Book Review ARC – IN SEARCH OF THE BLONDE TIGRESS

In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman

by Silvia Pettem


SYNOPSIS – Beginning in 1933, Eleanor Jarman was sensationalized by the press as the “blonde tigress” and “the most dangerous woman alive.” But a closer look at her life shows that she was an otherwise ordinary woman who got caught up in a Chicago crime spree, then was convicted as an accomplice to murder and sent to prison. In 1940, Eleanor escaped and managed to live out her life as, perhaps, America’s longest-running female fugitive.

Following the murder of an elderly shopkeeper, readers are given a front-row seat for Eleanor’s arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing—all documented with recently unearthed primary-source police records, court transcripts, and prison files—and her subsequent prison years. Woven in are comparisons and contrasts between Eleanor’s and her escape partner’s criminal histories, as well as speculation on their lives on the lam. Whether Eleanor deserved her sentence, or whether it was too harsh, is left for the reader to decide.

In Search of the Blonde Tigress sets the mystery and intrigue of this wanted woman into historic context. It also includes her family’s plea, in 1993, for Eleanor to come forward and apply for clemency. Most revealing at the time was Eleanor’s alias. With that information (and considering that Eleanor, born in 1901, is certainly now deceased), Silvia Pettem documents her search for Eleanor’s remains—right up to a visit to her likely grave.


MY THOUGHTS – I found this to be an interesting look at an old case about a woman who got caught up in a robbery/murder back in the 1930s. I noticed that she was born on my birthday in 1901. A unique story I felt was an engaging read. Back then justice could be beyond swift. From the murder on August 4th, to arrest on the 9th. The arraignment was on August 17th and the trial began just 11 days later on August 28th. They were convicted and sentenced on September 1st, 1933. But that is not the end for Eleanor the Blonde Tigress, more twists ensue. Lots of great pictures from the era.



PUBLISHER – Lyons Press – 264 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – May 15th, 2023

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Silvia Pettem is a Colorado-based historical researcher, writer, and author. After local history research led her to the identification of a decades-old murder victim, Pettem switched from writing about history to the genre of true crime. Her latest book, In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman, combines biography and prison reform in the 1930s with modern-day evidence that has helped to unravel a long-standing mystery.


Book Review ARC ~ THE LIFE WE CHOSE

The Life We Chose: William “Big Billy” D’Elia and the Last Secrets of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Family

by Matt Birkbeck


SYNOPSIS – From Matt Birkbeck—investigative journalist and executive producer ofNetflix’s #1 movie Girl in the Picturea revelatory father/surrogate son story that takes readers deep inside the inner workings of the mob through the eyes of William “Big Billy” D’Elia, the right-hand man to legendary mafia kingpin Russell Bufalino, who ran organized crime in the US for more than fifty years.

William “Big Billy” D’Elia is Mafia royalty.

The “adopted” son of legendary organized crime boss Russell Bufalino, for decades D’Elia had unequaled access to the man the FBI and US Justice Department considered one of the leading organized crime figures in the United States. But the government had no real idea as to the breadth of Bufalino’s power and influence—or that it was Bufalino, from his bucolic home base in Pittston, Pennsylvania, who reigned over the five families in New York and other organized crime families throughout the country.

For nearly thirty years, D’Elia was at Bufalino’s side, and “Russ’s son” was a witness and participant to major historical events that have stymied law enforcement, perplexed journalists, and produced false and wild narratives in books and movies—not the least of which being the infamous disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa. In addition, their reach was illustrated by their relationships with Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson, Suge Knight, and many other celebrities and personalities.

D’Elia became the de facto leader of the Bufalino family upon Russell Bufalino’s imprisonment in 1979, and he officially took control upon Bufalino’s death in 1994 until his arrest in 2006, when he was charged with money laundering and the attempted murder of a witness. He pled guilty to money laundering and witness tampering and was released from federal prison in 2012.

Candid and unapologetic, D’Elia is finally ready to reveal the real story behind the myths and in so doing paints a complicated, compelling, and stunning portrait of crime, power, money, and finally, family.


MY THOUGHTS – This was a good mafia book by Matt Birkbeck, the 2nd true crime book I’ve read by him. It tells about Billy D’Elia and his history coming up, becoming close to childless mob boss Russell Bufalino. D’Elia began driving Bufalino where he needed to go on a regular basis. They became so close that eventually Bufalino began introducing D’Elia as his boy or son and would later pronounce Billy a “made” man. Lots of mob history and name dropping as Russell was very influential and well known in many areas and types of businesses.



PUBLISHER – William Morrow – 272 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – July 4th, 2023

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Award-winning investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck is a former correspondent for People magazine and has written for the New York TimesReader’s DigestBoston Magazine, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is the author of A Beautiful Child and A Deadly Secret, which was the subject of an MSNBC documentary, and coauthor of Till Death Do Us Part. He lives in Pennsylvania.


Book Review ARC ~ NO HUMAN CONTACT

No Human Contact: Solitary Confinement, Maximum Security, and Two Inmates Who Changed the System

by Pete Earley


SYNOPSIS – Told through the lens of two murders that changed modern-day prison corrections in America, award-winning New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley delivers an eye-opening exploration of reprehensible crime, draconian punishment, and seemingly impossible reform in the tombs of the country’s most isolated super max prison.

In 1983, Thomas Silverstein and Clayton Fountain, both serving life sentences at the U.S, Prison in Marion, Illinois, separately murdered two correction officers on the same day. The Bureau of Prisons condemned both men to the severest punishment that could legally be imposed, one created specifically for them. It was unofficially called “no human contact.”
 
Each initially spent nine months in a mattress-sized cell where the lights burned twenty-four hours a day. They were clothed only in boxer shorts, completely sealed off from the outside world with only their minds to occupy their time. Eventually granted minimal privileges, Fountain turned to religion and endured twenty-one-years before dying alone of natural causes. Silverstein became a skilled artist and lasted thirty-six years, longer than any other American prisoner held in isolation. Amazingly, both men found purpose to their existence while confined in the belly of the beast.
 
Pete Earley—the only journalist to be granted face-to-face access with Silverstein—examines profound questions at the heart of our justice system. Were Silverstein and Fountain born bad? Or were they twisted by abusive childhoods? Did incarceration offer them a chance of rehabilitation—or force them to commit increasingly heinous crimes?
 
No Human Contact elicits a uniquely deep and uncomfortable understanding of the crimes committed, the use of solitary confinement, and the reality of life, redemption, and death behind prison walls.


MY THOUGHTS – Another excellent true crime book by Pete Earley. Shocking stories of the real life situations behind bars endured by prisoners for decades. It gives much to think about and will stay with me a long time.



PUBLISHER – Citadel Press – 320 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Apr 25th, 2023

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Pete Earley is a mental health advocate, journalist, and New York Times bestselling author of fiction and nonfiction books, including The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. A former Washington Post reporter, Earley has appeared five times before the U.S. Congress to testify about the need for mental health reform, has spoken in 49 states, and addressed legislators in four foreign countries. He serves on the board of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, which finances projects to eliminate homelessness. He writes regularly for USA Today and the Washington Post about mental health issues. Earley lives in Northern Virginia and can be found online at PeteEarley.com.


Book Review ~ ACE IN THE HOLE

Ace in the Hole: The Bad Romance Between a Legendary Killer and a Hollywood Playwright

by OJ Modjeska


SYNOPSIS – A glamorous and talented Hollywood actress and playwright approaches one of America’s most notorious incarcerated serial killers, seeking insight into the mind of a murderer.

Hoping to leverage his fame to her own advantage, she interviews him as part of research for her new play. She dreams of creating the next Hollywood horror hit, but her plans go awry when she underestimates the charisma and manipulative charms of the subject behind bars.

Love turns into madness as he puts her devotion to the ultimate test… and invites her to act out the plot of her play in the real world.

From the author of ‘Gone: Catastrophe In Paradise‘ and the ‘Murder by Increments’ series (‘A City Owned’, ‘Killing Cousins‘), Ace In The Hole reveals the astonishing true story of one of the most bizarre and little-known episodes in American true crime history.


MY THOUGHTS – This was a fascinating expansion on a mention of a woman in a book about the Hillside murders. Her name is Veronica Compton and her story is quite bizarre. I knew of the incident, but never knew the details before. So I found this novella very enlightening.



PUBLISHER – BooksGoSocial – 95 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Nov 10th, 2022

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – OJ Modjeska is a criminologist, historian and author. She graduated from the University of Sydney with a PhD in Modern American History in 2004, and received her Graduate Diploma in Criminology from Sydney Law School in 2015. In 2015 she was awarded the JH McClemens Memorial Prize by Sydney Law School for her scholarship in criminology. Before pursuing a writing career she worked for many years as a legal writer and editor. She writes books of narrative non-fiction true crime and disaster analysis. Her books are suspenseful narratives which draw on her insights and expertise into history, criminal behaviour and psychology. British crime author Pat McDonald writes: “fascinating reading and exceptional writing”.

OJ’s debut book, “Gone: Catastrophe in Paradise”, is an aviation disaster ebook bestseller. “A City Owned” and “Killing Cousins” make up the two-part true crime series “Murder by Increments“, now available on Amazon.


Book Review ARC ~ HIDDEN DEMONS

Hidden Demons: Evil Visits a Small New England Town

by Margery B. Metzger


SYNOPSIS – On January 7, 1994, residents of the Berkshire Hills woke up to a typical snowy winter day in the majestic woods of Western Massachusetts. The quaint New England towns, the idyllic scenery and the people who lived there could have stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Rocked as imaginable evil converged on them, a pall would be cast over the region and its inhabitants for years to follow.

That day, a trial was beginning for a college student who celebrated his 18th birthday by purchasing an assault rifle, then opening fire on campus killing two and wounding four others. Elsewhere, two young girls were accosted in the changing room at the local pool. Another young girl narrowly escaped being abducted at gunpoint on her way to school. Her quick thinking resulting later in profound repercussions regarding the case of a young boy who vanished from a strip mall, baffling law enforcement, his body discovered three years earlier by deer hunters in a remote wooded area 200 miles away.

All these events appeared unrelated, but it seemed to police agencies and local residents that the world had suddenly gone mad. After all, they told each other, “These things don’t happen here!”

In chilling, dramatic narrative HIDDEN DEMONS: Evil Visits a Small New England Town, by Margery Metzger, details these events and reveals a savage serial killer who lurked in the shadows. But the bravery of a father and daughter, and the remarkable work of law enforcement officers, would turn the table.


MY THOUGHTS – A well written book about a serial killer, Lewis Lent, who managed to fly under the radar for a long time. He was a sexual predator who liked children as his victims. Lent hid behind being a Christian who enjoyed helping others. When he was finally arrested, it surprised many who knew him.



PUBLISHER – WildBlue Press – 259 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Jan 3rd, 2023

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Growing up in a small town in New Jersey, then spreading my wings in the big cities of Cincinnati, Denver, and Detroit, I found my way back to small town America settling more than forty years ago in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

Becoming an author spontaneously generated itself in what I thought would be my retirement. It turns out that this is just the next chapter in a life of varied careers that somehow were all born out of my natural curiosity about human behavior and communication.

As a social worker I dug into the trenches of child protective services, juvenile probation, psychotherapy, and refugee resettlement. As a district court mediator for both criminal and civil cases, it was my mission to get people talking and resolving issues constructively.

As an exercise therapist I encouraged people of all ages and abilities (seniors, teens, athletes, pregnant women and teenagers, new moms and their babies, and healthy adults) to joyfully move rhythmically to music while chatting spontaneously, sharing common experiences as they exercised.

The communication thread also ran through my thirty years as a film festival director. Following the film screenings, the audiences participated in lively discussions often led by the film’s directors, producers, or actors.

Through Hidden Demons it is my desire to tell a compelling story, of human behavior both criminal and tragic as well as heroic and just, to true crime enthusiasts as well as newbies to the genre.


Book Review ARC ~ LIFE SENTENCE

Life Sentence: The Brief and Tragic Career of Baltimore’s Deadliest Gang Leader

by Mark Bowden


SYNOPSIS – In this unprecedented deep dive into inner-city gang life, Mark Bowden takes readers inside a Baltimore gang, offers an in-depth portrait of its notorious leader, and chronicles the 2016 FBI investigation that landed eight gang members in prison.

Sandtown is one of the deadliest neighborhoods in the world; it earned Baltimore its nickname Bodymore, Murderland, and was made notorious by David Simon’s classic HBO series “The Wire.” Drug deals dominate street corners, and ruthless, casual violence abounds.

Montana Barronette grew up in the center of it all. He was the leader of the gang “Trained to Go,” or TTG, and when he was finally arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he had been nicknamed “Baltimore’s Number One Trigger Puller.” Under Tana’s reign, TTG dominated Sandtown. After a string of murders are linked to TTG, each with dozens of witnesses too intimidated to testify, three detectives set out to put Tana in prison for life. For them, this was never about drugs: It was about serial murder.

Now an acclaimed journalist who spent his youth in the white suburbs of Baltimore, Mark Bowden returns to the city with exclusive access to the FBI files and unprecedented insight into one of the city’s deadliest gangs and its notorious leader. As he traces the rise and fall of TTG, Bowden uses wiretapped drug buys, police interviews, undercover videos, text messages, social media posts, trial transcripts, and his own ongoing conversations with Tana’s family and community to create the most in-depth account of an inner-city gang ever written.

With his signature precision and propulsive narrative, Mark Bowden positions Tana – as a boy, a gang leader, a killer, and now a prisoner- in the context of Baltimore and America, illuminating his path for what it really was: a life sentence.


MY THOUGHTS – Walk in the shoes of Montana Barronette, a young gang leader in Baltimore. He started dealing drugs by the time he was thirteen, later taking over drug turf when he was still very young. He was taken down by people he grew up with, some were former friends or competitors. A fast paced, stark read that’s full of background and inside information about the case.

From the court case, “You’re going to hear evidence that these individuals, this enterprise, killed people for money,” he said. “They killed people to protect their business; They killed people to grow their enterprise; and they killed or tried to kill people to silence them from cooperating with law enforcement witnesses.”



PUBLISHER – Atlantic Monthly Press – 320 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – April 11th, 2023

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Mark Bowden is the bestselling author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, as well as The Best Game Ever, Bringing the Heat, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania.


Book Review ~ UNTHINKABLE

Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother?

By James W. Marquart, PhD


SYNOPSIS – It was a warm, still, July summer night in 2014, when an 85-year-old woman, a beloved grandmother and neighbor, was viciously murdered by someone who slipped quietly into her bedroom and slit her throat and watched her bleed to death in less than a minute.

Who committed this awful murder, how, and why? The perpetrator of this horrible crime was the woman’s own grandson, an adored and trusted family member. He was married and also had four children of his own. James W. Marquart walks us through the investigation involving the collection of evidence in Texas and in Illinois, the arrest, trial, conviction, and the punishment of the killer who committed this crime for money and pure lust. Punch your ticket to a front row seat and see how murder cases unfold and murderers are caught and punished.

In Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother? by James W. Marquart we experience a gripping account on why the murder occurred and how this crime by a family member has impacted the lives of other close family members. In a weird twist of fate, the author continues to live in the house that belonged to the killer.


MY THOUGHTS – I found this to be a well written page turner that takes you through the crime in a thought-out manner. Lots of detail here. Done by an experienced writer on criminal justice. From the crime to the court case and sentence, this book gets it done quite well.



PUBLISHER – Atmosphere Press – 183 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Oct 25th, 2022

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – James Marquart resides in Frisco, Texas with his treasured wife, Kimberly. They enjoy traveling, spending tine with their beautiful grandchildren, while relishing each other’s company, along with their sassy pup Abbey. James graduated with a BA in Law Enforcement from Western Illinois University, an MA in Sociology from Kansas State University, and Ph.D. in  Sociology from Texas A&M University, while working as a prison guard. He has served in such positions as Program Chair, Dean, and Provost. He was President of The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and has published many papers, authored several books; three with the University of Texas Press.


Book Review ~ GOSNELL

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer


SYNOPSIS – He is America’s most prolific serial killer. And yet Kermit Gosnell was no obvious criminal. The abortion doctor was a pillar of his community, an advocate for women’s “reproductive health,” and a respected member of Philadelphia’s professional elite. His Women’s Medical Society Clinic looked like admirable community outreach by a brave doctor committed to upholding women’s rights. Meanwhile, inside the filthy building, Gosnell was casually murdering born-alive infants, butchering women, and making a macabre collection of severed babies’ feet. His accomplices in crime were a staff of dropouts, drug addicts, and unlicensed medical professionals posing as doctors. But even more important to his decades-long crime spree were his enablers in the outside world—from the state bureaucrats who had copious evidence that Gosnell was breaking the law but did nothing to the politicians whose fervent support for abortion rights kept health inspectors away. The “pro-choice” political, bureaucratic, and media establishment smiled on Gosnell—and gave him carte blanche to kill. Even law enforcement seemed to not care. Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit received a complaint about Gosnell years before he was caught, gave it a cursory look, and ignored the evidence. Two women and hundreds of babies died after they closed the case. Luckily, Detective Jim Wood—a narcotics detective—opened a drug case against Gosnell. What he found when he served his warrant left even the most grizzled members of the police force stunned. Now Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, the veteran investigative journalists and filmmakers behind FrackNation, dig into Gosnell’s crimes. A record-breaking crowdfunding campaign financed their Gosnell movie starring young Superman Dean Cain, but in the research for the film, McElhinney and McAleer uncovered fascinating and previously unreported revelations that couldn’t be included in the film. Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer contains the full results of their investigation.


MY THOUGHTS – A story about a staggeringly evil doctor, Kermit Gosnell. He was found guilty of the murders of infants who were born alive during abortions he performed in his wretched medical building. He also had at least two patients who died after receiving botched abortions. It’s a real-life horror story beyond imagination that stayed with me after reading it.



PUBLISHER – Regnery – 347 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Jan 24th, 2017

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney are investigative journalists, filmmakers and screenwriters. McAleer has worked as a journalist in Belfast covering the Northern Ireland conflict for The Irish News. He was a crime correspondent for the UK Sunday Times and based in Romania he was a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times andThe Economist magazine. He is a regular columnist for the Irish Times and the New York Post.

Ann McElhinney has written for the Irish Times, the UK Sunday Times and produced documentaries for the BBC, CBC (Canada) and RTE (Ireland). they produced and directed the documentary FrackNation (2013).

McAleer and McElhinney are originally from Ireland and are now living in Los Angeles. They produced and co-wrote Gosnell, a feature film starring Dean Cain (Lois & Clark) to be released in 2017. They are married.


Book Review ~ ESCAPE FROM MARIUPOL

Escape From Mariupol: A Survivor’s True Story

by Adoriana Marik with Anne K. Howard


SYNOPSIS – In early 2022, life in the port city of Mariupol, Ukraine was safe and predictable for Adoriana Marik. The 31-year-old tattoo artist loved walking her dog by the seaside and meeting friends at cafes and public gardens. But all that changed on February 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation.”

Adoriana was forced to hide in a filthy network of basements and underground tunnels. For more than a month, under deafening round-the-clock bombardment, she huddled with little food or water, and no heat, surrounded by groans from the sick and the smell of death. She decided to escape.

ESCAPE FROM MARIUPOL: A Survivor’s True Story is the tale of her perilous journey to freedom, an incredible tale of a brave young woman’s indomitable will to survive. As told to award-winning author Anne K. Howard, the book is a must-read for those who appreciate tales of extraordinary courage.


MY THOUGHTS – An excellent story written with heart. Experience one Ukrainian woman’s journey from her normal life through the ravages of war as her city is bombed. She and her dog manage to survive and get out to the Czech Republic with other refugees. Eventually, she is sponsored to come to Connecticut with her dog Yola.



PUBLISHER – WildBlue Press – 191 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Dec 6th, 2022

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Anne K. Howard is a true crime author and a voracious true crime reader. As a practicing attorney, she is able to sift through large volumes of legal information and craft it into page-turning stories. Her book, “His Garden: Conversations with a Serial Killer” won the 2020 Independent Press Award, the Pencraft Literary Award for Best Non Fiction of 2018, and the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Award for Best True Crime. The book and interviews with Howard are featured in an episode of “21st Century Serial Killers,” airing on the Justice Network. She is featured on the EU reality show, “Trace of Evil,” airing on the CBS Reality Channel. “Crime Watch Daily” also interviewed Howard for a show about the New Britain Serial Murders that first aired in January 2018.


Anne K. Howard graduated with Distinction from McGill University, where she studied English Literature. She thereafter graduated with Deans Honors from University of Cincinnati College of Law. She lives in Connecticut with her husband of 30 years, three dogs and one cat. Her children are adults now and are happily living their own lives.