rescue artist On the morning of the 1994 Olympics in Norway, two thieves entered the National Gallery in Oslo. They stole one of the world’s most famous paintings, Edward Munch’s The Scream. Humiliated the Norwegian police called on Scotland Yard and one of their art detectives, Charley Hill.

Charley Hill is a half-British, half-American policeman who was currently working undercover in the small art team of Scotland Yard. He has since become and independent detective recovering art and other national treasures.

In this narrative Edward Dolnick takes us inside the art underworld. Briefly discussing some well-known cases in the past and leading up to more current crimes which now often involved crimes of opportunity and organized crime members. He follows Charley along on his search for The Scream sharing the successes and failures of other police inquiries along the way as well.

26. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, NonFiction, True Crime · Tags:

Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum by Jason Felch, Ralph Frammolino, 375 pages, read by Angie, on 01/24/2015

Chasing Aphrodite is the story of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It is one of the world’s richest museums, founded by John Getty and funded through the fortune he accumulated through Getty Oil. This is not a dry retelling of how a museum came to be and how it gathered its collection. The Getty is a museum home to scandal and intrigue to tax fraud schemes and affairs to reform and theft. It was simply a hot-bed of controversy and scandal that rocked the art world and brought forth reform in the way antiquities were acquired. The authors are two Los Angeles Times reporters who broke the story of the shady dealings at the Getty and received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for their investigations. They have expanded on their articles and created a true crime novel that is immensely readable and a definite page turner. The scandals at the Getty revolved around museum curator Marrion True and how Greek and Roman antiquities were acquired. The Getty was not alone in acquiring pieces through shady deals and looters. Many of the world’s leading museums were also guilty, but the Getty was the museum Italian prosecutors zealously went after in their quest to stop the patrimony of Italy being looted. If you are at all interested in the art world, I would highly recommend this book to you. It was fascinating and I simply couldn’t put it down.

31. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Judy, NonFiction, True Crime

Murder in the Heartland by M. William Phelps, 447 pages, read by Judy, on 12/30/2014

On a December night in 2004, a 911 operator in Nodaway County, Missouri, received a frantic call from a woman who’d found her pregnant 23-year-old daughter in a pool of blood on the living room floor.    Most shocking of all, the dying woman’s unborn baby had been viciously ripped from her womb.

Across the border in Melvern, Kansas, Lisa Montgomery showed off a beautiful newborn she proudly claimed as her own.   While some shared her excitement, others harbored suspicions. Meanwhile televisions across the nation broadcast the first Amber Alert for an unborn child.

Newly updated with the latest surprising developments, Murder in the Heartland, goes behind the scenes of two picture-perfect American towns forever changed by one horrifying act of violence.    With exclusive access to key witnesses, family members, and potential victims who narrowly escaped a similar gruesome fate, M. William Phelps tells a classic American tale of unthinkable murder and the quest for justice.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Judy, NonFiction, True Crime · Tags:

In Broad Daylight by Harry N. Maclean, 406 pages, read by Judy, on 09/21/2014

For ten years he terrorized them without mercy. Ken McElroy robbed, raped, burned, shot, and maimed the citizens of Skidmore, Missouri, without conscience or remorse.  Again and again, the law failed to stop him.

Until they took justice into their own hands.   On July 10, 1981 Ken was shot to death on the main street of this small farming community.  Forty-five people watched.  No indictments were ever issued, no trial held… and the town of Skidmore protected the killers with silence.     With this powerful true-life account, Edgar Award-winning author Harry N. MacLean reveals what drove a community of everyday American citizens to commit murder.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Judy, NonFiction, True Crime · Tags:

True Crime: Missouri by David J. Krajicek, 126 pages, read by Judy, on 09/08/2014

True Crime:   Missouri examines criminal activity in the Show Me State and explores the landmark cases that have received national and even international attention.  Included here are accounts of Lee Shelton’s murder of Billy Lyons of St. Louis that inspired the popular 50’s song “Stagger Lee”;  the vigilante killing of the town bully of Skidmore Ken McElroy;  the kidnapping of millionaire Robert Greenlease’s son in Kansas City; the Kirkwood City Council massacre; and the serial killings of thirteen young women in Kansas City by Lorenzo J. Gilyard.    These are the factual accounts of the cold-blooded killers, rapists, and psychopaths who shocked the state… and the nation.

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction, True Crime · Tags: ,

Last Day On Earth: a portrait of the NIU school shooter by David Vann, 184 pages, read by Marsha, on 08/21/2014

Hard to read, but absolutely fascinating, this book not only tells the story of a school shooter, but also is written by someone who considered it before his life got turned around.  The parallels between Vann and Kazmierczak’s early lives are staggering.  The line between mass murder and living a normal life is surprisingly easy to cross, a point brought up by the author.  Anyone interested in true crime, psychology, sociology and related fields will find this book difficult to put down.  It brings a very human element to a seemingly otherworldly type of crime.  Very informative.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, True Crime

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, 399 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/21/2014

The last anyone saw of Shannon was as she ran panicking from house to house in a small suburban neighborhood near New York. The police were called, but the girl was gone. So was the SUV seen in the neighborhood. As it turned out, Shannon was an escort and the SUV was her driver. She had placed an ad on Craigslist and met up with a resident of the neighborhood. At some point in the night, she freaked out and called the police (something escorts don’t do very often). She ran from the house she had been working at and ran from her driver. She knocked on door after door, hoping to be let in and helped. The last anyone saw of her was her slight form darting off into the shadows.
Shannon’s family pushed for the investigation, in spite of the police’s clear reluctance due to her profession. The search turned up a body, but it wasn’t Shannons. More searching revealed four complete skeletons, all wrapped in burlap, as well as a number of body parts and unidentified remains. Still no Shannon. Police soon pieced together the identities of the burlap-wrapped girls. Each of them was an escort, just like Shannon. They could only conclude that this was indeed the work of a serial killer.
Lost Girls is, as the title implies, the story of an unsolved serial murder case. Kolker begins by letting the reader get to know the victims. Each of their stories are told in detail and without judgement. Each woman’s life is different. The one thing they all have in common is that they all found their way to the Craigslist escort game. From the girls to the circumstances of their last known whereabouts to the family, community and press response, Lost Girls tells a heartbreaking story of a broken society. To blame the women for their circumstances would be only addressing a miniscule part of the equation. Lost Girls is exceedingly well-researched and humane. The lack of resolution will frustrate, but it may also serve as a catalyst for change in how crimes like this are handled.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Judy, NonFiction, True Crime

Notes on a Killing by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie, 423 pages, read by Judy, on 11/10/2013

Weaver and fiber artist Edith “Pen” Meyer knew her friend Sandy Merritt’s relationship with a married man was wrong.   she had even urged Sandy to take out a restraining order against Kenneth Carpenter.   Which was why her call to Sandy on February 23, 2005, seemed to come from out of the blue.  During it, she told Sandy to drop the restraining orer and get back together with Ken.

Pen was never seen again.

One man stood to gain fro Pen’s disappearance:  Ken Carpenter.  But evidence was bleak; no blood, no DNA, no body.  Until detectives found notes that led them to the killer.

A true crime story at its best.

27. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Judy, NonFiction, True Crime

Playing Dead by Allison Brennan, 454 pages, read by Judy, on 11/18/2013

Sentenced to death for crimes he didn’t commit, ex-cop Tom O’Brien is now a hunted fugitive. After fifteen years in prison, he’s determined to prove his innocence-but first he must convince his daughter, whose testimony helped put him behind bars, that he has damning evidence of a plot to frame him.
Claire is no longer the naive teenager who arrived home to find her mother and her mother’s lover shot dead and her father holding the murder weapon. She’s a successful fraud investigator who assumes that everyone lies.

If you love a good mystery, this is a great book to read.

Crossovers-1 cover

The two volumes of this book are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with real people throughout history.  The premise of this book is inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he detailed the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by others into the Crossover Universe.  Win Scott Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe.  Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  Reading these two books is a fun and highly addictive experience!


31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, NonFiction, True Crime

In Broad Daylight by Harry N. MacLean , 416 pages, read by Angie, on 12/29/2012

Ken Rex McElroy terrorized the town of Skidmore and several counties in Northwest Missouri for decades. He robbed, raped, burned, shot and maimed the citizens of the area. No matter how many times he was arrested he was never convicted of any crime. He and his large family basically terrorized the entire population. He was finally convicted of the shooting of Bo Bowencamp in 1981, however, he was not put in jail. The people of Skidmore were fed up with the inability of the law to do anything to help them. So on July 10, 1981 McElroy was shot while sitting in his truck on the main street of Skidmore. There were dozens of witnesses, but no one will say who did the shooting. To this day none of the townspeople have identified the shooters or been prosecuted for the crime.

I went to college in Maryville, Missouri which is only about 20 minutes from Skidmore. My criminal justice professor talked about this case during class and knew the people involved. I have always been fascinated by the Skidmore story. This was a community that law enforcement had failed. They were finally at the end of their rope and took the law into their own hands. Were they vigilantes? Maybe. Were they people without any hope? Definitely.

Harry Maclean tells the story of Ken Rex McElroy from childhood until his death. I think he does a good job of being impartial to the story. If anything he does take a few jabs at the ineffectual law enforcement of the area. It is a fascinating story and Maclean does a good job of telling it. My only complaint of the book is the extra filler information. Maclean seems to be fascinated with describing the weather or the crops or what happens at that time of year. Every dozen pages or so there is a passage on farming and the weather. It wasn’t really necessary and didn’t add anything to the story. I ended up skipping those parts for the majority of the book. However, that doesn’t take away from the story. McElroy is a very interesting character and this book is definitely a page turner.

22. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction, True Crime

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French, 260 pages, read by Angie, on 06/21/2012

Its 1937 in Peking, Japan is closing in and tensions are high. Peking is still relatively safe however. It is a mix of native Chinese, white Russian emigrants, and Europeans. On gray morning the body of a young, white girl is found mutilated at the base of Fox Tower. It is a grisly murder and shocks Peking. Her name is Pamela Warner and this book is the story of her murder and its investigation.

The Peking police and the European police investigate the murder but they are hampered at every turn. They are stonewalled by the British authorities and certain leads are never fully investigated. Politics in Peking are a tricky thing and no one wants to lose face. Pamela’s father, ETC Werner is also problematic. He is a former diplomat who does not have the best reputation with the authorities. The police close the case without ever charging anyone or really coming up with any viable suspects. This doesn’t stop Werner from launching his own investigation into his daughters murder. He uses his own money and investigators and uncovers a seedy underworld of sex and violence against young white women. The perpetrators are upper class Europeans and white Russians. Even with all the evidence he collects Werner is never able to get the British or Chinese or any government to properly investigate Pamela’s murder. It remains unsolved today though Werner’s theories appear to be the correct ones.

Fascinating story full of intrigue and corruption and dangerous elements. Because this is a factual account pulled from the actual historical documents there is a lot of information to digest in this book. French definitely tries to do justice to this story and by the end I think he has. He pieced together a lot of information to really create a truly accurate picture of what events were like a that time. He really shows the people involved and the climate of the times. Peking is on the verge of war and the writing shows this.

I think the real strength of this book is the end once we get into Werner’s investigation. Things pick up and a lot is revealed. The first part of the book (the official investigation) was a little dry for my tastes. There are a LOT of facts about the people, the times and Peking thrust into the first half of the book. I am not sure all of them were necessary for the story French was trying to tell. I am sure they were all completely accurate and information he uncovered during his research, but I don’t think you necessarily have to put everything you find out in the book…maybe put it in the back as notes. A lot of the background information pulled me away from the narrative of the investigation so that the first half of the book didn’t seem to flow very well. The second half doesn’t have that problem because there isn’t the background info dump of the first half; so it was a lot easier to read. I enjoy a narrative book a lot more than information dumping; however, I did think this was an interesting look into a historical story. I was fascinated by the coverup and the stonewalling by the various governments. And I do think Werner and French’s theories on Pamela’s final hours are probably correct; they just make sense. Too bad the authorities never brought anyone to justice for her murder.

23. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Tammy, True Crime · Tags: ,

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, 463 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/08/2012

ThunderstruckDidn’t completely finish this one. Not sure why it didn’t hold my interest like other books by this author. It may just be me at this time, but I would highly recommend Devil in the White City by this author instead, if you are looking for fascinating history blended with a true crime mystery.