BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ The Unusual Suspect

The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Day Outlaw

By Ben Machell


Synopsis:
The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood: a British college student who started robbing banks as the financial crisis unfolded.

Stephen Jackley was a young British college student when the global financial crisis began in 2007. Overwhelmed by the growing indifference toward economic equality, he became obsessed with the idea of taking on the role of Robin Hood. With no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. He would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Against all likelihood, his plan actually worked.

Jackley used disguises, elaborate escape routes, and fake guns to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. He attempted ten robberies in southwest England over a six-month period. Banknotes marked with “RH”—“Robin Hood”—began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. Motivated by a belief that global capitalism was ruining lives and driving the planet toward ecological disaster, he dreamed of changing the world for the better through his crimes. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is, until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.

This is his story.
 
Acclaimed journalist Ben Machell had full and direct access to Stephen Jackley, who in turn shared his complete set of diaries, selections of which are included throughout the narrative. The result lends an intense intimacy and urgency to Jackley’s daring and disturbing tale, shedding light on his mental state and the challenges he faced in his own mind and beyond. It wasn’t until Jackley was held in custody that he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, resulting in a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.
 
Behind the simple act of bank robbery lies a complex and emotionally wrought story of an individual whose struggles led him to create a world in which he would succeed.


My thoughts: A book about a very unique individual named Steve Jackley who grows up in unusual circumstances. This is another book I had to “wish” for and was lucky enough to obtain. I became engrossed in his life of growing up in a tough situation in several ways. He grows up with a strong social conscience and wants to make a difference in the injustice of the huge gap between the haves and the have nots. I found this to be quite an amazing story. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ben Machell, and the publisher.



Publisher: Ballantine Books – 288 pages
Publication: Jan 19th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Ben Machell is a feature writer for The Times and The Times Magazine and a contributor to publications He has been shortlisted for Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards. Ben has full and exclusive access to Stephen Jackley and his surviving diaries, as well as access to law enforcement and the key characters involved in Jackley’s story on both sides of the Atlantic.


BOOK REVIEW ~ The Nilsen File

The Nilsen File: Re-Opened

by Douglas Bence and Brian McConnell
Includes Nilsen’s own words smuggled from his prison cell


Synopsis:
The Standard, May 12, 1983 — a fresh twist in the most astonishing gory case of mass murder since the Moors Murders.

In the unlikely setting of the staid London suburbs of Cricklewood and Muswell Hill, police began in February 1983 to unearth a tangled mass of human bones. Some dated back to 1979, many were unidentifiable, most belonged to transients of no fixed address and doubtful identity, all were victims of brutal killings on a systematic scale. And so began a full-scale investigation into a horrifying outrage.

This is the first full account of a bizarre series of crimes, put together by two Daily Mirror journalists. Brutal, eccentric, unsettling — a tortured parable of our future, The Nilsen File Re-Opened adds further insight and analysis into the inner workings of Dennis Nilsen the man. Drawing also on a range of hitherto neglected material and criticism to offer a 21st-century perspective on the case in its entirety, this updated edition scrutinises the actions of the police and questions whether Nilsen could have been caught much earlier.


My review: Author Douglas Bence decided to do this updated edition on his own, as his co-writer had passed away. The book is about infamous British murderer Dennis Nilsen, who got himself in trouble due to a clogged drain. I remember when this happened and later read the other book on him, Killing for Company by Brian Masters and got a general idea about his case. This book has more that wasn’t included in the other, more information about people he tried to kill that survived, etc. More about the incident that got him caught, being the clogged drain, and more on Nilsen himself. Gripping true crime at its best. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Douglas Bence, and the publisher.



Publisher: Lume Books – 235 pages
Publication: Nov 14th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the Author– Douglas Bence has a CV that’s probably longer than the road to ruin. In journalism since it was vaguely respectable, a trip to Ukraine and Southern Russian after the implosion of Communism diverted him into teaching. London-born, but now resident in Cornwall, this guitar playing (bad), bridge player (retired), skier (dangerous), one-time private pilot and Fleet Street hack has co-authored two non-fiction books and has just published a book of short stories, Tales to an Eight-eyed Grandson. A self-confessed compulsive writer, there is (you might think unfortunately!) much more to come.


BOOK PREVIEW ~ Pretty Evil New England


Pretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs


by Sue Coletta


Synopsis:

For four centuries, New England has been a cradle of crime and murder—from the Salem witch trials to the modern-day mafia. Nineteenth century New England was the hunting ground of five female serial killers: Jane Toppan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson.

Female killers are often portrayed as caricatures: Black Widows, Angels of Death, or Femme Fatales. But the real stories of these women are much more complex. In Pretty Evil New England, true crime author Sue Coletta tells the story of these five women, from broken childhoods, to first brushes with death, and she examines the overwhelming urges that propelled these women to take the lives of a combined total of more than one-hundred innocent victims. The murders, investigations, trials, and ultimate verdicts will stun and surprise readers as they live vicariously through the killers and the would-be victims that lived to tell their stories.


My thoughts: This is an awesome true crime book about 5 women in the New England area, all killers. What really surprised me was that I’d never heard of any of them and I’ve been reading about this subject for 45+ years. Author Sue Coletta does a section on each of the women. You get Jane Tappan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson each with their own details, history, and M.O. It’s wonderfully researched and written, and I highly recommend it for true crime readers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Sue Coletta, and the publisher.


Pretty Evil

Publishers: Rowan & Littlefield – 296 pages
Publication: Nov 1st, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the Author– Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer. For three years running, Feedspot named her Murder Blog as one of the Best 50 Crime Blogs on the Net (Murder Blog sits at #5). Sue also blogs at the Kill Zone, a multi-award-winning writing blog. In addition to blogging, she’s the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science, both groups founded by New York homicide detective and cold case expert, Joe Giacolone. Sue also founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter to help crime writers add realism to fiction. She is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Sue lives in central New Hampshire (Alexandria) and writes two serial killer thriller series published by Tirgearr Publishing.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Cold Case North


Cold Case North: The Search for James Brady and Absolom Halkett


By Michael Nest, Deanna Reder, and Eric Bell


Synopsis:
Tells the story of the unsolved murder of indigenous activists, police investigation misconduct, and the community who tracked down the clues which officials failed to uncover.


Missing persons. Double murder? Métis leader James Brady was one of the most famous Indigenous activists in Canada. A communist, strategist, and bibliophile, he led Métis and First Nations to rebel against government and church oppression. Brady’s success made politicians and clergy fear him; he had enemies everywhere. In 1967, while prospecting in Saskatchewan with Cree Band Councillor and fellow activist, Absolom Halkett, both men vanished from their remote lakeside camp. For 50 years rumours swirled of secret mining interests, political intrigue, and murder. Cold Case North is the story of how a small team, with the help of the Indigenous community, exposed police failure in the original investigation, discovered new clues and testimony, and gathered the pieces of the North’s most enduring missing persons puzzle.


My thoughts: These three writers did an amazing job of researching and writing about the pair of well-educated indigenous activists who went missing so suddenly and strangely back in the late 1960s. The two had been dropped off by plane to do some prospecting, and the fairly new pilot accidentally dropped them off in the wrong location, where their maps would be no good. He later realized his mistake and reported it, to no avail. The two men were already missing and being looked for. Was it really an accident? Did they wander off and get lost, or were they injured by a wild animal? Or was it murder. Join this quest looking for the answers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors, and the publisher.



Publisher: University of Regina Press – 272 pages
Publication: Nov 7th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


About the Author:
Michael Nest is the award-winning author of three non-fiction books. Corruption, mining and conflict are the theme of the first two. The third, Still a Pygmy, is a collaboration with Congolese activist Isaac Bacirongo, the first Indigenous Pygmy to ever publish his memoir. Michael’s ‘day job’ is preventing corruption in government and in the mining sector. He lives in Montréal.

Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis), Associate Professor in the Departments of English and First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University, teaches Indigenous literatures, especially autobiography. Her SSHRC-funded research project, “The People and the Text” makes extensive use of library and archival methods, in collaboration with Indigenous research networks, to uncover forgotten or lost work by Canadian Indigenous authors. She has worked collaboratively to edit four anthologies and is the series editor of the Indigenous Studies Series for Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Eric Bell is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. He has owned and operated La Ronge Emergency Medical Services for 25 years and was a Park Warden for 23 years with Parks Canada. His involvement in this search is personal as he remembers Jim Brady, who was a friend of the family, and Abbie Halkett, a fellow community member. Eric lives in La Ronge, SK.


BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ The Killer’s Shadow


The Killer’s Shadow: The FBI’s Hunt for a White Supremacist Serial Killer (Files of the FBI’s Original Mindhunter Book 1)

By John Douglas & Mark Olshaker


Synopsis:
The legendary FBI criminal profiler and international bestselling author of Mindhunter and The Killer Across the Table returns with this timely, relevant book that goes to the heart of extremism and domestic terrorism, examining in-depth his chilling pursuit of, and eventual prison confrontation with Joseph Paul Franklin, a White Nationalist serial killer and one of the most disturbing psychopaths he has ever encountered.

Worshippers stream out of an Midwestern synagogue after sabbath services, unaware that only a hundred yards away, an expert marksman and  avowed racist, antisemite and member of the Ku Klux Klan, patiently awaits, his hunting rifle at the ready. 


The October 8, 1977 shooting was a forerunner to the tragedies and divisiveness that plague us today. John Douglas, the FBI’s pioneering, first full-time criminal profiler, hunted the shooter—a white supremacist named Joseph Paul Franklin, whose Nazi-inspired beliefs propelled a three-year reign of terror across the United States, targeting African Americans, Jews, and interracial couples. In addition, Franklin bombed the home of Jewish leader Morris Amitay, shot and paralyzed Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, and seriously wounded civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. The fugitive supported his murderous spree robbing banks in five states, from Georgia to Ohio.

 Douglas and his writing partner Mark Olshaker return to this disturbing case that reached the highest levels of the Bureau, which was fearful Franklin would become a presidential assassin—and haunted him for years to come as the threat of copycat domestic terrorist killers increasingly became a reality. Detailing the dogged pursuit of Franklin that employed profiling, psychology and meticulous detective work, Douglas and Olshaker relate how the case was a make-or-break test for the still-experimental behavioral science unit and revealed a new type of, determined, mission-driven serial killer whose only motivation was hate.


A riveting, cautionary tale rooted in history that continues to echo today, The Killer’s Shadow is a terrifying and essential exploration of the criminal personality  in the vile grip of extremism and what happens when rage-filled speech evolves into deadly action and hatred of the “other” is allowed full reign.


My thoughts: If you like books about criminal profilers from the FBI, and the seriously twisted killers they are after, this book fits the bill. Back in the mid 1970s, profiling was just beginning to get a start, with it getting a chance to be used outside the FBI by other agencies. This case would help to highlight its effectiveness and bring it more into use, if all went well as John Douglas took off to try and help catch the guy who’d been shooting people at random all over the country. His name was Joseph Paul Franklin, but he also used many false names as well.


Profiler Douglas had been requested to assist police as things got bad, with Franklin randomly killing minority folks and mixed couples, showing his hatred for non-whites. He would even go after prominent white people, if he felt his reasons were good enough like when he wrote his letter to President Carter. He also wanted to show how he felt about Jewish people as well, so he began targeting them too. Franklin grew up with a lot of mistreatment and he wanted to let out his anger and rage when he felt like it. Abusing his wives wasn’t enough. He had this “mission” that he had come up with to kill as many of his targeted types of people as he could, and he was going to follow it through. Franklin became fairly proficient at robbing banks to keep himself going while he was on his mission. I found it to be an excellent look at a not too well known killer who was active in the 70s for 3 years. The case helped bring profiling into the mainstream as it helped them narrow down who to look at more, and who could be ruled out. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors John Douglas & Mark Olshaker, and the publisher.



Publisher: Dey Street Books – 304 pages
Published: Nov 17th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the Author
John Douglas, the legendary FBI criminal profiler and veteran author of true crime books, has spent over twenty-five years researching and culling the stories of America’s most disturbing criminals. A veteran of the United States Air Force, he has directly worked and/or had overall supervision in over 5,000 violent crime cases over the past 48 years. He is currently chairman of the board of the “Cold Case Foundation.” One of the foremost experts and investigators of criminal minds and motivations, he currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

Mark Olshaker is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and author of ten nonfiction books and five novels, including Einstein’s Brain and The Edge. His books with former FBI Special Agent and criminal profiling pioneer John Douglas, beginning with Mindhunter and, most recently, Law & Disorder, have sold millions of copies and have been translated into many languages. Mindhunter is now a dramatic series on Netflix, directed by David Fincher. He and his wife Carolyn, an attorney, live in Washington, D.C.


BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ Juror Number 2

Juror Number 2: The Story of a Murder, the Agony of a Neighborhood

By Efrem Sigel


Synopsis:

This riveting memoir recounts the author’s experience on a jury in a murder trial and his subsequent investigation of the conditions in East Harlem that led young people to be involved in drug-selling and criminal activity. Besides the trial itself, the book is the story of the failures in NYCHA housing projects, the schools and the criminal justice system, and the efforts of a handful of educators, nonprofit leaders and criminal justice reformers to find pathways to success for these young people.

In the author’s words, “As a juror in a criminal trial, your vote is one of 12 determining whether the accused goes free or is punished. When the charge is murder, you never forget that a decision to convict can take away his liberty for the rest of his life. I had thought that our jury’s vote at the conclusion of the trial would be the end of the story. But I was mistaken. For me the jury verdict was only the beginning.”


My thoughts: This book was easy to get into, as I like books about court trials most of the time anyway, and I enjoyed the author’s perspective on this case and the different people involved in it. You could tell that he was way more involved in it than most people, although going through that would affect anyone, really. I took a class on courts as an older teen that required us to go to a nearby courthouse where we sat in on part of a murder trial, and I found it fascinating. It’s stuck with me ever since.

The author, Efrem Sigel, cannot leave the trial behind him afterward. He embarks on a mission to learn about the places and systems involved in the case and starts frequenting them to see what he can learn about how they prepare children or don’t. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Efrem Sigel, and the publisher.



Publisher: IBPA Members’ Titles – 146 pages
Publication: Nov 16th, 2020
My rating: 3/5 STARS


About the Author– Sigel is the author of two published novels and more than 30 published short stories and memoirs. Of his most recent novel, The Disappearance, Booklist said: The story takes place over the course of about a year and it is gripping, emotional, and tender. Sigel is clearly a talented storyteller, and the novel has a deep emotional core that will resonate with any reader. Publishers Weekly called The Disappearance powerful and elegantly crafted. People Magazine gave it 3 and a half stars. Sigel is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School; was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ivory Coast, and started and ran two business information companies. He lives in New York, where he helps direct pro bono consulting projects to nonprofits in the field of education, through the Harvard Business School Club of NY. He is on the board of Futures and Options, a nonprofit devoted to career development and education for urban youth.


BOOK REVIEW ~ MANHUNT


Manhunt: Hunting Britain’s Most Wanted Murderer by Peter Bleksley


Synopsis:
In the early hours of 19 June 2004, 16-year-old Liam Kelly was lured to a location in Liverpool and shot dead. The following year, another Liverpudlian, 22-year-old mother of three, Lucy Hargreaves, was shot dead in her own home. Her partner and their 2-year-old daughter escaped after the house was set alight by leaping from a first-floor bedroom window .

For more than fifteen years, six-foot six-inch, broadly built, ginger-haired Kevin Parle has been wanted by the police for both murders. How could he have evaded national and international crime investigators for so long? Who is harbouring him?

Author and former Scotland Yard detective and undercover cop, Peter Bleksley, is determined to find the answers. He has immersed himself again in the world of serious and organised crime, this time armed only with a pen, a notebook and a mobile phone. He has vowed not to rest until Parle is found.

This gripping story goes behind the scenes of the hit BBC Sounds podcast, “Manhunt: Finding Kevin Parle”.


My thoughts: I found this to be a good true crime book and I was just in the mood for one. It would normally have been a quick read for me, but I’ve not been getting much sleep at all, and found myself reading parts over a lot. The puppy’s barking doesn’t help much either at times, as he’s looking out the window. But it’s a good story, following the based in Britain author as he hunts around the world for a double murderer. No longer as a cop but as a journalist, he’s squeezing his sources to try and get any line on this long-running fugitive/ killer. For true crime fans who enjoy British fugitive stories. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Peter Bleksley, and publisher Ad Lib.



Publisher: Ad Lib Publishers – 218 pages
Publication: Sep 3rd, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS



About the Author-  Peter Bleksley joined the Metropolitan Police in 1978. While serving as a detective at Kensington and Chelsea, he began to develop a skill for undercover work and went on to become a founding member of SO10, Scotland Yard's most secretive undercover squad. Since leaving the Police Force he has become a renowned policing and crime expert and written a memoir, The Gangbuster, as well as scripts for radio and television. He has also acted as a consultant on numerous television dramas and documentaries. He can now be seen on television as The Chief on Channel 4's Hunted.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Willful Misconduct

Willful Misconduct: The Tragic Story of Pan American Flight 805

Synopsis:
Discover the truth about the crash that never should have happened.
In 1974, Pan American Flight 806 was hoping to land safely in Pago Pago, Samoa but instead plummeted at 140 miles per hour into the jungle floor. The 101 passengers and crew members all survived this devastating crash. Unfortunately, only four of them escaped the wreckage before the ensuing fire that followed and lived to tell their story. After the disaster, Pan American was found guilty of “willful misconduct” after the longest and most expensive trial in aviation history.

William Norris sets out to discover the truth about the controversies surrounding the accident. What caused the crash, and what prevented the 97 passengers from escaping the aircraft with their lives? Among these questions, Norris discovers more answers to other mysteries about this devastating event and its trial along the way.

It is a triumph of investigative journalism by a man whose outrage grew as he followed the trail of evidence, dug beneath the cover-ups, and personally came to know most of those involved.

Willful Misconduct is a gripping tale, full of courtroom drama, fascinating characters, and human tragedy.


 

My thoughts:  What an amazing story this was. It was an involved read, as you might imagine, with a lot of players and details before you even get to the court case, but a very worthwhile read, for sure. It’s just heartbreaking to read of the crash, and then learn of the things that were hidden by design for so long, that almost didn’t come to light. It would have been a shame if these facts hadn’t been told. The powers that be kept it from happening for many years, but now here it is finally. A good read for aviation and legal fans.  Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author William Norris, and the publisher.


 

WILLFUL


 

Publisher: CamCat Perspectives – 371 pages
Publication: Aug 8th, 2020 Kindle;  Paperback Aug 25th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS


 

About the Author–  William (Bill) Norris has been a professional writer since the age of sixteen, when he joined his local newspaper as an apprentice reporter. After ten years of working for various newspapers in England and Africa, Norris was appointed as Parliamentary Correspondent to the prestigious Times (of London). He is one of the youngest people to hold this position. He remained in this role for seven years, revolutionizing the art of the “parliamentary sketch” before transferring to become Africa Correspondent for The Times, covering political events and wars in Biafra, Nigeria, Angola, the Congo, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. In 1968, he became ITN’s Political Correspondent while also covering overseas stories, such as the Paris Riots happening that same year. He transitioned to freelance work in 1980 after moving to the United States. In 1997, Norris became the Associate Director of the PressWise Trust (a British media ethics charity) where he counseled young journalists to promote journalistic ethics. Along with being an experienced writer/journalist, he has a strong public speaking background. He has spoken to students at the University of London and was the keynote speaker at both the World Health Organization conference in Moscow and a European Union conference on journalistic ethics in Cyprus. He now resides in the South of France with his wife Betty, two cats, and two exhausting dogs.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Son of Escobar

Son of Escobar: First Born


Synopsis:

Pablo Escobar was the most notorious drug lord the world has ever seen. He became one of the ten richest men on the planet and controlled 80 per cent of the global cocaine trade before he was shot dead in 1993. In 1965, a secret mission by Colombian Special Forces, led by an MI6 agent, to recover a cash hoard from a safe house used by a young Pablo Escobar culminates in a shoot-out leaving many dead. Escobar and several of his men escape. Only a baby survives, Roberto Sendoya Escobar. In a bizarre twist of fate, the MI6 agent takes pity on the child, brings him home and later adopts him. Over the years, Pablo Escobar tries, repeatedly, to kidnap his son. The child, unaware of his true identity, is allowed regular meetings with Escobar and it becomes apparent that Roberto’s adopted father and the British government are working covertly with the gangster in an attempt to control the money laundering and drug trades. Many years later in England, as Roberto’s father lies dying in hospital, he hands his son a coded piece of paper which, he says, reveals the secret hiding place of Escobar’s ‘missing millions’. The code is published in this book for the first time.


My thoughts: After having read a few books on Pablo Escobar, when I saw this one, I was immediately intrigued and requested it with fingers crossed. And before long the next day I was reading it; devouring every word. This was the first I’d heard about a first born son, who was scooped up as the mother was breathing her last, what a story. He’s rescued and adopted by an undercover agent who is there on assignment. The agent and his wife had always wanted a child, but had been unable to conceive.

Even after some digging, they learned little more about the boy. The mother who sadly was killed was just a young teenager. The father was an older teen named Pablo Escobar, who lived 350 miles away was early in his career. I think most will find this a good book written from the son’s perspective, growing up with his adoptive family. It’s got plenty of action and excitement, I know I enjoyed the heck out of it and would recommend it for anyone who is interested in the Pablo Escobar story.  Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Roberto Sendoya Escobar, and Ad Lib Publishers.


 

SonEscobar


Publisher:  Ad Lib Publishers – 218 pages
Publication: Aug 7th, 2020
My Rating:  5/5 STARS


About the AuthorRoberto Sendoya Escobar lives with his wife in a remote finca on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca under his adopted name of Phillip Witcomb. He works as an acclaimed fine artist, and his work sells for many thousands of pounds. He plans to donate a substantial percentage of profits from this book to charities which benefit young people.