a public school system, and she was “the girl from Africa.”  Eventually, her father got an accounting job in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She became involved in her school Journalism class after being inspired by reading “All the President’s Men.”  At first she wrote reviews of TV shows.  She also became involved in the school’s “High IQ Team,” similar to current Scholastic Quiz teams.  She was accepted at the University of North Carolina in 1983, and, of course, majored in journalism. 

Throughout her new life in America, her family maintained their ties with Africa.  Her father, who had a drinking problem, experienced a difficult time making it here, so he headed back to Africa where he would be “a bigger fish in the small pond of Liberia” rather than “trying to swim upstream in the United States.”  Cooper, however, did not go back.  She would not communicate with her sister, Eunice.  It took a near-death experience while she was reporting on the Iraqi War to make her realize that she had unfinished business in Liberia.  The last part of the book describes her reunion with Eunice and with her family’s culture.         

Key Ideas from different club members

 Tells about the history of Liberia, interesting that it was settled by American slaves; Interesting story of the family’s struggle during the civil war; Very informative; Her language was a bit difficult to understand; Horrific and deplorable living conditions seen through the eyes of a young girl; Not easy to get into this book; Disappointed; Some parts were just boring; Thought there would be more about her life as a reporter; Slow; Easy to put down and not pick back up.

The Club Members Rating of this Book: 

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, William Simmons, Helen Skalski, Barbara Swanson, and Linda Troll

 Club’s Average Rating: 2.5 of 5           Rating Range:  2.5 to 4   

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Sweetness at the bottom of the pie

written by Alan Brady

 reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday Mystery and Book Club

There are many varieties of detectives in mystery fiction, but none are quite like Flavia de Luce.  She is a bold, precocious eleven-year-old sleuth who loves chemistry, especially the study of poison.  Life is full of learning experiences, such as an especially interesting one when she finds a dying man in the garden of her home.  He provides her with a clue to his murder.  To protect her loved ones, she attempts to solve the mystery of his death.

Life at Buckshaw, the old English estate of the de Luce family, is filled with solitude for Flavia.  Her sisters do not like her, and her father, the Colonel, is absorbed in his stamp collection.  The people that are closest to her and that show love to Flavia are the “hired help,” Mrs. Mullet, the cook who produces inedible food, and Dogger, the sometimes disturbed but loyal servant to her father.  Harriet, her mother, had died when Flavia was very young.  The eleven-year-old genius focuses all of her time on her chemistry lab in one of the tall towers of the estate, plotting revenge on her sisters or heating up tea.

Her adventure begins after she overhears her father arguing in his study with a strange man.  She hears the Colonel admit that the two had killed someone.  This worries Flavia and keeps her awake that night.  She goes to the garden and discovers the stranger dying, breathing his last word, “Vale.”  This leads our young detective on an adventure to understand a decade old suicide and the mysterious relationship of her father with the dead man.  The story involves magic, secrets, and many twists and turns.  Before the mystery is solved, Flavia’s life is threatened, and she must escape from an evil murderer.

The author of the book, Alan Bradley, is a first time novelist at the age of 70.  It is a shame he waited this long to provide us with such a treasure.  The best news is that he is in the process of producing a series of Flavia de Luce mysteries.  We highly recommend the eleven-year-old “Sherlock” and her adventures.  We think you will enjoy her as much as we did.

Key Ideas from different club members:

What a great book!  Enjoyed the characters; Characters described well; Fun to read about an eleven year old detective; Flavia was a witty, charming character; Interesting little girl; She reminds me of a young Nancy Drew; Dogger is a great character; Cute, easy read; Lots of twists and turns to the story; Well written, easy to follow; Loved the book; Will read the next books in series.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Bill Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.4 of 5       Rating Range:  3 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Mystery