Tag Archive: book review

Jade’s Book Review: No Room For Doubt by Angela Dove

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(Guest post by my wife Jade)

Some time in the early morning hours of March 25, 1988, 32-year-old Debi Whitlock was murdered in her own home, while her 3-year-old daughter slept in another room. As is most often in cases like this, the prime suspect was her husband Harold. It would take over nine years of persistence from her mother, Jacque before the case was solved.

“No Room For Doubt” is written by Harold Whitlock’s now adult daughter, Angela Dove. Angela was the last person to see Debi alive. I cannot begin to imagine how painful it was for her to write this book. She manages to tell the story with compassion and without any sensationalism. She chronicles Jacque’s efforts to get Debi’s story in the news in the hopes of finding out who the killer was. With dogged determination on Jacque’s part, the case was finally solved.

Angela also tells the story of the downward spiral her father wound up in after his wife’s murder. Both Debi and Harold were seeing other people at the time of her murder. Unbeknownst to Harold, Debi had let her life insurance policy lapse and had filed divorce papers. There was much speculation about Harold killing his wife, either for the insurance money or because of her affair. Angela tells their story in a way that is impartial to both her father and her step-mother. She also shows unconditional love for Debi and Harold’s daughter Jessica.

If you are a fan of true crime, this book is not to be missed. It is totally void of the sensationalism and tackiness that is so often found in true crime novels these days. It is told from the heart, not just from police files, again a rarity these days. If you’re looking for gory details or gruesome crime scene photos, look elsewhere. You won’t find them here. You will only find a story told as only a family member could tell it.

Jade’s Book Review: Columbine by Dave Cullen

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(Guest post by my wife Jade)

I’d like to start by apologizing to Trench and to author Dave Cullen for the delay in getting this review put together. I’ve had the book for a few weeks now, and actually finished it the day after I got it. I’ve started the review several times, only to delete what I had written over and over again. It just seems like no matter what I write, it doesn’t do this book justice.

It would be easy for most readers to be intimidated at first glance by the sheer size of this book. Don’t be. Admittedly, yes I do tend to devour most books I read in one sitting. Anyone who knows me will tell you when it comes to books I am not a normal human being. With “Columbine”, however, it was like a holy quest. I didn’t want to stop reading to eat or sleep.

We all know what happened on April 20, 1999. At least we think we do. 98% of what you thought you knew will be cast aside after reading this book. Cullen sorts through mountains of evidence, conducts hundreds of hours of interviews, and gives us an articulate, unbiased account of the facts. He shows us how much gray area there really is in a situation that most of us only saw in black and white. Ten years of in-depth research brings us a book written with compassionate professionalism.

I could continue to write on and on about this book, but I would only be repeating the dozens of glowing reviews from professional critics that I’ve read. If all you’re looking for is a mindless beach read, perhaps you’d best save this one until fall. If, however, you’re looking for a brutally honest look at one of our nation’s biggest tragedies that will hook you from page one, get your hands on it as soon as possible.

Jade’s Book Review: The Serial Killer’s Apprentice by James Renner

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(Originally written by Jade Crowe)

First, I would like to apologize to the author and the publisher for taking so long to get this review done.

This is a most fascinating book. I know journalists are constantly told to stay objective, but it’s obvious that these cases have touched Mr. Renner on a personal level. Especially the case of Amy Mihaljevic, a beautiful 10-year-old girl who disappeared in October of 1989 and was found dead in February of 1990. It’s very obvious to the reader that this case haunts Mr. Renner to this day.

There are stories of a suicide that may have been murder, a bank heist in 1969 in which the offender seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. There are stories of missing persons, people who got away with murder, and people wrongly convicted of murder.

This book was particularly interesting to me because of the considerable amount of family I have in the Cleveland area. I could be reading a story and think “hey, I know where that is” or “I remember someone mentioning this”.

I highly recommend this book to any true crime fan. It is one of the best I have read in a long time.

http://www.grayco.com/cleveland/books/10461/sampleChapter.html

Jade’s Book Review: Whisper of Fear

(Guest post by my wife Jade)

This time it is my great pleasure to review “Whisper of Fear” by Rhonda B. Saunders and Stephen G. Michaud. Penguin Books (who rules, by the way) was kind enough to send me an advanced copy.

Rhonda Saunders is the prosecutor who wrote the stalking laws in California, and has helped other states and countries write their stalking laws. She takes you through her journey of how she became a corporate attorney then ended up as a prosecutor. Her writing style is very reminiscent of John Douglas, the former FBI profiler.

Ms. Saunders started prosecuting stalkers around 1993. Little did she know that her first stalking case would continue to haunt her until this day. She prosecuted Madonna’s stalker, Robert Hoskins, and in telling the story also shares amusing anecdotes about trying to get the Material Girl to testify in court.

She also prosecuted Steven Spielberg’s stalker (a nut-job of the highest order) with help from the director himself. Mr. Spielberg was more than accommodating, even to the point of canceling a session with the Los Angeles Orchestra while recording the “Saving Private Ryan” soundtrack. She found Mr. Spielberg to be a friendly, outgoing person whose only concern was for the safety of his family.

Prosecuting Gwyneth Paltrow’s stalker proved to be a little easier because he was legitimately insane. Not that that made him any less dangerous.

Most of the cases she writes about are stalkers who obsess on ordinary people like you and me. Her first stalking case was that of an ordinary woman who was being stalked by a former lover. After being arrested, she continued to stalk her victim and Ms. Saunders. To this day, she still receives threatening messages from this stalker.

She also has a chapter on how to avoid becoming the victim of a stalker, and what to steps to take if you are being stalked.

I will not spoil the rest of the book for you, because if you are a true crime fan, this is a MUST READ!!!

It will be in stores on November 4, which will be an excellent way to get the nasty taste of Election Day out of your head.

Again, thanks to Penguin Books for giving me the chance to review this book in advance.

I don’t use a rating system, but if I did it would definitely be 5 out of 5!

Jade’s Book Review: “Twisted Confessions” by Charles E. Skollar

(Guest post by my wife Jade)

Rarely am I offered the chance to review a stellar true crime book by a publisher. Usually it is a book I have chosen on my own, or something wretched sent to me by some hack publishing company. It is my great pleasure this time to bring you “Twisted Confessions” by Charles E. Skollar.

Mr. Skollar was the prosecuting attorney on the Kitty Genovese case in 1964 in Queens, New York. I know most of us have heard of that case, but I myself did not know a lot of the details. This book does not give a great deal of details about the case, it’s more about the emotional toll that the trial took on everyone involved.

To complicate things further, Mr. Skollar had prosecuted and convicted a young man (who had confessed) for the murder of Barbara Kralik, a rising high school junior also from Queens. After a suspect was arrested for the Genovese murder, this suspect also confessed to the Kralik murder and the murder of Annie Mae Johnson.

Mr. Skollar goes into great detail about the horrendous amount of work involved in trying to untangle one confession from another. I won’t go into detail about how he was finally able to do it. I strongly urge you to read the book for yourself and find out. You will not be disappointed.

Book review of "The Killer Book of True Crime"

(Guest post by my wife Jade)

Yes, it’s book review time again kiddies.

First of all, I would like to say thanks to Sourcebooks Inc. for sending me their book “The Killer Book of True Crime” by Tom Philbin and Michael Philbin to review. I just wish I had nicer things to say about it.

It starts going wrong in the very first chapter, which in my opinion reads like a how-to for shoplifters, pick-pockets and con men. From there it digresses into pure schlock. Pure, at times inaccurate schlock. I could almost overlook the misspelling of serial killer Dean Corll’s name (they don’t call me the Grammar Bitch for nothing). Then I got to the chapter about female killers where they mentioned North Carolina’s own Velma Barfield, who, according to this book “killed seven husbands, a handful of fiances, and her mother”. Neat trick, considering that she was only married twice. Simple matter of public record. It wouldn’t have been that difficult to get it right.

In each chapter they have little blurb called “Crime Can Be Funny”. Good idea, except for the fact that very few of the stories were funny.

Some cases they devote half a chapter to, some only get one or two sentences. Many of the stories are the sort of sensationalized writing reminiscent of the old true detective magazines that used to be on the rack with the Enquirer and Star at the grocery store. Not to mention the fact that I never really wanted to see pictures of John Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe on the morgue slab. And I really didn’t want to see the ones of JonBenet Ramsey. While there was nothing gruesome about any of these pictures, I just found it to be beyond tacky.

I also could have done without so many statistics. If I want statistics I’ll look them up. When I’m reading a true crime book I want actual cases, not numbers.

This book was not completely without redeeming qualities though. I did learn some new things about cases I read about previously, and read about some others that I had never heard of but now want to read more about.

In short, I would say if you’re a fan of the previously mentioned detective magazines this book might interest you. Otherwise, you’d probably be better off passing on this one.

Book Review of Kathryn Casey’s “Die, My Love”

(Guest post by lovely and talented wife Jade)

Welcome to Jade’s Book Reviews! I have to say I was thrilled when Trench approached me with the idea of reviewing true crime and crime fiction books, since more than likely you will find me with my nose in a book during any downtime I have. And 9 times out of 10, that book will be true crime or crime fiction.

My first review is of Kathryn Casey’s “Die, My Love”. It is the story of Professor Fred Jablin, who was murdered in his own driveway by his ex-wife, Piper Rountree as he went outside to get his morning newspaper on October 30, 2004. Let me start by saying that one of everyone’s favorite true crime writers, Ann Rule, has referred to Kathryn Casey as “one of the best in the true crime genre”. After reading “Die, My Love” I have to agree with her. This is one of the absolute best books I have read in quite some time.

Mrs. Casey takes us through Fred and Piper’s relationship from the time they met when she was a student and he was a professor at University of Texas – Austin, to the time of Fred’s murder when Piper was living in Houston after many failed attempts at a law career and Fred was a pioneer and leader in the field of Organizational Communication at University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies. Mrs. Casey’s eye for details and sympathy for the victims (Fred, of course, and his children who lost their loving father) made me feel like I was actually a part of the investigation and trial. She gives us such a clear picture of everyone involved with this case to the point that I felt like I know them personally.

At this time, I would like to thank Mrs. Casey for taking the time to answer a few questions I had about her book and the case itself.

1. Have you kept in touch with Michael Jablin or any of Fred’s children? I’m sure anyone who reads the book will want to know how Jocelyn, Paxton, and Callie are doing.

The most recent information I have is in the Author’s note at the end of the book. At that point, they were doing very well.

2. Have you had any further contact with Piper since you finished the book? Is she still denying that she killed Fred, and is she still trying to convince us that Tina may have done it?

Yes, Piper still maintains her innocence. Piper would be willing to blame anyone, even her own mother, if she thought it would get her out of prison. After all, as Jerry Walters tells us: With Piper, it’s always about Piper.

3. What was your impression of Piper? Did she come across as mentally ill, or just evil?

There are people out there that aren’t really mentally ill but rather display what are termed as personality disorders. Most people who have these, shall we call them traits, are far from dangerous and many live very good lives. In some instances, however, such tendencies become unusually pronounced. Piper is a true narcissist: she cares about herself to the exclusion of even her children.

4. What drew you to this case initially?

Fred and Piper were such an odd couple to have their story end in murder. He was steady and methodical; on the surface, Piper appeared the perfect mother, a woman who loved children and animals and claimed to be guided by angels. I wanted to know why this happened.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I definitely give this book a 5!