Case Histories of an Unusual Investigative Group

Book review: No Stone Unturned, by Steve Jackson In 1988, several criminalists and other scientists sat down in a Denver-area restaurant and came up with the idea of burying pigs to study changes to environments caused by the graves and their contents. Disturbed by what they’d witnessed of outdated techniques for locating clandestine burial sites and the recovery of the remains of murder victims, their idea … Continue reading Case Histories of an Unusual Investigative Group

Infamy in Italy

Book review: A Death in Italy, by John Follain London Times journalist John Follain was on the scene early in Perugia, Italy in November 2007 (ten years ago this month) when one of the country’s most infamous cases in recent memory started unfolding. In 2012, after the eventual acquittal of accused American student Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, he published this … Continue reading Infamy in Italy

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Book review: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, by Kali Nicole Gross In 1887, in a pond just outside of Philadelphia, the dismembered torso of a man was discovered, triggering a search that eventually led to Hannah Mary Tabbs, a Maryland native and seemingly very unpleasant lady, according to many who knew her. She had been, quite scandalously for a black woman in 19th century … Continue reading Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Reasonable Doubt Abounds: Reexamining a Conviction

Book review: Convenient Suspect, by Tammy Mal Rereading the synopsis before starting this book, it dawned on me that I’d heard of the case, although I hadn’t initially recognized it when I got the book. And I’d never realized it was as complicated as it is. I saw it covered on HBO’s Autopsy, an excellent docuseries (most of which is on YouTube) that explains forensics, medical examination, … Continue reading Reasonable Doubt Abounds: Reexamining a Conviction

Another Side of a Much-Discussed Story

Book review: Avery, by Ken Kratz Grim and plain – that was the nature of these truths. They may not be as exciting as conspiracy theories, but they do have the virtue of being supported by facts. Former Wisconsin special prosecutor Ken Kratz is kind of a sleazebag and he knows it. In 2010, his professional and personal lives unraveled over a reprehensible sexting incident: sending harassing … Continue reading Another Side of a Much-Discussed Story

A Reporter, A Newspaper, And A Rural Cold Case

Book review: Mary Jane’s Ghost, by Ted Gregory Histories – call them stories if you like – never really end. It’s more like they continue to unfold, but we’ve left them; they’ve ceased to resonate. Chicago Tribune general assignment reporter Ted Gregory gets roped into the investigation and conspiracies of a fifty-year-old cold case while ruminating on the state of print newspapers and the difficulty in … Continue reading A Reporter, A Newspaper, And A Rural Cold Case

A Daughter After Her Mother: Rich Storytelling of Memoir and Murder

Book review: After the Eclipse, by Sarah Perry She believed in the souls of housecats and in the melancholy of rainy days. She believed in hard work, and the energy she poured into her job — hand-sewing shoes at a factory — seemed boundless…She was terrified of birds, at close range, and moths, at any distance, their blurred wings beating the air, their flight paths unpredictable…The clicking of … Continue reading A Daughter After Her Mother: Rich Storytelling of Memoir and Murder

History Speaks: Research and Analytics Catch A Serial Killer

Book review: The Man From the Train, by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James “He was a tiny man who cast a huge and terrible shadow, and he knew that, and in his mind he was the size of his shadow.” Between 1898 and 1912, an unbelievably large number of families were bludgeoned to death in their homes while they slept, across a wide swath … Continue reading History Speaks: Research and Analytics Catch A Serial Killer

An Unusual Coming of Age in L.A.

Book review: We Are All Shipwrecks, by Kelly Grey Carlisle If you read history, you could learn where the ideas you took for granted actually came from and, what I found oddly reassuring, that the world had always been a terrible mess. Kelly Grey Carlisle had an unconventional childhood, to put it mildly. In 1976, at three weeks old, while she lay in a dresser drawer … Continue reading An Unusual Coming of Age in L.A.

Jane’s Life in Poetry, Through The Eyes of Her Niece

Header image of a southwest view from the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, Jane’s hometown, by Darwin Smith Jr. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Book review: Jane: A Murder, by Maggie Nelson “You know, for a world that demands direction, I certainly have none. Will I be a teacher? Will I go to France?”  An excerpt from law student Jane Mixer’s diary. … Continue reading Jane’s Life in Poetry, Through The Eyes of Her Niece

Ted Bundy’s Coworker: The Biggest Break of a Crime Writer’s Life

Image of Highway 101 cutting through the old growth forests of Washington State by Sam Beebe (Slow – Hwy 101 old growth Uploaded by admrboltz) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Book review: The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule If In Cold Blood is the granddaddy of true crime, and a standout of quality narrative nonfiction regardless of genre, then The Stranger Beside Me must be next … Continue reading Ted Bundy’s Coworker: The Biggest Break of a Crime Writer’s Life

Life Lessons Learned in the Service of Death

Book review: The Education of a Coroner, by John Bateson “When it comes to county government, the coroner’s office often is the forgotten stepchild. People don’t want to think about it, and they definitely don’t want to know any details of how it operates.” Longtime Marin County, California coroner Ken Holmes tells tales from his line of work and a long, experienced career, and disproves … Continue reading Life Lessons Learned in the Service of Death