BOOK REVIEW ~ The Devil’s Harvest

The Devil’s Harvest: A Ruthless Killer, a Terrorized Community, and the Search for Justice in CA’s Central Valley


 

Description:
A gut-wrenching and timely deep-dive into the unbelievable true story of Jose Martinez, a drug cartel hitman responsible for dozens of murders across the forgotten farmlands of California’s Central Valley, The Devil’s Harvest sheds light on how the criminal justice system fails our country’s most vulnerable immigrant communities.
On the surface, 58-year-old Jose Martinez may look like your average neighbor, mechanic, and devoted father. However, unbeknownst to his many loved ones, Martinez worked as a drug cartel debt collector and hitman for over 35 years, terrorizing the poor, rural, immigrant communities of California’s Central Valley and beyond. Having confessed to three dozen murders, he is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history–along the lines of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and even H.H. Holmes. And yet until he voluntarily turned himself in, Martinez was virtually unstoppable.

How did Martinez manage to evade law enforcement for so long with little more than a slap on the wrist? Because he understood a dark truth about the criminal justice system: if you kill the right people–people who are poor, who aren’t white, and who don’t have anyone to speak up for them–you can get away with it.

Melding the pacing and suspense of a true crime thriller with the rigor of top-notch investigative journalism, THE DEVIL’S HARVEST follows award-winning reporter Jessica Garrison’s relentless search for the truth as she traces the life of this merciless assassin, the cops who chased him, and the families of his many victims. Drawing upon decades of case files, interrogation transcripts, on the ground reporting, and Martinez’s own handwritten journals, THE DEVIL’S HARVEST uses a gripping and often shocking narrative to dig into one of the most important moral questions haunting our politically divided nation today: why do some deaths–and some lives–matter more than others?


 

My thoughts:   This story about the deadly killer held my interest as it followed him and the men who were trying to catch him. He was really slick at getting away with his various crimes for a long time. He could travel almost anywhere he needed to go to do a job for someone, with no one the wiser. He’d go in and take care of the hit and be gone before the body even began cooling. But there is more to Martinez than just being a brutal killer. He is also a man who is involved in his family. While he may not always be faithful to his wives, he is always there for his children and his mother through the decades. I found this to be an interesting true crime book that turned out to be more current that I realized. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jessica Garrison, and the publisher.


 

devilsharvest


 

Publisher:  Hachette Books – 336 pages
Publication:  Aug 4th, 2020
My rating:  4/5 Stars


 

The Author- Jessica Garrison, who has won numerous national awards as a writer and an editor, is a member of Buzzfeed News’ investigations team, based in San Francisco.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Book of Atlantis Black

The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing


This tale took just a bit of getting into, and then I was hooked and couldn’t quit. Here is the description:

Reminiscent of Alex Marzano-Lesnevich’s The Fact of a Body and Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls, with equal parts memoir and true crime, The Book of Atlantis Black will have you questioning facts, rooting for secrets, and asking what it means to know the truth.

A young woman is found dead on the floor of a Tijuana hotel room. An ID in a nearby purse reads “Atlantis Black.” The police report states that the body does not seem to match the identification, yet the body is quickly cremated and the case is considered closed.

So begins Betsy Bonner’s search for her sister, and the unraveling of the mysterious final months before her disappearance, alleged overdose, and death. With access to Atlantis’ email and social media accounts, Bonner attempts to decipher and construct a narrative: frantic and unintelligible Facebook posts, alarming images of Atlantis with a handgun, Craigslist companionship ads, DEA agent testimony, video surveillance, police reports, and various phone calls and moments conjured from memory. Through a history only she and Atlantis shared―a childhood fraught with abuse and mental illness, Atlantis’s precocious yet short rise in the music world, and through it all an unshakeable bond of sisterhood―Bonner finds questions that lead to only more questions and possible clues that seem to point in no particular direction. In this haunting memoir and piercing true crime account, Bonner must decide how far she will go to understand a sister who, like the mythical island she renamed herself for, might prove impossible to find.


 

My thoughts:  I found this to be a rather gripping read that kept me coming back for more. I was always wanting to know what was going on, and what was coming next. Then it was the curiosity of how it was going to turn out. It really pulled me in, for sure. It certainly got my mind off of the stress of the things that have been going on around the US lately, what virus?! Takes you out of your own situation and that can be a good thing for the hours you are reading. A nice escape. This was a book that wasn’t available to request, I could only “Wish” for an advance electronic copy on NetGalley, and I got lucky and was chosen. Just thrilled. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Betsy Bonner, and the publisher.


 

Atlantis

 


 

 

Publisher: Tin House Books – 280 pages
Publication: Aug 4th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author– Betsy Bonner is the author of Round Lake, a poetry collection published by Four Way Books. She is a faculty member of the Writer’s Foundry M.F.A. program at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, New York and the former Director of the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center, where she teaches an annual poetry seminar. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, Parnassus, Poetry Daily, The Brooklyn Quarterly and The Southampton Review. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, Eliot House and the VCCA, and a mentor in PEN’s Prison Writing Program.


 

Update this Memorial Day Weekend

I’ve been away all week, and I hope this finds you all well. I darn near died by trying to avoid the hospital, afraid of what I might catch there, on advice of ambulance attendants Monday. I was really hurting after trying Urgent Care that night and only getting quizzed through the car window for my trouble. By Tuesday, heading off to my doctor’s office also, labwork showed I had no choice, I ended up in an ambulance anyway, hauled off for my very first ride in one. A large kidney stone had been blocking my output on one side, and I’d gotten an infection, which by this time was becoming life threatening. So into surgery I went after a bunch of tests and scans, including a Covid-19 test, to have stents placed.

It’s been the most miserable week, ok well it ties with my botched spinal tap in Florida haha. That was 5 days of spinal headache in the hospital, with my eyes closed and the TV off. Unbearable, right up there with natural childbirth. This was close, very close, maybe equal because of the surgery involved. And I still have to go through dealing with the removal of the stone in a couple of weeks after the infection is gone. Maybe I’m not giving this ordeal enough credit.

Internet photo simulating experience

I just got home last night, and got nothing done because I was still having issues. So, it may be a few days before I’m back in form, out there liking and loving reading blogs again, but know I’m here! Know also, that it’s even possible to be one of those compromised health folks who hid out all this time, and still fall ill and be able to sneak into a hospital for surgery, stay a few days, and sneak out, all without getting slapped with the Pandemic (so far, anyway, fingers crossed). After another 14 day quarantine, I’ll be more certain.

On another note, I was also trying to follow the flooding in central Michigan, which is where my family came from. It’s a story that’s fast outstripping the Flint, Michigan bad water story. I finally got to view some online pictures today. I was mainly wanting to know that family members still in the area were ok, and that was accomplished right off. I read today that there is a class action lawsuit beginning for the families affected, as there should be with so much foreknowledge, from what the paperwork warnings show on the dams for decades. Can we say avoidable?

https://news.yahoo.com/usw-dam-failure-disaster-spotlights-180500207.html

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Golden Thread

The Golden Thread: The Cold War Mystery Surrounding the Death of Dag Hammarskjold


 

Description: A true story of spies and intrigue surrounding one of the most enduring unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, investigative reporter Ravi Somaiya uncovers the story behind the death of renowned diplomat and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld.

On Sept. 17, 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld boarded a Douglas DC6 propeller plane on the sweltering tarmac of the airport in Leopoldville, the capital of the Congo. Hours later, he would be found dead in an African jungle with an Ace of Spades tucked in his collar.

Hammarskjöld had been head of the United Nations for nine years. He was legendary for his dedication to peace on earth. But dark forces circled him: a powerful and connected group of people from an array of nations and organizations — including the CIA, the KGB, underground militant groups, business tycoons, and others — were determined to see Hammarskjöld fail.

A riveting work of investigative journalism based on never-before-seen evidence, recently revealed first-hand accounts, and groundbreaking new interviews, The Golden Thread reveals the truth behind one of the great murder mysteries of the Cold War.


 

My thoughts: There is plenty of intrigue to keep one following along in this book of spies and movers and shakers. I was never aware of all the dark power struggles that were going on so far back, and that there were all these foreign countries involved, playing games to rob them of their valuable resources. The movies later made us aware of blood diamonds, but that is just one part, it turns out, of what is being mined from Africa and making people rich. That all makes for big and sometimes violent power struggles.

When the UN tried to help, sometimes unwanted by a faction, they still tried to calm the situation. This book looks at what happened to Dag Hammarskjold when he tried to go to Ndola to negotiate peace in the area and was killed along with his aides and crew as they were about to land. It’s been a long-standing mystery as to what actually happened to his plane to cause the accident, even after the investigation was done. The author was able to find more information that was disregarded by the authorities from witnesses. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ravi Somaiya, and the publisher.


Golden


Publisher: Twelve – 320 pages
Publication: July 7th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


The Author– Ravi Somaiya was most recently a correspondent for the New York Times. He has written for the Guardian, Rolling Stone, and New York Magazine, among others, and has presented and produced documentaries for Vice and HBO. He has covered Islamic extremist terrorism, disinformation, mass shootings, Anonymous, and Wikileaks, among other long-running stories.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad

Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad

Description:
In 1906 the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was asked by the Home Office to make available skilled investigators for murder enquiries nationwide as few constabularies had sufficiently skilled – or indeed, any – detectives.

Thus was born the Reserve Squad, or Murder Squad, as it later became known. Despite a reluctance by some forces to call upon The Met, the Murder Squad has proved its effectiveness on countless occasions with its remit extended to British territories overseas. A particularly sensitive case was the murder of a local superintendent on St Kitts and Nevis.

A former Scotland Yard detective, the Author uses his contacts and experiences to get the inside track on a gruesome collection of infamous cases. Child murderers, a Peer’s butler, a King’s housekeeper, gangsters, jealous spouses and the notorious mass murderer Dr Bodkin Adams compete for space in this spine-chilling and gripping book which is testament to the Murder Squad’s skills and ingenuity – and the evil of the perpetrators.

Brimming with gruesome killings, this highly readable book proves that there is no substitute for old fashioned footwork and instinct.


 

My thoughts:
This book is filled with fascinating short stories of the Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad from back in the day, when the tools at hand for investigators were few, mostly just the new fingerprinting and smarts. The cases held my interest and were varied, with different investigators handling them. This was at a time when many murderers could find themselves with hanging as a punishment if found guilty! So follow back in time and read about these cases and see how serious investigations were done back then, if they were lucky enough to still have evidence available by the time they were notified and then had time to get to the scene. Recommended for true crime lovers. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Dick Kirby, and the publisher.


SYMurder Squad


 

Publisher: Pen & Sword – 264 pages
Estimated publication:  Oct 3rd, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author– Dick Kirby was born in the East End of London and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967. Half of his twenty-six years’ service was spent with Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Squad and the Flying Squad.

Kirby contributes to newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, as well as appearing on television and radio. The Guv’nors, The Sweeney, Scotland Yard’s Ghost Squad, Brave Line Death on the Beat, Scourge of Soho, Crime and Corruption at The Yard and London Gangs at War are all published under the Wharncliffe True Crime imprint and he has further other published works to his credit. On retirement he lives near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Kirby can be visited at his website: http://www.dickkirby.com.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Breakfast at Bronzefield

Breakfast at Bronzefield


This is the author’s first book, written about her time in prison after being arrested for Grievous Bodily Harm and assault on a police officer (GBH) in England. She finds herself in HMP Bronzefield, which is the biggest women’s prison in the UK. She shares just what it’s like to be female, a minority, and stuck in prison on remand while waiting for her case to come up. If you enjoy true biographies like this, you might want to check it out. I found it to be quite decently written, she tells it like it is without being overly gossipy. Explaining how she was seemingly expected to know how to get along and know the rules, even though it was her first time in. Like they didn’t believe her, even when she kept reminding them. They did finally assign someone to her for a short while to help her learn her way around, until she became adjusted a bit. It’s not like she wasn’t trying or was uneducated, as she had been to college.

 

It’s easy to forget about everything else when you pick the book up and start reading. You become engrossed in her world and what’s going on while she was inside and having to stick up for herself all the time. Often having to do crazy things to make a point that she won’t be pushed around, which often ended up with her losing privileges. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley and author Sophie Campbell.


breakfast


 

Publisher: Sophie Campbell Books – 270 pages
Publication: Jun 22nd, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author– Sophie Campbell is the winner of the Arts Council England Time to Write grant and the Koestler Flash Fiction and Short Story award. This is her first book.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Escape From Auschwitz

Escape From Auschwitz


 

This was a very well written autobiography by a Russian POW who spent time in Auschwitz, and was forced to help build parts of other nearby camps. He was also moved around between the camps at different points. It’s the first time I’ve read anything of that period written from a Russian’s point of view who ended up in the camps along with others who had been captured. This is a fairly detailed retelling of his time there, from a journal he kept secretly in the camp. A very moving story from that time, it kept my interest all the way through. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for an honest story about the camps. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Andrey Pogozhev, and the publisher.


Auschwitz


 

Publisher: Pen & Sword Military – 224 pages
Publication: April 30th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author- Andrey Pogozhev was born in 1912 at Dontsk in the Ukraine, and before the war he worked as a miner and mining engineer. He was mobilized in June 1941 and fought as a platoon commander of regimental artillery, but he was captured in September. He spent a year at Auschwitz, escaped, was recaptured, and then escaped from the Germans again. He finally reached the Soviet lines in 1943. After the war he went back to his work as a mining engineer. Andrev Pogozhev died in 1990.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ First Degree Rage

First Degree Rage: The True Story of ‘The Assassin,’ An Obsession, and Murder


 

This book I recently got is an excellent true crime story authored by the woman detective who lived it. There is lots of investigative action and good details as it follows along with detective sergeant Paula May as she and her crew go after a double murderer. High school teacher Kay Weden has been plagued by scary occurrences and she needs to get them to stop. Once you get into the story, you will see that the main suspect is quite the odd duck that is being hunted by police.

“There was no brown in his eyes at all. They were just two black buttons. I looked in his eyes. All I saw was solid black against the whites. It wasn’t natural. It was… creepy, unnerving, demonic.”
– Detective Paula May

There is also a bit of gas-lighting going on in the situation, just a matter of figuring out who is doing it. The book is a bit long, but for the most part, it held my interest well through the majority of it. You couldn’t come up with a stranger mix of people and backgrounds coming together if you tried. Just a weird story about a weird set of circumstances that happened.


rage


Written by: Paula May
Publisher: Wild Blue Press – 535 pages
Publication: April 14th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 Stars


 

The Author– Retired Police Chief Paula May is a specialist in criminal investigation, having earned numerous awards and recognitions in her 30 year career. A graduate of the FBI National Academy, Paula is active in professional organizations, teaches at the university level, and enjoys writing criminal justice articles, Christian and motivational pieces. She has appeared on Dead of Winter, Forensic Files and the New Detectives. She continues to serve in her home state of North Carolina.


 

MINI BOOK REVIEW ~ Men to Avoid in Art and Life

Men to Avoid in Art and Life


 

This was indeed funny, and I enjoyed the art. It also made me want to strangle someone at times though 🙂 The humor was biting, sarcastic, and just what I needed for a change while locked down at home for this virus that seems never ending. I’m thinking I need to read humor more often now. Thanks. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Nicole Tersigni, and the publisher.


Avoid Men


 

Publisher: Chronicle Books – 96 pages
Publication: Aug 11th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


Nicole Tersigni is a comedic writer experienced in improv comedy and women’s advocacy. She lives in Metro Detroit with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Unspeakable Acts

Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession


 

This was an enjoyable anthology of true crime stories that kept me entertained. There are thirteen different stories curated by Sarah Weinman. I also liked that at the end there’s a list of further articles and books suggested to read. I can vouch for some of them, as I’ve read them. I’m going to check out some of the rest as well.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, editor Sarah Weinman, and the publisher.


 

Unspeakable


Publisher: Ecco – 416 pages
Publication: Jul 28th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Sarah Weinman is the author of The Real Lolita, and editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s (Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). She covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace, and has written for the New York Times, the New Republic, the Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.