BOOK REVIEW – Hell in the Heartland

Hell in the Heartland:   Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls


The Description:
“There is, in the best of us, a search for the truth, to serve the living and dead alike…Jax Miller is one of those people and Hell in the Heartland is one of those books.”—Robert Graysmith, New York Times bestselling author of Zodiac.

S-Town meets I’ll Be Gone in the Dark in this stranger-than-fiction cold case from rural Oklahoma that has stumped authorities for two decades, concerning the disappearance of two teenage girls and the much larger mystery of murder, possible police cover-up, and an unimaginable truth…

On December 30, 1999, in rural Oklahoma, sixteen-year-old Ashley Freeman and her best friend, Lauria Bible, were having a sleepover. The next morning, the Freeman family trailer was in flames and both girls were missing .

While rumors of drug debts, revenge, and police corruption abounded in the years that followed, the case remained unsolved and the girls were never found.

In 2015, crime writer Jax Miller–who had been haunted by the case–decided to travel to Oklahoma to find out what really happened on that winter night in 1999, and why the story was still simmering more than fifteen years later. What she found was more than she could have ever bargained for: evidence of jaw-dropping levels of police negligence, entire communities ravaged by methamphetamine addiction, and a series of interconnected murders with an ominously familiar pattern.

These forgotten towns were wild, lawless, and home to some very dark secrets.


 

My thoughts– I felt something familiar as I read this book, following along as the tension was building. It seemed like I’d heard of some of the main victims before, but I needn’t have worried, the story was totally new to me. It was a horrific story indeed, and one that kept me involved, reading as various agencies and the author investigated over the years, trying to find out for certain who had committed the awful crimes. The mother of the young lady who was staying over on the night the crimes happened, Mrs. Lorene Bible, kept the momentum moving forward on the case whenever law enforcement would lose interest or lack in leads. There was plenty of push back too, as several in the case received threats of all kinds if they didn’t quit looking into the case and go away, including the author plenty of times. This is one nasty true crime case with bizarre elements to it making it very cruel and taking a long time tormenting the families. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jax Miller, and the publisher.


 

HellHeartland


Publisher: Berkley – 336 pages
Publication: July 28th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author– Jax Miller is an American author. While hitchhiking across America in her twenties, she wrote her first novel, Freedom’s Child, for which she won the 2016 Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle and earned several CWA Dagger nominations. She has received acclaim from the New York Times, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, and many more. She now works in the true-crime genre, having penned her much-anticipated book and acting as creator, host, and executive producer on the true-crime documentary series Hell in the Heartland on CNN’s HLN network. Jax is a lover of film and music, and has a passion for rock ‘n’ roll and writing screenplays.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Book of Atlantis Black

The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing


This tale took just a bit of getting into, and then I was hooked and couldn’t quit. Here is the description:

Reminiscent of Alex Marzano-Lesnevich’s The Fact of a Body and Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls, with equal parts memoir and true crime, The Book of Atlantis Black will have you questioning facts, rooting for secrets, and asking what it means to know the truth.

A young woman is found dead on the floor of a Tijuana hotel room. An ID in a nearby purse reads “Atlantis Black.” The police report states that the body does not seem to match the identification, yet the body is quickly cremated and the case is considered closed.

So begins Betsy Bonner’s search for her sister, and the unraveling of the mysterious final months before her disappearance, alleged overdose, and death. With access to Atlantis’ email and social media accounts, Bonner attempts to decipher and construct a narrative: frantic and unintelligible Facebook posts, alarming images of Atlantis with a handgun, Craigslist companionship ads, DEA agent testimony, video surveillance, police reports, and various phone calls and moments conjured from memory. Through a history only she and Atlantis shared―a childhood fraught with abuse and mental illness, Atlantis’s precocious yet short rise in the music world, and through it all an unshakeable bond of sisterhood―Bonner finds questions that lead to only more questions and possible clues that seem to point in no particular direction. In this haunting memoir and piercing true crime account, Bonner must decide how far she will go to understand a sister who, like the mythical island she renamed herself for, might prove impossible to find.


 

My thoughts:  I found this to be a rather gripping read that kept me coming back for more. I was always wanting to know what was going on, and what was coming next. Then it was the curiosity of how it was going to turn out. It really pulled me in, for sure. It certainly got my mind off of the stress of the things that have been going on around the US lately, what virus?! Takes you out of your own situation and that can be a good thing for the hours you are reading. A nice escape. This was a book that wasn’t available to request, I could only “Wish” for an advance electronic copy on NetGalley, and I got lucky and was chosen. Just thrilled. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Betsy Bonner, and the publisher.


 

Atlantis

 


 

 

Publisher: Tin House Books – 280 pages
Publication: Aug 4th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author– Betsy Bonner is the author of Round Lake, a poetry collection published by Four Way Books. She is a faculty member of the Writer’s Foundry M.F.A. program at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, New York and the former Director of the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center, where she teaches an annual poetry seminar. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, Parnassus, Poetry Daily, The Brooklyn Quarterly and The Southampton Review. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, Eliot House and the VCCA, and a mentor in PEN’s Prison Writing Program.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad

Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad

Description:
In 1906 the Metropolitan Police Commissioner was asked by the Home Office to make available skilled investigators for murder enquiries nationwide as few constabularies had sufficiently skilled – or indeed, any – detectives.

Thus was born the Reserve Squad, or Murder Squad, as it later became known. Despite a reluctance by some forces to call upon The Met, the Murder Squad has proved its effectiveness on countless occasions with its remit extended to British territories overseas. A particularly sensitive case was the murder of a local superintendent on St Kitts and Nevis.

A former Scotland Yard detective, the Author uses his contacts and experiences to get the inside track on a gruesome collection of infamous cases. Child murderers, a Peer’s butler, a King’s housekeeper, gangsters, jealous spouses and the notorious mass murderer Dr Bodkin Adams compete for space in this spine-chilling and gripping book which is testament to the Murder Squad’s skills and ingenuity – and the evil of the perpetrators.

Brimming with gruesome killings, this highly readable book proves that there is no substitute for old fashioned footwork and instinct.


 

My thoughts:
This book is filled with fascinating short stories of the Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad from back in the day, when the tools at hand for investigators were few, mostly just the new fingerprinting and smarts. The cases held my interest and were varied, with different investigators handling them. This was at a time when many murderers could find themselves with hanging as a punishment if found guilty! So follow back in time and read about these cases and see how serious investigations were done back then, if they were lucky enough to still have evidence available by the time they were notified and then had time to get to the scene. Recommended for true crime lovers. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Dick Kirby, and the publisher.


SYMurder Squad


 

Publisher: Pen & Sword – 264 pages
Estimated publication:  Oct 3rd, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

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: http://www.dickkirby.com.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Breakfast at Bronzefield

Breakfast at Bronzefield


This is the author’s first book, written about her time in prison after being arrested for Grievous Bodily Harm and assault on a police officer (GBH) in England. She finds herself in HMP Bronzefield, which is the biggest women’s prison in the UK. She shares just what it’s like to be female, a minority, and stuck in prison on remand while waiting for her case to come up. If you enjoy true biographies like this, you might want to check it out. I found it to be quite decently written, she tells it like it is without being overly gossipy. Explaining how she was seemingly expected to know how to get along and know the rules, even though it was her first time in. Like they didn’t believe her, even when she kept reminding them. They did finally assign someone to her for a short while to help her learn her way around, until she became adjusted a bit. It’s not like she wasn’t trying or was uneducated, as she had been to college.

 

It’s easy to forget about everything else when you pick the book up and start reading. You become engrossed in her world and what’s going on while she was inside and having to stick up for herself all the time. Often having to do crazy things to make a point that she won’t be pushed around, which often ended up with her losing privileges. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley and author Sophie Campbell.


breakfast


 

Publisher: Sophie Campbell Books – 270 pages
Publication: Jun 22nd, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author– Sophie Campbell is the winner of the Arts Council England Time to Write grant and the Koestler Flash Fiction and Short Story award. This is her first book.


 

MINI BOOK REVIEW ~ Killing Mother

Killing Mother: A Son’s Memoir


 

I recently picked up this Kindle book to read. My, my! This is quite a book in the vicious figure of mother Sandy. It hits like a freight train as you realize its from a real childhood. It becomes sickening but you can’t stop reading to see what’s going to happen next. The mother is so hateful and cruel towards her kids and foster kids, it will make you ill. It should be read despite this and a heavy dose of preachyness in the latter third of the book.  If you like true crime, check it out if you dare. It’s very well researched and written and will leave you mind-blown.


killing mother

 


 

Written by Robert Wallace

Independently published – 404 pages
Publication date: Oct 8, 2017
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ A Tangled Web

A Tangled Web: A Cyberstalker, a Deadly Obsession and the Twisting Path to Justice


 

I was so excited when I saw that there was a true crime book coming out by Leslie Rule, Ann Rule’s daughter, that I was beside myself! Now I just had to get my hands on an early copy to review. I struck out in the first place I tried, then it turned up in another and I got it then. I was really thrilled to get an advance copy of this book folks, Ann Rule was one of my favorite writers and dear people. I still have some books that she signed for me just for sending them to her. She also took the time to respond to emails from people who thought they might have an interest in writing true crime, and had a newsletter with updates on the cases she wrote about, which was really cool.

So on to the book, A Tangled Web. This is an awesome case for a book, I must say. I do recall the case, whether it was in a book or on TV, I’m not sure, it’s been too long ago. But it’s a whopper, and Ms. Rule does a wonderful job with it from start to finish. She lays it out and explains the details in a manner that keep it from getting too confusing, despite the use of some Internet terms and different methods used online to try and cover your tracks. The story kept me engaged and turning the pages until it was over, and I can’t believe I inhaled it all at one go. It’s really a sick, twisted story that I would have doubted had I not already known of it, and that it was certainly true. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Leslie Rule, and the publisher.


 

Tangled


Publisher: Citadel – 304 pages
Publication: Apr 28th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 Stars


 

The Author– Leslie Rule is a Seattle area artist, photographer and bestselling author of two suspense novels, five nonfiction books, and dozens of articles in national magazines, including Reader’s Digest.  At seventeen, she began to work with her mother, author Ann Rule, as research assistant and trial photographer. Many of Leslie’s courtroom photos appear in her mother’s books.  Visit Leslie’s website: authorleslierule.com

 

2leslie rule


BOOK REVIEW ~ Losing Jon

Losing Jon: A Teen’s Tragic Death, a Police Cover-Up, a Community’s Fight for Justice


 

This was a good true crime book by author David Parrish that’s coming out next month (April 2020). It certainly got my attention and kept me involved with the story of twin brothers Mickey and Jon Bowie, who were at a party in a motel room one night when the cops were called over a noise complaint. There were a group of others there that night too, but the twin Bowie brothers ran afoul of the anger and received the brunt of the punishment of the police that night. It was really over the top. The aftermath left ongoing animosity between several of the cops and the underage partiers. The twins, with Jon in particular, was being harassed daily. Tt gets really twisted a few nights later when Jon is found dead, and the mystery is on to figure out how it really happened. Many twists in this true crime book. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author David Parrish, and the publisher.


 

LosingJon


 

Publisher: Citadel – 256 pages
Publication: Apr 28th, 2020
My rating: 4/ 5 Stars


 

The Author- David Parrish is a semi-retired technical writer and first-time author of the non-fiction book, LOSING JON. He writes about witnessing the unexpected twists and turns of a disturbing and often-frightening journey through the criminal justice system and beyond. It takes place in Columbia, Maryland, a planned community once advertised as New America where he and his wife raised their two sons and still live. He grew up in a blue-collar family near Durham, North Carolina, graduated with a B.A. in English at the University of North Carolina, married his Ohio-raised wife, and followed a public health job to Jackson, Mississippi. He then switched careers and moved with his wife and sons to Maryland, halfway between their Ohio and North Carolina families. Three or more days a week he commutes – usually top-down in his aging green Mustang convertible – the short distance to his network security writing job. The rest of the week he does chores, plays golf, occasionally fishes a local reservoir, and meanders through county backroads on his Mustang-matching-green, retro Triumph Bonneville motorcycle.​

For more information visit http://www.davidkparrish.com
Find David on Instagram and Facebook @DavidParrishAuthor.com


 

MINI BOOK REVIEW ~ The Case of the Vanishing Blonde

The Case of the Vanishing Blonde: And Other True Crime Stories


 

This was an interesting group of true crime stories that was entertaining to read. I think only one of them I had read before. There is a PI that is just astounding at solving tough cold cases that I think most will enjoy. He’s rather like a magician. I’ll be looking for more to read about him, I know, this Mr. Brennan. This was certainly worth the read if you enjoy true crime and are looking for separate stories. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Mark Bowden, and the publisher.


 

blonde


Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press – 400 pages
Publication: July 7th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Mark Bowden is the author of thirteen books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Black Hawk Down. He reported at the Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for the Atlantic and other magazines. He is also the writer in residence at the University of Delaware.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Alice & Gerald

Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story

 


 

This is a rather creepy case in Wyoming that goes cold, brought to us by author Ron Franscell. I’ve read and really liked his true crime in the past, and decided to buy this 2019 paperback to read at leisure. Some of the main players are really twisted in this one, and the game playing between exes gets nauseating at times, but that’s how it is for some folks in the real world when kids are pawns.  A good true crime story by a very good true crime writer, worth a read.


 

 

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Written by Ron Franscell
Publisher: Prometheus Books – 336 pages
Published: April 9, 2019
My rating: 5/5 Stars


 

The Author- “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story” (Prometheus Books) explores a grisly, real-life case of murder and perverse devotion. “Alice & Gerald” features a femme fatale whose manipulative, cold-blooded character rivals Lady Macbeth, this page-turner by bestselling true-crime author Ron Franscell revisits a shocking cold case that was finally solved just when the murderers thought they’d never be caught.

Ron Franscell’s writing has been compared to Truman Capote, Charles Frazier and Robert Olen Butler–diverse, poetic, evocative and muscular. His widely acclaimed 2016 true crime, MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH (co-authored with renowned medical examiner Dr. Vincent Di Maio) was nominated for an Edgar in 2017.

This lifelong newspaperman burst onto the literary scene in 1998 with his first novel ANGEL FIRE, a poignant, mythic tale of two brothers wrestling with personal ghosts in the small town where they grew up. ANGEL FIRE was subsequently named among the San Francisco Chronicle’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century West.

After his 1999 mystery, THE DEADLINE, Ron became a senior writer for the Denver Post, writing about the entangled past, present and future of the American West. THE DEADLINE and its sequel, THE OBITUARY, have been re-published in print and digital editions by WildBlue Press, one of the most innovative new publishing ventures in America.

In 2008, his first nonfiction, THE DARKEST NIGHT, won rave reviews from true-crime legends Ann Rule, Vincent Bugliosi and Gerry Spence. The book explored a monstrous crime against two of Ron’s childhood friends in the small town where they grew up, and how that crime has echoed across almost four decades. It is now a national bestseller.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Beast of New Castle

Beast of New Castle: The Heart-Pounding Battle To Stop A Savage Killer


 

A second book by Larry Sells and Margie Porter, this one deals with a brutal killer named Jerry Thompson. Crimes and death appear to follow in his wake. He seems driven by rage born in his younger years that he can’t ignore or outrun. This book focuses on a couple of specific murders and the follow up investigation, and finally the trials, prosecuted by Larry Sells. This guy is one of the bad guys, and he would have just kept on killing if these guys hadn’t put him away. He is one scary dude as you will see if you read this one. He doesn’t even need a reason to kill, he just needs an occasion, which he can invent if needed.

 


BEAST


 
Written by Larry Sells & Margie Porter
Publisher: WildBlue Press – 258 pages
Publication: Feb 18, 2020
My rating: 5/5 Stars


 

The Authors- Larry Sells prosecutes murderers in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been interviewed on Investigation Discovery, America’s Most Wanted, Oxygen: Snapped, and Sally Jesse Raphael. In Beast of New Castle, he allows readers to face the most terrifying killer he ever battled in the courtroom- at a safe distance, of course.

Margie Porter co-authored Race to Justice with Larry Sells and has returned to document the horrors of a much more dangerous criminal. Margie resides in Indiana, where she cut her teeth as a newspaper feature writer.