Life Sentence: How My Father Defended Two Murderers and Lost Himself

by Amy Bell

SYNOPSIS – A riveting blend of true crime and memoir, following the unravelling of a New Brunswick family after a brutal murder.

On December 15, 1974, when Amy Bell was one year old, the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, was consumed with the search for two missing police officers –Corporal Aurèle Bourgeois and Constable Michael O’Leary. They had been abducted by petty criminals Richard Ambrose and James Hutchison after a kidnapping that had scored them $15,000. The search would lead to a clearing in the woods where the officers were found ― murdered, and buried in shallow graves.

Amy’s father, Ed Bell, stepped up to defend the killers. His unpopular stance–”every person accused of a crime deserves a defence” ― eventually led to the ruin of his career and his marriage, and Amy and her brother lived with the aftereffects: poverty and isolation. Ed Bell never spoke of his involvement in this case. It wasn’t until forty-two years later, when he lay dying, that Amy, now a crime historian, stumbled upon a Polaroid photograph of one of the killers among her father’s things. That discovery led her on a search for answers.

Life Sentence: How My Father Defended Two Murderers and Lost Himself is a riveting work that fuses personal and criminal justice history to tell the story of a horrific crime and examine its terrible costs. Includes personal and archival news images.

MY THOUGHTS – A sad but enlightening story about the author’s lawyer father and a case he took on that tore him apart. It affected the whole family by the time it was done, and their lives were forever changed. It took place in Canada in the 70s. Well researched and written, much background is given on things of that era and location.

PUBLISHER – Nimbus Publishing – 248 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – April 4th, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Amy Bell is a Full Professor of History at Huron University College in London, Ontario. Born in Fredericton, NB, she studied at Dalhousie and Queens Universities, graduating with a PhD in 2002. Her research focuses on the history of crime and forensics, Britain during the Second World War, and histories of the emotions. This is her third book. She lives in London with her two children.


The Alpha Female Files Book Two

by Jessica Burner Lee

SYNOPSIS Ten years ago, Jess left a high-powered finance job to become a stay-at-home mom. She thought she’d left her past behind, but it keeps coming back to haunt her. First there was the blackmail video of her cheating husband… then the revelation that her former co-workers were the ones responsible. Now she’s being targeted by an international crime syndicate that’s hell-bent on silencing her.

This is her incredible true story.

MY THOUGHTS – A continuation of the author’s crazy story/life after marrying and having kids. Thinking she chose well, her life goes off the rails and things become really bizarre, with Covid happening on top of it. An easy read, although out there some it’s interesting to ponder.

PUBLISHER – BooksGoSocial – 145 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – March 10th, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Jessica Burner Lee is the pen name of Jessica Wong, a Chinese-American who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. She worked in the finance industry for over 15 years, including Nations Bank, Societe Generale, Jardine Fleming, and JP Morgan. Jessica left the business world to become a full-time housewife and mom to her two amazing children. As the survivor of two brain tumors, she believes in living life to its fullest.


As the Sycamore Grows: A Hidden Cabin, the Bible, and a .38

By Jennie Miller Helderman

SYNOPSIS – A cabin behind a padlocked gate, no power, no phone, only Revelation and a .38-a true story of abuse, loss, redemption and hope, which winds from south Texas to a sycamore tree in Tennessee. Mike escaped his father’s fists, but years later glimpsed himself in his father’s casket. Ginger named the sycamore tree for Trent. It grew slowly-like independence. This is Ginger’s story, and Mike’s yet it didn’t begin with them. Mike shoved and slapped but his primary tools were isolation and economic abuse, until he discovered the power of the Lord. Veteran journalist Jennie Miller Helderman’s harrowing nonfiction narrative is about ending the legacy of abuse. Ginger McNeil was brought up to pray and obey, but she escaped the padlocked cabin in the woods where she lived with her two young sons off the land with no electricity or telephone. In interviews, her ex-husband Mike admitted the abuse, held no remorse, and said he would do it all again. “God made women to serve,” he said. “It’s their job.” Jennie interviewed both Ginger and Mike, their families, friends, ex-spouses, and others. Threading through the story is loss: the alienation of families, a spiritual void from betrayal by their church, and the death of the son Ginger had abandoned. This special updated edition-winner of six literary awards-updates the story of Ginger, who became a court-appointed advocate and partnered with Jennie to speak frequently about how to help those with violent partners. It also provides resources for domestic violence. Most of all, “As the Sycamore Grows” offers hope.

MY THOUGHTS – A moving, powerful story that I was blown away by. This is a 2nd special updated edition of the book from the original. Told from more than one point of view. It can be triggering but offers hope ultimately. Well-written and kept my attention.

PUBLISHER – Lucid House Publishing, LLC – 380

PUBLICATION DATE – May 2nd, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Jennie Miller Helderman championed women’s and children’s issues from the grassroots to national levels, beginning with a call to a crisis center that led to the first women’s shelter in her hometown. She helped add a forensics component to a children’s advocacy center; chaired the boards of a statewide advocacy organization and later Alabama’s Department of Human Resources, (DHR). Charged with oversight of all the state’s social programs, DHR saw 5,200 clients per month. Jennie worked with a national organization to develop personal safety and leadership training for women. Jennie has taught school in rural Alabama, worked in a congressional office, and been photographer on an archeological research team at Pompeii. She is also a Pushcart Prize nominee who writes both fiction and nonfiction. Helderman was presented with Alumnae Achievement Award in 2012, the highest honor given by Kappa Kappa Gamma, based on her work as an author and community leader. Helderman’s “As the Sycamore Grows” garnered her six national nonfiction awards, and she revisited the story with Ginger because the book offers a unique perspective on domestic violence and the need for such stories is stronger than ever. The veteran journalist frequently speaks on domestic violence and women’s issues.


The Life of a New Jersey Road Trooper

by Sal Maggio

SYNOPSIS – The autobiography of New Jersey State Trooper Sal Maggio, who served from 1967 until retirement in 2000.

Sal Maggio dropped out of college, and joined the NJ Army National Guard. Then he entered the New Jersey State Police Academy, graduated, and started his police career in central New Jersey as a general road trooper.

After numerous transfers (none for disciplinary reasons) Maggio spent 19 years on the “road” as a trooper and road sergeant. He recalls many incidents encountered while working the highways and policing the towns and townships that do not have a local police department.

After 19 years on the road, Maggio was promoted to sergeant first class and his patrolling days were over as he became a supervisor and manager of troopers. Maggio recalls many of the incidents he handled as a supervisor. He was eventually promoted to captain and was the Troop “B” Commander in charge of 8 stations and about 350 troopers.

Join Trooper Maggio on his rides through New Jersey, enforcing the law. Many of the incidents are humorous, some tragic. Maggio also interacted with union leaders, governors, and US Presidents.

MY THOUGHTS – I found this a really interesting behind the scenes look at the process of becoming a road trooper, and what the job is like. How they get moved to different station houses for varied periods, and how much they can differ, depending on who is running the place. There’s also the politics that play into the job and promotions and many types of cases involved.

PUBLISHER – Sunbury Press, Inc. – 310 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Feb 20th, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Sal Maggio is a retired New Jersey Police Captain and Troop “B” Commander. Troop “B” had eight stations in northern New Jersey with about 350 men and women assigned. He attended Fairleigh Dickenson University, graduated from Mercer County Community College, and has a Level 6, Certified Public Management Certificate from Rutgers University. He worked as a private detective for a large security firm in Newark, New Jersey, for the next 12 years after retiring from the State Police. He spent the first nineteen years of his thirty-three year State Police career as a road trooper and road sergeant. He was also a member of the board of directors of the New Jersey Former Troopers Association from 2003 to 2021 and its President from 2012 to 2017. He lives in north west New Jersey with his wife Susan.


Little, Crazy Children: A True Crime Tragedy

by James Renner

SYNOPSIS – In this riveting work of investigative journalism, the author of True Crime Addict and host of “True Crime This Week,” James Renner, explores the tragic unsolved 1990 murder of Lisa Pruett in the privileged enclave of Shaker Heights, Ohio, its troubling aftershocks, and the dark secrets teens tell—and keep.

TWIN PEAKS meets THE CRUCIBLE in 1990s Shaker Heights, the setting of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE.

In September of 1990, in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, sixteen-year-old Lisa Pruett, a poetry lover and member of a church youth group, was on her way to a midnight tryst with her boyfriend, when she was viciously stabbed to death only thirty feet from the boy’s home.

The murder cast a palpable gloom over the upscale community and sparked accusations, theories, and rumors among Lisa’s friends and peers. Together they wove a damning narrative that circled back to a likely suspect: “weird” high school outcast Kevin Young. Without a shred of evidence the teen was arrested, charged, and tried for the crime. His eventual acquittal didn’t squelch the anger and outrage among those who believed that Kevin got away with murder.

With a fresh perspective and painstaking research culled from police files, court records, transcripts, uncollected evidence, and new interviews, James Renner reconstructs the events leading up to and following that heartbreaking night. What emerges is a portrait of a community seething with dark undercurrents—its single-minded authorities, protective status-conscious parents, and the deeply peer-pressured teens within Lisa’s circle.

Who had the capacity for such unchecked violence? What monsters still lurk in the dark? After more than thirty years, questions like these continue to fester among the community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, still deeply scarred by wounds that remain hidden, unspoken, and unhealed.

MY THOUGHTS – I stayed up all night reading this one. It held my interest to the end, well-written and laid out. The true crime story of the 1990 murder of a sixteen year old girl and too many suspects. An interesting case I hadn’t heard of before and lots of drama. A neighborhood that had a lot more going on than people even realized.

PUBLISHER – Citadel – 320 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – June 27th, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – James Renner is an investigative journalist, podcaster, and critically acclaimed author of both nonfiction and fiction books, including True Crime Addict and The Man from Primrose Lane. Previously the host of Lake Erie’s Coldest Cases on ID Discovery, he currently hosts the podcasts “The Philosophy of Crime” and “True Crime This Week.” He is the Founder and Director of The Porchlight Project, a nonprofit that provides genetic genealogy for cold cases in Ohio. He lives in Akron with his wife and children and can be found online at


The Hagley Wood Murder: Nazi Spies and Witchcraft in Wartime Britain

by M J Trow

SYNOPSIS – Astonishingly, The Hagley Wood Murder is the first book solely on the subject (other than a selection of privately printed/self published offerings) ever written on this murder, which too place eighty years ago.

In April 1943, four teenaged boys discovered a corpse stuffed into the bole of a wych elm in a wood in the industrial Midlands. The body was merely bones and had been in the tree for up to two years. The pathologist determined that she was female, probably in her thirties, had given birth and was just under five feet tall. The cause of death was probably suffocation.

Six months after the discovery, mysterious messages began to appear on walls in the area, variants of ‘Who Put Bella Down the Wych Elm – Hagley Wood’. And the name Bella has stuck ever since.

Local newspapers, then the national press, took up the story and ran with it, but not until 1968 was there a book on the case – Donald McCormick’s Murder by Witchcraft – and that, like others that followed, tied Bella in with another supposedly occult murder, that of Charles Walton on Meon Hill in 1945.

Any unsolved murder brings out the oddballs – the police files, only recently released, are full of them – and the nonsense still continues. The online versions are woeful – inaccuracy piled on supposition, laced with fiction. It did not help that a professional occultist, Dr Margaret Murray, expressed her belief, as early as 1953, that witchcraft was involved in Bella’s murder. And ill-informed nonsense has been cobbled together to ‘prove’ that Dr Murray was right.

McCormick’s own involvement was in espionage and his book, slavishly copied by later privately printed efforts, have followed this tack too. It was wartime, so the anonymous woman in the wych elm had to be a spy, parachuted in by the Abwehr, the Nazi secret service.

The Hagley Wood Murder is the first book to unravel the fiction of McCormick and others. It names Bella and her probable murderer. And if the conclusion is less over-the-top than the fabrications referred to above, it is still an intriguing tale of the world’s oldest profession and the world’s oldest crime!

MY THOUGHTS – This is about an old murder from 1943 in Britain when four boys were out looking for bird’s nests and found someone had stuffed a body in a hollow wych elm. Through the years it’s become a legend rather than a true story with known details. Much misinformation was spread around, which just drew the story in strange directions, as if it weren’t already a bizarre story.

PUBLISHER – Pen & Sword – 224 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – March 30th, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – M.J. Trow was educated as a military historian at King’s College, London and is probably best known today for his true crime and crime fiction works. He has always been fascinated by Richard III and, following on from Richard III in the North, also by Pen and Sword, has hopefully finally scotched the rumour that Richard III killed the princes in the Tower. He divides his time between homes in the Isle of Wight and the Land of the Prince Bishops.

Book Review ARC ~ BROKEN

Broken: The Suspicious Death of Alydar and the End of Horse Racing’s Golden Age

by Fred M. Kray

SYNOPSIS – One fateful winter night, a famous racehorse mysteriously broke his leg while alone in his stall. An investigation ensued, but the real story has never been told…until now.

It was a cool, quiet evening at Calumet Farm, where the most valuable racehorses—including the prolific stallion Alydar—had settled into their stalls for the evening. Alton Stone, filling in for the regular night watchman, completed his rounds at the barn. Although nothing seemed out of the ordinary, an inexplicable hunch led Stone to check on Alydar. What he found—a grievously injured horse with no discernible cause—jump-started one of the biggest mysteries to ever hit the horse racing world.

One part true-crime investigation, one part evocative history of the adrenaline-filled days of horse racing’s golden age, Broken follows Alydar’s rise to fame and then dives into the sordid details of the crime and trial that came to define his legacy. Told with the taut pacing of a legal thriller, Broken investigates Alydar’s death, the $36.5 million insurance payout, and the stain it left on the sport of horse racing.

Throughout, animal law attorney and author Fred M. Kray weaves together shocking testimony and key evidence from the trials, featuring dramatic photos taken the night of the incident. Drawing on interviews conducted with more than twenty-five key witnesses, Kray reveals insider-only details and, in order to discover the truth about the death of this magnificent horse, embarks on a major investigation—one that leads to an unexpected and startling conclusion.

MY THOUGHTS – This was a thorough look into the questionable death of the race horse Alydar and the financial game playing that went on around his death. Kray goes the distance to give a voice to this horse and tells the story in a wonderful way that I found moving, honoring this magnificent animal.

PUBLISHER – Live Oak Press – 372 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – May 2nd, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Fred M. Kray is a former trial lawyer who specialized in animal law and won the American Bar Association’s coveted Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award in 2016. He has lectured on the subject, taught at the law school level, and coauthored an article for American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts. His love for Alydar started in Miami when he watched the horse run in the Flamingo Stakes and the Florida Derby. He spent four years investigating Alydar’s death. Kray now lives in Gainesville, Florida, with his wife and five dogs.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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