BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ Juror Number 2

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

By Efrem Sigel


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 ~ The Racetrack Gangs

The Racetrack Gangs: Four Decades of Doping, Intimidation and Violent Crime


Between the two World Wars, there was a dramatic upsurge of violence as rival criminal gangs vied for rich pickings from bookmakers at racetracks throughout England.

With ready access to cash, ‘bookies’ were a magnet for mobsters’ blackmailing demands. Refusal to pay resulted in severe punishment. Their justified fears spawned a ready ‘protection’ market .

Conflict between rival gangs were frequent and increasingly violent. Charles ‘Darby’ Sabini with his brothers ran ‘The Italian Mob’ who clashed with Billy Kimber and his Brummagen Hammers.

Uneasy partnerships were formed but seldom lasted. The Sabinis were friendly with the Cortesi family until a rift resulted in one of the Cortesis shooting Harryboy Sabini. Other gangs such as The Titanics and The Nile Mob were ready to fill voids. As well as broken alliances, internal friction and members changing sides resulted in bloodshed on the streets, in pubs and clubs and on the courses. Public order was so threatened that the Flying Squad was tasked with the eradication of the problem and, in 1936, the celebrated Battle of Lewes Racecourse brought matters to a bloody conclusion.

This well researched and gripping account describes the vicious dramas played out in the 1920s and 1930s.

My thoughts:  This being another Dick Kirby book, I “wished” for it, and in a reasonable time was informed that I’d been chosen to get it. This is a book about British true crime gangs in the early part of the last century. It focuses on the ones in particular that were preying on the racetracks, and the bookmakers who went there with money much of the time. The gangs would fight each other when they weren’t jumping other people for money. Their allegiance to a certain gang would be pretty fluid too, depending how the wind was blowing that week.

It goes over different violent cases involving gang members and attacks on bookies, other gangs, and just random folks in different areas through the years. It gives what information is known on who was involved and what happened. Then if available, it also tells the charges filed and court cases with the outcomes when known and sentences. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Dick Kirby, and publisher Pen & Sword.



Publisher: Pen & Sword – 224 pages
Publication: Oct 30th, 2020
My rating: 3/5 STARS

About 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:

BOOK REVIEW ~ A Convenient Death

A Convenient Death: The Mysterious Demise of Jeffrey Epstein

Description: A must-read for fans of the Netflix docuseries Filthy Rich: The full investigation of the shocking death of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and those powerful enough to have orchestrated it.

In A Convenient Death, investigative reporters Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper search for the truth of what really happened to Jeffrey Epstein. With access to Epstein’s victims and lawyers, to doctors, Wall Street insiders and law enforcement officers, they reveal the dirty secrets and sinister ties that may have driven someone in Epstein’s circle to take matters into their own hands.

On the morning of August 10, 2019, Epstein, friend and financier to the rich and powerful, was found unresponsive in his prison cell in lower Manhattan, where he awaited his second trial for sexual predation and other crimes. He was rushed to a local hospital and one hour later pronounced dead by suicide. Across the world, a sinister web of powerful billionaires, celebrities, and politicians, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, had reason to sigh with relief at news of Epstein’s death. Having flown on his private planes and visited his many homes—the sites of so many illicit activities—they had much to lose if their transgressions were ever exposed. And now, Epstein was silenced for good.

But cracks in the official story soon emerged. And the questions kept coming:
·    Why did the surveillance cameras in front of Epstein’s cell stop working that night?
·    Why was Epstein’s cellmate transferred out and never replaced?
·    Why was a high-profile prisoner so suddenly taken off suicide watch and left unguarded for eight hours?

Was Epstein murdered to protect the powerful people who feared what he might reveal? The American public deserves to know the truth. With this book, they can finally understand the facts and decide for themselves.

My Thoughts: I didn’t see the Netflix docuseries, but I sure enjoyed this book. I only vaguely knew the major points of the Epstein story and this book was perfect for filling in the details of the story. It’s so well researched it filled me in perfectly on all the backstory I’ve wondered about. It tells about Epstein’s earlier years, how he got his start, what he does for a living, all of that. It also covers the juicy stuff that’s gotten him in trouble previously when he had to go to court and did a plea deal, and also the more current problems he was again facing that had him in the lockup that he never left.

I don’t know what you will think after reading it, but I don’t believe he committed suicide. I think his important friends weren’t willing to risk him talking. Or playing some blackmail games if the camera stories are true. It’s all moot now, of course…but so much speculating went on for a time. This is certainly a book of the times, and a good one to get your mind off the current Covid-19 stuff for a while. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Alana Goodman & Daniel Halper, and the publisher.



Publisher:   Sentinel – 252 pages
Publication:   June 2nd, 2020P
My rating:   5/5 Stars


The Authors-  Alana Goodman is a senior investigative reporter at the Washington Free Beacon. Previously, she was a reporter at the Washington Examiner and the Daily Mail, where she broke the story of politician Anthony Weiner’s online relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Goodman was named one of Politico’s “16 Breakout Media Stars.” She has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, and C-SPAN.

Daniel Halper is the bestselling author of Clinton, Inc. Previously, he was Washington bureau chief for the New York Post and online editor for the Weekly Standard. Halper has appeared on the Fox News Channel, Fox Business, MSNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, and numerous radio shows.



Tombstone: The Earp Brothers, Doc Holliday, and the Vendetta Ride from Hell


It seems I’ve read some of Clavin’s work previously, but I’m not sure when. I do enjoy his writing though, especially here on this subject which is one of my favorites. He does a really good job of covering it and it brings you right to the thick of things. You are there in the heat of 1881 Tombstone, with the noise and commotion of the day, with all of the people there to do business or trying to hustle a stake in a mine somehow. Or simply to blow the dust off and drink some whiskey and gamble a bit in one of the saloons.

There are tensions afoot between the different factions setting off the problems, the Cowboys who are crooked and run around doing and taking what they like, while they work for different area ranchers like the Clantons and McLaurys and others. Then there are the Earps, one of whom has been threatened to back off and let the Cowboys be, but they aren’t the type and since more Earps may getting into law enforcement, that’s not about to happen. There are other people around too, but you can’t always tell where they stand. Most folks just want to make good money and not get killed by various Indians roaming the territory. If you like Western US history you will likely enjoy this book, it’s a good long read. I learned quite a lot more about the different people involved, which was a big plus. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher.



Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press – 400 pages

Publication:  April 21st, 2020
My rating:  4/5 Stars


The Author- TOM CLAVIN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has worked as a newspaper and web site editor, magazine writer, TV and radio commentator, and a reporter for The New York Times. He has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, and National Newspaper Association. His books include The Heart of Everything That Is, Halsey’s Typhoon, and Reckless. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY.


My Five Star Reads of 2019

I was very fortunate this year to have found many books that were super reads. Just lucky, I guess. I also had very few DNF’s. It was a very good year overall, other than my struggles with my vision and extreme sleep apnea interfering so much with my reading during the day.  Otherwise, I could have easily read twice as much, and used to in days past.

So below are my 5 star books of this year, 20 in all, most of which can be found at Amazon and other major bookstores. I would say the last 2 were especially important.  Here is the link to all of the books I read this year showing in my reading challenge on Goodreads:   Among them you will find a ton of good 4 star reads in the true crime and biography categories also if you have similar tastes. You may want to check those out.  Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful New Year!


Drug Warrior: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo and the Rise of America’s Opioid Crisis

by Jack Riley


My review:

Dead in the Water: My Forty-Year Search for My Brother’s Killer  by Penny Farmer



My review:

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love and Overcoming

By Kerri Rawson


My review:

Where Monsters Hide: Sex, Murder,  and Madness in the Midwest

By M. William Phelps


My review:

A Hero on Mount St. Helens: The Life and Legacy of David A. Johnston

by Melanie Holmes


My review:

The Girl in the Treehouse: A Memoir   by Jennifer Asbenson


My review:


Railroaded:  Framed For Murder, Fighting For Justice

by Samuel  L.  Sommer


My review:


Jet Girl:  My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy’s Most Lethal Aircraft

by Caroline Johnson


My review:

Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption  by Bryan Stevenson


My review :


The Gangster’s Cousin: Growing Up in the Luciano Family

by Salvatore Lucania


My review:


The Black Widow: My Web of Secrets and the truth about my murder conviction

by Linda Calvey


My review:


The Blood on my Hands: An Autobiography   by Shannon O’Leary


My review:

Out of the Fire and Into the Pan (Sequel)   by Shannon O’Leary


My review:


They Must Be Monsters   by Matthew Leroy, Derric Haddad


My review:


Janis:  Her Life and Music    by Holly George-Warren


My review:


Kidnapped by a Client: An Attorney’s Fight For Justice at any Cost

by Sharon R. Muse, JD


My review:


The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle                                                   by Kent Alexander, Kevin Salwin


My review:


Epic Solitude: A Story of Survival and a Quest for Meaning in the Far North

by Katherine Keith


My review:


Know My Name   by Chanel Miller


My review:


If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood                                                                                                  by Gregg Olsen


My review:


BOOK REVIEW ~ The Accidental Gangster

The Accidental Gangster: From Insurance Salesman to Mob Boss of Hollywood

by  Ori Spado & Dennis Griffin

I just finished this true crime book by Orlando (Ori) Spado better known as the Mob Boss of Hollywood, according to him and his cronies. He had a decades long friendship with mobster Sonny Franzese who kept him protected, on the street and in the joint. It was a good read, no dragging places, moved along well. I’ve been very blessed with the last several books, I’m on a streak. I love when that happens. Spado has his own things he does in Hollywood to make money, but he’s also know as a ’fixer’ for people who are having a problem they need handled, like a debt they are having trouble collecting, or people they are having problems with, things like that. With his connections, and all of the people he knows, he had no problem taking care of most anything for anyone and was quite successful at it.

There are photos in the book and a link where you can see them online too, along with some others, which I always enjoy checking out. The book is co-written with Dennis Griffin who is becoming one of my favorite true crime writers as I have read quite a lot of his work lately and enjoyed it.



Publisher: WildBlue Press – 344 pages
Published: Nov 12th, 2019
MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

The Co-Author- Dennis N. Griffin was born in Rome, New York in 1945. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1962. After being honorably discharged in 1966, he returned to central New York. He is married and has four adult children. Mr. Griffin began his career in investigations and law enforcement in 1975, when Pinkerton, Inc. hired …him as a private investigator. His duties included insurance fraud, missing persons, financial and background investigations, as well as undercover operations. In 1979 the Madison County, New York Department of Social Services hired him as a Senior Child Support Investigator. He was responsible for locating and conducting financial investigations of persons failing to provide legally mandated child support. In 1981 he joined the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, and attained the rank of sergeant. He was a shift supervisor and public information officer. During the same time-period, he moonlighted as a part time patrolman for the Village of Chittenango Police Department. In 1987 Mr. Griffin was hired by the New York State Department of Health as Director of Investigations, Wadsworth Center. The primary mission of his unit was to investigate violations of the Public Health Law relating to clinical and environmental laboratories, and health care fraud. He was responsible for hiring and training investigators, case assignments and general supervision. In addition, he personally handled the more difficult and complex investigations. Many of these cases received both local and national media attention. He retired in 1995. In 1996, Dennis was supposed to be retired, but decided to tell the story of what he learned while investigating the operation of a medical examiner’s office. It was an eye-opening experience and he felt compelled to share it with others. Dennis eventually authored a fictionalized account called, The Morgue. However, readers didn’t believe anything in the book could actually happen, but they liked the story and his style; rough edges and all. Six more mystery/thriller fictions followed. The author is an active member of the Police Writers Association. He attended Onondaga County Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College and the Central New York Regional Academy for Police Training. He has three other novels published through 1stBooks. The first, The Morgue, was published 1999. Red Gold, followed in 2000. In January 2002, his writing career was at a crossroads. Would he continue the uphill struggle for recognition in a genre with a number of well-established authors? Or was it time to find another hobby? The question was answered at a writers’ conference when a lady suggested Dennis try his hand at police-related non-fiction. That was the turning point. He began writing Policing Las Vegas, the history of law enforcement in Las Vegas and Clark County from 1905 thru 2004. Policing was released in April 2005. Writing that book opened his eyes to some interesting things about Las Vegas and the mob that he wanted to explore; leading to his second non-fiction book, The Battle for Las Vegas, the story of the Vegas reign of Chicago mob enforcer Tony Spilotro. In the movie Casino, actor Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro. The Battle for Las Vegas was released on July 1, 2006. In writing that book, Dennis relied heavily on resources such as retired FBI agents and police detectives from that era, and through his conversations with career criminal and former Spilotro lieutenant Frank Cullotta. Those conversations led to a third Vegas-based non-fiction, CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, released nationally in July 2007. Since that time, Dennis has written several books on the true stories of the Las Vegas mob and the era in which they reigned. In 2007 Denny began hosting his own Internet radio show on Blog Talk Radio.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Kidnapped by a Client

Kidnapped by a Client: An Attorney’s Fight for Justice at Any Cost


This was one of the most exciting, scary, and tension filled true crime books I’ve read. You really feel for Sharon Muse as the beginning of the story unfolds and you follow along with her. Things just get more intense and frightening as it continues and she finds herself kidnapped by someone she once represented who was convicted. And he wants revenge his own way now that he’s made her drive out to this creepy abandoned farm. This part of the book is riveting, but there is much more to this story, so check it out. I highly recommend this one.  Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Sharon R. Muse, JD & Holly Lorincz, and the publisher.



Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing  – 312 pages
Publication: Sep 17th, 2019
RATING: 5/5 Stars

The Author- Sharon Muse, JD is the commonwealth attorney for Kentucky’s 14th Judicial District. She has a BA in Psychology from the University of Kentucky, a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Louisville, specialized training in the legal field, and extensive training in effects of trauma on the brain. She works with experts in self-protection, trauma, and grief counseling. Muse teaches classes and speaks to groups about self-protection and assists victims as they navigate the legal system.

Holly Lorincz is a professional collaborative writer and the owner of Lorincz Literary Services, an editing and publishing company. She regular works with New York Times bestselling authors and is award-winning novelist herself. She is also a nationally recognized speaking coach and a longtime speaking instructor.

BOOK REVIEW ~Red River Girl

Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine


This is author Joanna Jolly’s debut book on the death of Tina Fontaine. Tina was a Canadian girl, one of a number of aboriginal females who had gone missing and later turned up dead in the Red River. It’s written about as part of a larger problem of sexual exploitation with so many aboriginal young females. But the focus is on this girl for the purposes of this book. There is a lot of pressure for the police to make some progress in the case, and it continues to grow. There are several suspects, and they are careful to take the time to rule them out correctly before focusing on the final one. All of that takes time. The final suspect turns out to be very slippery, and they have to go above and beyond to convince themselves and the Crown that it’s the correct person.

I found this to be an engaging true story of Tina Fontaine’s life and tragic killing. She was just beginning to test her wings in a larger city, and when allowed a bit of freedom took too much and got in over her head. I’d recommend it for true crime readers. It held my interest quite well, and I’d recommend it. A good first effort for Ms. Jolly. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Joanna Jolly, and the publisher.




Publisher: Viking – 320 pages
Published: Aug 27th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars


The Author- JOANNA JOLLY is an award-winning BBC reporter based in London. She began her journalism career at the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, moving on from there to freelance in India and Australia before covering the fight for independence in East Timor. During the past decade, she’s worked as a BBC producer and reporter in Jerusalem, South Africa, Brussels, Washington, and India as well as spending two years as the BBC correspondent in Kathmandu, Nepal. During that time Jolly specialised in stories of sexual violence against women. Jolly has won several awards, including the 2007 BBC Onassis Bursary. In 2015, she won the Association of International Broadcaster’s best current affairs documentary award for her in-depth look at the prosecution of rape in India. Red River Girl is her first book.

BOOK REVIEW ~ They Must be Monsters

This was simply an amazing book about the McMartin Preschool abuse case back in the 1980s that was all over the news. I remember seeing it, but was busy starting a family, so I didn’t really follow the details then. So this gave me a chance to really dig in and see what it was all about, and wow what a story! What started with one child sexual abuse allegation, eventually snowballed into over 100 at 7 different businesses. It went from molestation to killing animals and devil worship, pictures taken for porn purposes, all kinds of allegations. People never knew who could be next to have the police beating on their door early in the morning with a warrant to search their home or business, and/or taking their kids away to be medically examined for signs of being molested, regardless of your wishes. It really got out of hand and is a good lesson.

This is a very eye-opening case, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t read a thorough run down of the full story. This one is written by two college student who took time off to cover this and spent three years doing so. This book is what they came up with and put together nearly 30 years later, but it’s worth the wait. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad, and the publisher.



BooksGoSocial – 381 pages
Publication: Aug 12th, 2018
RATING: 5/5 Stars

Book Review ~ Out of the Fire and Into the Pan

This is the sequel to ‘Blood on My Hands’ and I found it to be just as good. It picks up where the first book leaves off, sharing how Shannon and her family do after leaving her toxic father. This book covers the period of her adulthood and how she copes with what happened in her childhood. Despite the trauma they all went through, and his continued stalking of the family, despite their repeated moves, they keep striving to better their lives. Shannon’s mother encourages education as the way out and many of them attend further schooling, especially Shannon. She becomes active in teaching, acting and directing on the stage and Australian National TV. She found that writing and music helped when she was stressed at night, and spent times indulging in it. There always seemed to be the threat of her father around outside at times, scratching at the window, the smell of his cigarette smoke seeping in, or his creepy phone calls when they later had a phone.

Read how she starts to learn how to move beyond those awful years, to try and heal herself and learn who she is in this world. How she looks for answers to some of the awful things that happened back in her early years, but finds that no one really wants to help, including the police still. My thanks for a copy from the author and publisher for review.


Thinking Cat Productions – 368 pages
Publication: March 12th, 2019
RATING: 5/5 Stars

Author- Shannon O’Leary (a pseudonym) is a prolific writer and performer. Her first book, The Blood on My Hands, told the story of her traumatic and violent childhood in the 1960s and ’70s Australia. This sequel, Out of the Fire and into the Pan, explains to the reader how she progressed into the adult world while coming to terms with her terrifying past. It is a story of personal growth and of how O’Leary navigates her transition into adulthood, while seeking out the social norms and finding her place in the world. O’Leary has acted and directed on the stage and on Australian national TV, and she runs her own production company and music schools. She has numerous graduate and post-graduate degrees in education, music, and science. Shannon is a teacher and academic, had five children with her deceased former husband, and lives with her longtime partner in the Central Western Plains in Australia.