Book Review ~ Patriot Gangster

Patriot Gangster: Volume 1, Evolution of an Outlaw

by Jeff “Twitch” Burns


Synopsis: This ground-breaking trilogy tells the incredible story of Jeff “Twitch” Burns’ twenty-two years in the one percent outlaw motorcycle club culture, his rise to become one of the most influential outlaw motorcycle club members in American history, and his fight to defend the Constitution and protect the culture he loved from a corrupt element of law enforcement bent on eradicating the motorcycle club culture at any cost.

Patriot Gangster is the very first work of its kind to pull the curtain back, reveal all the secrets, and tell the truth about American outlaw motorcycle club culture. Patriot Gangster uses the story of the author’s time in the outlaw motorcycle club culture combined with his 25 years of covert operations and law enforcement experience to explain the realities of Outlaw Motorcycle Club culture, while at the same time conducting a well-evidenced analysis of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG) investigations and the indictments used to define the culture, many of which he was a target of, and it exposes an undeniable and shocking pattern of corruption and criminality by the undercover agents and their contract sources of information that demands congressional oversight and reform. This explosive trilogy is riveting, it systematically destroys the accepted narrative about outlaw motorcycle clubs, and effectively uses the authors personal and professional experience, never before seen personal photos, as well as the corrupt undercover agents own words, to establish that the real criminal organizations are the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG) investigations and law enforcement that target the motorcycle clubs, and not the outlaw motorcycle clubs as we have been led to believe.

Patriot Gangster: Volume I, Evolution of an Outlaw; is the first book in the series and follows Twitch’s adventures from his entry into the outlaw motorcycle club culture through the birth of the American Motorcycle Profiling Movement, and the passing of the very first motorcycle profiling law in the United States.


My thoughts: I found this to be a very good read on the subject of outlaw motorcycle clubs by the author. He was involved in club culture for over 20 years, along with being a member of law enforcement. This put him in a unique position and gave him an inside view of things. He tells what its like being a prospect for a club, and how he earned his patch and became a member of his choice of clubs, the Outsiders. He was involved in getting the first two laws passed on motorcycle profiling by law enforcement in his state of Washington, the first of its kind. I’m looking forward to the next book in this trilogy. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


Patriot Gangster


Publisher: Mountain House Media, 2nd Edition – 525 pages

Publication date: Dec 7th, 2021

My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author: Without exception, Jeff “Twitch” Burns is the most authoritative Subject Matter Expert on Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (OMC’s) and Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG) Investigations in the world.  When it comes to his life in the outlaw motorcycle club world, Jeff was mentored by notorious Hells Angels enforcer’s “Mouldy Marvin” Gilbert and Josh Binder.  Jeff spent over twenty-two years as a prominent member of the outlaw motorcycle club world, and was a well-known and respected one-percenter (1%er) in arguably one of the most influential outlaw motorcycle clubs in the U.S.   He helped unify the motorcycle club community on the national level and helped pass the first two laws addressing Motorcycle Profiling by law enforcement in the United States (Washington & Maryland).  Jeff produced the award-winning guerrilla documentary What It’s All About, which chronicles the unification of the Washington state motorcycle clubs and the birth of the American Motorcycle Profiling Movement, and in 2014, he was nominated for induction into the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame in two categories: Leadership and Motorcycle Rights.
   
Professionally, Jeff is nationally and internationally recognized as an elite counter-terrorism expert and covert operator.  He has over twenty-five years of international high-threat protective services and covert operations experience in both the government and private sectors, which includes ten years of law enforcement experience conducting complex undercover operations.  Jeff has completed over 8,500 hours of advanced level special operations and law enforcement training, he is board-certified in Dignitary and Executive Protection (CDEP), a board-Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS), U.S. Department of State Worldwide Protective Services 2 (WPS2) qualified and holds numerous advanced special operations and firearms instructor certifications.

Graphic Novel Review ~ Murder Book

Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession

by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell


Synopsis:

A humorous graphic investigation of the author’s obsession with true crime, the murders that have most captivated her throughout her life, and a love letter to her fellow true-crime fanatics.

Why is it so much fun to read about death and dismemberment? In Murder Book, lifelong true-crime obsessive and New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell tries to puzzle out the answer. An unconventional graphic exploration of a lifetime of Ann Rule super-fandom, amateur armchair sleuthing, and a deep dive into the high-profile murders that have fascinated the author for decades, this is a funny, thoughtful, and highly personal blend of memoir, cultural criticism, and true crime with a focus on the often-overlooked victims of notorious killers.


My thoughts: I just had to read this after seeing the description. I’ve been reading true crime for over 45 years now, and saw a lot of myself in what was written. It makes me a “murderino” too, I suppose. I had a good time reading this and was impressed with all of the effort and thought put into it. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, and the publisher.


Murder Book


Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing – 336 pages

Publication: Nov 9th, 2021

My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author: Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell is a New Yorker cartoonist and comedian who has illustrated books such as Feminist Fight Club and Are You My Uber? She lives in Brooklyn with her dog and her vast collection of Law & Order DVDs.



Book Review ~ The “Mr. Big” Sting

The “Mr Big” Sting: The Cases, the Killers, the Controversial Confessions

by Mark Stobbe


Synopsis:
How the police create an imaginary criminal gang to trick homicide suspects into a confession and a prison cell There are people in prison who got away with murder until they told the boss of a powerful criminal gang all about it. When the handcuffs were snapped on, the killers learned they’d been duped — that “Mr. Big” was actually an undercover police officer. These killers ended up with lots of time to think about how tricky police can be. In this captivating book, we learn why Mr. Big is so good at getting killers to confess — and why he occasionally gets confessions from the innocent as well. We meet murderers such as Michael Bridges, who strangled his girlfriend and buried her in another person’s grave. Bridges remained free until he told Mr. Big where the body was buried. We also meet people like Kyle Unger, who lied while confessing to Mr. Big and went to prison for a crime he did not commit. The “Mr. Big” Sting is essential reading for anyone interested in unorthodox approaches to justice, including their successes and failures. It sheds light on how homicide investigators might catch and punish the guilty while avoiding convicting the innocent.


My thoughts: This is a book about a system that Canadian RCMP use on their worst of the worst cases that seem unsolvable. After creating a Mr. Big set up, they attempt to get the suspect to confess to the crime to a fake crime boss. They lie to the suspect to lure him into wanting to join the gang. It covers different serious cases, and shares how often the Mr Big Stings do work. Other countries like Australia have implemented the same method to catch criminals too. Very well researched and written. An interesting police procedural read. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Mark Stobbe, and the publisher.


“The “Mr. Big” Sting


Publisher: ECW Press – 220 pages
Publication: Sep 28th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author: Mark Stobbe has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Saskatchewan and has taught at Keyano College and Okanagan College. He began studying the criminal justice system after being accused and acquitted of the murder of a loved one. Dr. Stobbe now lives and works in Regina, Saskatchewan.



Book Review ~ Evil Roman Emperors

Evil Roman Emperors: The Shocking History of Ancient Rome’s Most Wicked Rulers from Caligula to Nero and More

by Phillip Bartag


Synopsis:
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. As catchy as that aphorism is, it’s sadly untrue, even if it has a nice ring to it. The one thing Nero is well-known for is the one thing he actually didn’t do. But fear not, the truth of his life, his rule and what he did with unrestrained power, is plenty weird, salacious and horrifying.

And he is not alone. Roman history, from the very foundation of the city, is replete with people and stories that shock our modern sensibilities. Evil Emperors puts the worst of Rome’s rulers in one place and offers a review of their lives and a historical context for what made them into what they became. It concludes by ranking them, counting down to the worst ruler in Rome’s long history.

Lucius Tarquinius Suburbus called peace conferences with warring states, only to slaughter foreign leaders; Commodus sold offices of the empire to the highest bidder; Caligula demanded to be worshipped as a god, and marched troops all the way to the ocean simply to collect seashells as “proof” of their conquest; even the Roman Senate itself was made up of oppressors, exploiters, and murderers of all stripes. Author Phillip Barlag profiles a host of evil Roman rulers across the history of their empire, along with the faceless governing bodies that condoned and even carried out heinous acts.

Roman history, deviant or otherwise, is a subject of endless fascination. What’s never been done before is to look at the worst of the worst at the same time, comparing them side by side, and ranking them against one another. Until now.


My thoughts: I enjoyed this good read on Roman leaders back in the early days who were particularly evil. The book covers the creation of Rome and the selected worst of the worst like Caligula and Nero and many others through their reigns. Some even changed their names to distance themselves from past bad deeds. I always wanted to know more about these people, and this was a good way to get some knowledge on them. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Phillip Barlag, and the publisher.


Evil Roman Emperors


Publisher: Rowan & Littlefield – 235 pages
Publication: June 15th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author: Phillip Barlag is an Executive Director at World 50, a Morgan Stanley company which initiates and facilitates the most interesting and influential business conversations in the world. He is the author of The History of Rome in 12 Buildings and the acclaimed The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar, and his writing has been published in Fast Company, MIT Sloan Management Review, and ChangeThis.com, among others. He lives in the Atlanta, GA, area with his wife and three children.


Book Review ~ Surviving Dirty John


Surviving Dirty John: My True Story of Love, Lies, and Murder

by Debra Newell


Synopsis:

Now that articles, podcasts, newsmagazines, and miniseries have had their sensationalistic say, Debra Newell, the one woman who truly knows what it was like to survive “Dirty John” Meehan shares the full story—the reality—with the world for the first time.

Debra Newell is nothing if not a survivor. By the time she met John Michael Meehan online, she lived through a near-fatal childhood illness, an attempted rape in her 20s, the traumatic death of her sister at the hands of her brother-in-law, four failed marriages, and a litany of dating disasters. But despite those tragedies, she  seemed to have it all: adoring children, a successful business, a fabulous penthouse apartment.  

But there was something missing: the blinding, all-consuming love she first read about to occupy her time in her childhood sickbed. And she thought she found it with John Meehan.  

More than a tabloid-ready true-crime expose, Debra’s story is one of trauma, denial, and deception. But it is also a relatable, inspirational, and hopeful story of forgiveness and, most of all,  love. The lengths to which a woman will go to find—and keep—love; the boundaries children and parents cross to protect and save the people they love; the love one must find for oneself;  and the ways the illusion of love can be used to manipulate and hurt.  

Told in Debra’s words with the help of New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps, this book is filled with exclusive  stories about Debra and her family, previously unpublished  photos, and the unvarnished, unapologetic, and unbelievable reality of Surviving Dirty John.

My thoughts: This was a riveting read all the way through, especially the end part. Some of you may know the story from the dramatization of it shown on TV. That’s not the real story. This is what happened according to the woman who lived it, told in her own words and written with M. William Phelps, my favorite true crime author and guru. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Debra Newell, and the publisher.


Surviving Dirty John


Publisher: BenBella Books – 324 pages

Publication: Aug 31st, 2021

My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author: Debra Newell is the founder and President of Ambrosia Home, Inc. headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as the founder and former President of the multi-million dollar company, Ambrosia Interior Design, Inc in Orange County, CA.

In October 2017, the Los Angeles Times launched a six-part article series and accompanying podcast created by Wondery, titled Dirty JohnDirty John is a story of love, deceit, denial, revenge and ruin that ultimately leads to a story of survival that chronicled a time in Newell’s life between October 2014 and August 2016. The story was adapted into a miniseries, which premiered on Bravo in November 2018 and on Netflix in February 2019. Newell has been featured in PeopleUS MagazineHarper BazaarForbesThe New YorkerVultureRefinery29, and Bustle to name a few. Additionally, Newell has made appearances on Dateline NBCDr. PhilDr. OzMegan Kelly TodayInside Evil with Chris CuomoFox NewsOxygen’s Dirty John: The Dirty Truth amongst many other media outlets.  

Due to her staggering real-life experiences, Newell now spends much of her time as an advocate for change and awareness helping women caught up in coercive controlling relationships. She is currently working to criminalize coercive control, a form of abuse that often goes unpunished because of the lack of awareness and existing legal ramifications. Los Angeles city prosecutors.


The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

by Sam Kean


Synopsis:
From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science’s darkest secrets.


Science is a force for good in the world – at least usually. But sometimes, when obsession gets the better of scientists, they twist a noble pursuit into something sinister. Under this spell, knowledge isn’t everything, it’s the only thing – no matter the cost. Best-selling author Sam Kean tells the true story of what happens when unfettered ambition pushes otherwise rational men and women to cross the line in the name of science, trampling ethical boundaries and often committing crimes in the process.


The Icepick Surgeon masterfully guides the listener across 2,000 years of history, beginning with Cleopatra’s dark deeds in ancient Egypt. The book reveals the origins of much of modern science in the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700s, as well as Thomas Edison’s mercenary support of the electric chair and the warped logic of the spies who infiltrated the Manhattan Project. But the sins of science aren’t all safely buried in the past. Many of them, Kean reminds us, still affect us today. We can draw direct lines from the medical abuses of Tuskegee and Nazi Germany to current vaccine hesitancy, and connect icepick lobotomies from the 1950s to the contemporary failings of mental-health care. Kean even takes us into the future, when advanced computers and genetic engineering could unleash whole new ways to do each other wrong.

Unflinching, and exhilarating to the last page, The Icepick Surgeon fuses the drama of scientific discovery with the illicit thrill of a true-crime tale. With his trademark wit and precision, Kean shows that, while science has done more good than harm in the world, rogue scientists do exist, and when we sacrifice morals for progress, we often end up with neither.


My thoughts: An easy to listen to story, narrated by the author, who has a pleasant reading voice. Filled with tales of scientists who crossed the line in their endeavors to further knowledge. It even calls out Cleopatra for being the first to do so, trying to determine the sex of unborn children. Some great stories in here. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher.


The Icepick Surgeon


Publisher: Hachette Audio – Little, Brown, & Co.
Publication: July 13th, 2021
My rating: 4/5

About the author– Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bastard Brigade, Caesar’s Last Breath (the Guardian’s Science Book of the Year), The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, The Violinist’s Thumb, and The Disappearing Spoon. He is also a two-time finalist for the PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and he has been featured on NPR’s Radiolab, All Things Considered, Science Friday, and Fresh Air. His podcast, The Disappearing Spoon, debuted at #1 on the iTunes science charts. Kean lives in Washington DC.


Book Review ~ A TASTE FOR POISON

A Taste For Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them

by Neil Bradbury


Synopsis:
“A fascinating tale of poisons and poisonous deeds which both educates and entertains.” –Kathy Reichs

As any reader of murder mysteries can tell you, poison is one of the most enduring—and popular—weapons of choice for a scheming murderer. It can be slipped into a drink, smeared onto the tip of an arrow or the handle of a door, even filtered through the air we breathe. But how exactly do these poisons work to break our bodies down, and what can we learn from the damage they inflict?

In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury explores this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. Alongside real-life accounts of murderers and their crimes—some notorious, some forgotten, some still unsolved—are the equally compelling stories of the poisons involved: eleven molecules of death that work their way through the human body and, paradoxically, illuminate the way in which our bodies function.

Drawn from historical records and current news headlines, A Taste for Poison weaves together the tales of spurned lovers, shady scientists, medical professionals and political assassins to show how the precise systems of the body can be impaired to lethal effect through the use of poison. From the deadly origins of the gin & tonic cocktail to the arsenic-laced wallpaper in Napoleon’s bedroom, A Taste for Poison leads readers on a fascinating tour of the intricate, complex systems that keep us alive—or don’t.


My thoughts: This book is filled with some fascinating stories about past poisoners and the various substances they used. It also goes deep into detail about how the substances work and affect the body which, while interesting, became a little tedious at times. I was amazed by how one such substance was able to be used to try and kill someone in one instance, and to try to hide the use of poison in another. And then it was used as an antidote to a poison in the 3rd situation! You can’t get more versatile than that. It always amazes me how people come up with so many ways to try and kill one another, and poison is one of the most sneaky and sinister. It’s a good thing that science has gotten so much better at detecting it in recent years, but it still takes someone who thinks to look for it first, in most cases. A satisfying read, overall. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Neil Bradbury, and the publisher.

 


 

 


 

Publisher: St Martin’s Press – 304 pages
Publication: Oct 19th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


 

About the author– NEIL BRADBURY, Ph.D. is Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, where he teaches and conducts research on genetic diseases. A full-time scientist and educator, Bradbury has won numerous awards for his unique approach to teaching physiology. He has presented his research around the world and authored more than 80 scientific articles and book chapters. He currently lives in Illinois with his wife and two border collies. A TASTE FOR POISON is his first book.


 

Book Review ~ IN THE SHADOW OF MT. DIABLO

In the Shadow of Mt. Diablo: The Shocking True Identity of the Zodiac Killer

by Mike Rodelli


Synopsis:
“It is no exaggeration to call the identity of the Zodiac Killer the most maddening unsolved crime in American history…But it is also no exaggeration to say that Mike Rodelli’s case stands above them all” – Tom Zoellner, Author and Former Reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

 
In June 1999, Mike Rodelli had an idea that had never occurred to a generation of detectives in the San Francisco Bay Area. This led him to a new suspect in the Zodiac case and began a twenty-year odyssey to prove that this man was the Zodiac Killer. In the Shadow of Mt. Diablo: The Shocking True Identity of the Zodiac Killer is filled with original information about the mystery, including DNA and behavioral profiling that resulted directly from his twenty years of intensive research. Rodelli provides the reader with an objectively researched, fully documented book that is meticulously footnoted, and which shows that, against all odds, he has solved a case many said would never yield its dark secrets.


My thoughts: Having read books about the Zodiac Killer, and watched various things on TV as well, I’ve wondered who this elusive killer is during the years. So I was eager to dive into this newest, possibly revealing, book on Zodiac with a new suspect. I recently read how some of the Zodiac’s impossibly difficult codes from his letters had recently been cracked after all these years. So is it possible that his identity has been figured out as well? That is why I read the book. You will have to decide for yourself if you think Rodelli got it correct or not. Its certainly well-researched, with about 20 years spent chasing an answer. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Mike Rodelli, and the publisher.


In the Shadow of Mt. Diablo


Publisher: Indigo River Publishing – 496 pages
Publication: May 11th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Mike Rodelli was born in Woodside, Queens, New York. In the 1960s he spent a good part of his youth playing sports in schoolyards. When Mike was a teenager, he saw a TV show about Jack the Ripper, which prompted a lifelong interest in puzzling over unsolved mysteries. Little did he know that, some thirty years later, his interest in serial killers would reshape his life and send him on a quest to bring the Zodiac Killer to justice. Mike holds a BA in biology from Montclair State University and a master’s degree in biological oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. When a controversial DNA sample in the Zodiac case appeared to rule out his suspect in 2002, his background in natural science proved to be critical in assessing and eventually overcoming that decision. His interest in thoroughbred horse racing likewise would serve him well in both understanding and gathering evidence on his suspect, an entrepreneur and a wealthy horse owner. Since 2000, Mike’s research on the Zodiac has been covered in several articles in the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2002 he appeared on the ABC News program Primetime Thursday. In May 2018 his book, The Hunt for Zodiac: The Inconceivable Double Life of a Notorious Serial Killer, was the subject of an article in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Tom Zoellner, The Serial Killer as a Marketing Genius. In addition, Mike was a contributor with screen credit on the acclaimed 2007 feature film, Zodiac, by David Fincher/Warner Brothers, which starred Robert Downey, Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal. Mike currently lives in Atlantic City, NJ. When not chasing serial killers, he is an avid New York Mets and Rangers fan. He enjoys tackling the Sunday New York Times crossword and occasionally declares victory over it. Mike also reads voraciously and eclectically and is working on two new true-crime books.



Book Review ~ THE CHILD IN THE ELECTRIC CHAIR

The Child in the Electric Chair: The Execution of George Junius Stinney Jr and the making of a Tragedy in the American South

by Eli Faber and Carol Berkitt


Synopsis:
At 7:30 a.m. on June 16, 1944, George Junius Stinney Jr. was escorted by four guards to the death chamber. Wearing socks but no shoes, the 14-year-old Black boy walked with his Bible tucked under his arm. The guards strapped his slight, five-foot-one-inch frame into the electric chair. His small size made it difficult to affix the electrode to his right leg and the face mask, which was clearly too large, fell to the floor when the executioner flipped the switch. That day, George Stinney became, and today remains, the youngest person executed in the United States during the twentieth century.

How was it possible, even in Jim Crow South Carolina, for a child to be convicted, sentenced to death, and executed based on circumstantial evidence in a trial that lasted only a few hours? Through extensive archival research and interviews with Stinney’s contemporaries—men and women alive today who still carry distinctive memories of the events that rocked the small town of Alcolu and the entire state—Eli Faber pieces together the chain of events that led to this tragic injustice.

The first book to fully explore the events leading to Stinney’s death, The Child in the Electric Chair offers a compelling narrative with a meticulously researched analysis of the world in which Stinney lived—the era of lynching, segregation, and racist assumptions about Black Americans. Faber explains how a systemically racist system, paired with the personal ambitions of powerful individuals, turned a blind eye to human decency and one of the basic enets of the American legal system that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.


As society continues to grapple with the legacies of racial injustice, the story of George Stinney remains one that can teach us lessons about our collective past and present. By ably placing the Stinney case into a larger context, Faber reveals how this case is not just a travesty of justice locked in the era of the Jim Crow South but rather one that continues to resonate in our own time.

A foreword is provided by Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History Emerita at Baruch College at the City University of New York and author of several books including Civil War Wives: The Lives and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant.


My thoughts: This is a very good book on this subject, which is rather timely at the moment, with a trial for former policeman Derek Chauvin just beginning in the killing of George Floyd. Sadly, its a very hot topic in our country, and has been for several years now, with many other killings of young black men by police officers that have happened.

The author gives a thorough recounting of the event, the times, and what was going on by interviewing people connected with the incident. There were just no newspaper stories on the killing at the time to get information from. Advance electronic review copy was provided by Edelweiss, authors Eli Faber and Carol Berkitt, and the publisher.


The Child in the Electric Chair


Publisher: University of South Carolina Press – 176 pages
Publication: Jun 25th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Eli Faber (1943–2020) was professor of history and dean of undergraduate studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York when he retired in 2010. He was the author of A Time for Planting: The First Migration, 1654–1820 and Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight.


Mini Review ~ WHAT HAPPENED TO PAULA

What Happened to Paula: On the Death of an American Girl

by Katherine Dykstra


Synopsis:
A riveting investigation into a cold case asks how much control women have over their bodies and the direction of their lives.

July 1970. Eighteen-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling left her house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Four months later, her remains were discovered just beyond the mouth of a culvert overlooking the Cedar River. Her homicide has never been solved.

Fifty years cold, Paula’s case had been mostly forgotten when journalist Katherine Dykstra began looking for answers. A woman was dead. Why had no one been held responsible? How could the powers that be, how could a community, have given up? Tracing Paula’s final days, Dykstra uncovers a girl whose exultant personality was at odds with the Midwest norms of the late 1960s. A girl who was caught between independence and youthful naivete, between a love that defied racially segregated Cedar Rapids and her complicated but enduring love for her mother, and between a possible pregnancy and the freedoms that had been promised by the women’s liberation movement but that still had little practical bearing on actual lives. The more Dykstra learned about the circumstances of Paula’s life, the more parallels she saw in the lives of the women who knew Paula and the women in Paula’s family, in the lives of the women in Dykstra’s own family, and even in her own life.


Captivating and expertly crafted from interviews with Paula’s family and friends, police reports, and on-the-scene investigation, What Happened to Paula is part true crime story, part memoir, a timely and powerful look at gender, autonomy, and the cost of being a woman.


My thoughts: Rather than a straight up true crime story, the author tends to make a sociology study of the time and situation. Well researched and written, yet I had trouble staying engaged at times. After finishing, I felt foggy about the story, rather than enriched. But that could just be me, most likely. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Katherine Dykstra, and the publisher.


What Happened to Paula

Publisher: WW Norton & Co – 288 pages
Publication: Jun 15th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author– Katherine Dykstra is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her essays have been published in the Washington Post, Poets & Writers, and Real Simple, among other periodicals. She lives with her husband and two children in New Jersey.