Category Archives: True Crime

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery by Byron TD Smith

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery is a well-researched story interweaving real-world intrigue into a fictional tale full of questions. Windfall is not an over the top mystery thriller where every moment is filled with high suspense and the pressing need for action. Instead, it quietly tells a tale about an unassuming former banker, who is somewhat reluctantly drawn into the maze by a love for puzzles and at the urging of his precocious niece and captivating neighbor. The distraction might be exactly what our protagonist needs to pull him out of a dark period in his life – unless the danger catches up to him.

While the book may move at a more casual pace than many modern mysteries, which feel the need to fill every page with excitement, that does not mean it is lacking in tense moments of suspense. The first chapter of the book will hook you before the following chapters reel you into the world surrounding one of the most infamous unsolved crimes. Author Byron TD Smith does a terrific job of balancing these moments with wonderful character development, that leaves the reader feeling connected to those who live between the pages. All the characters feel real, and their actions are believable, which is not often something you find in the genre.

Mr. Smith’s writing flows smoothly across the pages and can make it difficult to find a place to pause your reading session. This can pose a hazard for late-night readers as they may find a short sleep ahead of them. Smith doesn’t rely on the high-octane world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll to sell the reader on his story, although all three do lurk around the edges. Instead, he relies on the compelling storylines and mildly eccentric characters he has created to keep readers engaged. He doesn’t attempt to write down to the reader to appeal to a larger audience, nor does he alienate readers with overembellished sentences.

After finishing the book, I was surprised to discover that Windfall was Mr. Smith’s first novel. The polished storytelling and literary presence read like an author who has honed his craft for years. I look forward to seeing what he will bring us next, and based on the subtitle am hoping to meet up with Henry and his friends again before too long.

In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders by Kathryn Casey

Reviewed by Vickie Dailey

In Plain SightIn Plaint Sight is the true crime story of the Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders.

It is a well written story with great background research on the killer and victim. While not familiar with the case, I found it interesting that the killer Eric Williams and one of his victims, Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, had similar lives and careers until one lost it and veered into murder.

This book has many great reviews for good reason – it is that good.

Trauma, Shame, and the Power of Love: The Fall and Rise of a Physician Who Heals Himself
by Christopher E. Pelloski, MD

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Trauma, Shame and the Power of LoveAlthough sexual abuse and pornography of children is nothing new within this society, each time it is discovered and reported there is an accompanying knee jerk reaction of anger, disgust and distrust that follows so much so that it becomes hard to see the many facets of the whole truth about the situation such was the case with Christopher E. Pelloski M.D. In his book, Trauma, Shame and the Power of Love, which is a biographical work, he bares his soul and shares his experiences from arrest to trial as a non-productive participant of child pornography.

When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

When the Serpent Bites

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

When a snake bites there are a few steps one can take right away, such as immobilizing the affected area, before being transported to a medical facility. But “When the Serpent Bites” the venom spreads faster and the victim must fight for his life.

The serpent is one of the most widespread and fascinating mythological symbols. So, it is no wonder that out of the many values which are attributed to it, some are contradictory, like guardianship and vengefulness. The magical thing about the serpent is that it is the ultimate representation of the duality of good and evil. In this crime novel just like in real life the good and evil are intertwined.

History Of Street Cops, Gangs Guns and Cabrini Green Housing Snipers, By Greg Zito

History of Street Cops

Reviewed by Cy Hilterman

Greg Zito, the author of this informative book, was an actual cop mostly in various areas in the city of Chicago. Greg tells it like it is in such a busy and dangerous profession, as police have to wonder into various areas of the city wherever they are requested. They never know what is really going on at the location called to or what they will encounter on the way to that destination. They generally have regular partners but not always so they have to learn to depend on the partner next to them now. These men and women of law enforcement have to be commended for the job they do for all of us, sometimes against all odds of survival. A certain bond is formed between law enforcement, a bond that only tightens when the times get tougher. They can have their differences but not when their partner or friend is in danger.

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (Thorndike Crime Scene) by Deborah Blum

The Poisoner's HandbookReviewed by Teri Davis

No, I hope I never need the information in this book. The Poisoner’s Handbook is really the development of forensic science from the view point of New York City’s medical examiner, Charles Norris, toxicologist, Alexander Gettler and many others at the beginning of the twentieth century. In many respects, this book is the evolution of science as the processes for identifying chemicals with humans was developing. As our society became more industrialized, more poisons were created and either misused accidentally or purposefully. Unfortunately, few people before these scientists really studied these poisons and knew how to identify and differentiate each.

Parallel to the actual poisons is the history of famous cases where the poisons were found or suspected and how the investigators discovered what poison what used. With viewing the cases first through law enforcement and then through the scientific evidence was fascinating. Before this time, even securing a crime scene was not standard procedure.

Heist and High by Anthony Curcio and Dane Batty

Heist and High Reviewed by Julie Moderson

This book is Anthony Curcio’s debut book and the first few pages bothered me so much that I could not continue to read it.

Anthony robbed an armored car, got away with it and then bragged about the crime. I was so repulsed by this book I put it down and read another one. When I sat down and tried for a second time to read this book, it turned out better than I thought.

Anthony is like so many other addicts and his life is one big fat lie. He lied so much he didn’t remember the truth. His story is a one of how many cons he ran and how he got away with them. Some of the things he did were quite clever.

Deadly Little Secrets: The Minister, His Mistress, and a Heartless Texas Murder by Kathryn Casey

Deadly Little Secrets Reviewed by Vickie Dailey

Deadly Little Secrets is a true crime story. It is the story of Matt & Kari Baker. Both come from fairly religious backgrounds. The two meet at school where Kari is pursuing a career in teaching and Matt wants to become a baptist minister. They soon marry and have two little girls. Sadly after a long illness the second daughter passes away.

Throughout the book we learn that Matt has many secrets in his past. Secrets that would have made a difference for what comes next. Numerous times Matt has been accussed of sexual harrassment with various women with whom he works as well as family friends.

Shattered by Kathryn Casey

Reviewed by Julie Moderson

Shattered by Kathryn CaseyKathryn Casey is a well know true crime author. Casey has written six true crime books and has spent over twenty years researching and writing about real people. She understands so much about law enforcement and the criminal mind.

Belinda Temple was married to her college sweetheart. David Temple was a former high school and college star football player and they seemed to be living a fairy tale marriage. David was a teacher and high school football coach. Belinda was a warm, loveable high school teacher who her co-workers called the Sunshine Girl. Belinda was a twin to Brenda who saw sadness in her sister the last time she visited her.

Deadly Angel by Fred Rosen (Review #2)

angel1Reviewed by Julie Moderson

Fred Rosen has written many true crime books and I think Deadly Angel is one of the best or worst true crime stories ever written. I find it so bizarre that Mechele Huges and John Carlin III got away with murder for almost 12 years.

Looking for easy money and a new life Mechele Hughes went to Wasilla, Alaska. (yes folks the same city that Sarah Palin is from) Sarah Palin did not make it easy for the police to solve this murder, she was busy firing Wasilla’s’ police chief . She also issued a gag order that no city employee was to talk to the news media without her permission. Perhaps it wouldn’t help her career in politics to be associated with a fisherman who was murdered by a stripper in her own home town.

The Bush Company, a strip club just outside of the Wasilla city limits was where Mechele found employment as a exotic dancer. She had a way with men and was soon getting expensive gifts and earning thousands of dollars a night. She was engaged to three men at the same time who she met at the strip club; Kent Leppink, John
Carlin and Scott Hilke and they all lived in the same house.

In May of 1996 Kent Leppink’s bullet ridden body was found in a remote area near Hope, Alaska. Kent wrote a letter to his parents about who he thought might kill him and he changed beneficiaries at the last minute on an insurance policy that Mechele talked him into purchasing.

More than ten years would pass before the murder trials of John Carlin III and Mechele Hughes. Mechele was married to a doctor and a mother of a young child. She turned her life around and got a master’s degree and had dedicated her life to children, animals and charitable causes. Did she orchestrate this murder or did
John Carlin III do it on his own?

As you read this story you keep having to remind yourself that this isn’t fiction because it seems like it can’t possibly be true.