Review #33: Talking with Serial Killers

Talking with Serial Killers: A chilling study of the world’s most evil people by Christopher Berry-Dee

Paperback

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Published on 20 September 2018 (First published in 2003)

I bought this book myself for my own personal leisure.

Christopher Berry-Dee is the man who talks to serial killers. A world-renowned investigative criminologist, he has gained the trust of murderers across the world, entered their high security prisons, and discussed in detail their shocking crimes.

The killers’ pursuit of horror and violence is described through the unique audiotape and videotape interviews which Berry-Dee conducted, deep inside the bowels of some of the world’s toughest prisons.

Christopher Berry-Dee has collated these interviews into this astounding, disturbing book, which, since its first publication, has gone on to become a True Crime classic. Not only does he describe his meetings with some of the world’s most evil men and women, he also reproduces, verbatim, their very words as they describe their crimes, allowing the reader a glimpse into the inner workings of the people who have committed the worst crime possible- to mercilessly take the life of another human being.

In these nine chapters, each focusing on a different serial killer, Christopher Berry-Dee comes back on years of correspondence and research into some of America’s most prolific murderers. This book is certainly not for the faint-hearted as it goes into very gruesome details pretty much from the onset.

I have actually never read a book about serial killers before though I have always had an interest in the subject and I do watch a lot of true crime documentaries, so when I stumbled upon this book I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to join my passion for reading with my interest in true crime.

However, I would say that I was slightly disappointed by this book, mainly because I assumed from the title that the serial killers would be the ones telling their stories and that we would get insight into their minds. But instead, Christopher Berry-Dee is exposing his own research and knowledge of the different cases. No matter how extensive his knowledge is, it did feel like the focus was on the author and his research work rather than on the killers, as the title suggests, so that was misleading. I was expecting extracts from letters or transcriptions of taped interviews but the book contains very little of that.

Another negative point was the number of typos and spelling mistakes. For a professionally published book, the level of proofreading and editing was simply shocking and it did hinder my reading quite a bit.

On a positive note however, I did learn a lot about cases that I had previously never heard of, as well as the real story behind the Amityville murders. I knew that the movie was based on a true story but I never actually looked into it before so it was really interesting to learn about the true events that inspired the film.

The author’s research into these crimes also sheds doubt on the culpability of some of these killers. For example, in the case of Douglas Clark and Carol Bundy: in common knowledge, Clark was the mastermind behind the killings and Bundy a mere accessory; but the story that Christopher Berry-Dee recounts would have us think that it was rather the other way around with Bundy being the main perpetrator and Clark possibly being innocent of most of the murders he was charged with.

While slightly disappointing in some regards, I still found that this book contained a lot of interesting information and, if anything, it’s opened a whole new genre of literature for me and I will be sure to buy more books on this horrifying, yet fascinating, subject.

Review #25: The Invisible Investigation

The Invisible Investigation by Lionel Touzellier

Ebook

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Published on 21 November 2017

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Joshua Mandley, a scientist specialised in nanotechnology gets assigned a very important and secret mission: to re-analyse all of the pieces of evidence from Kennedy’s assassination in order to discover, once and for all, who really killed the 35th US President. To aid him in his mission he gets the help of Dr Mei Wang, an academic and expert when it comes to Kennedy’s life and death. As secret as their assignment is, different organisations soon find out about it and Mandley and Wang will have to fight off super agents in order to cling onto their discoveries.

Lionel, the author, actually had to try quite a bit to convince me to read his book. Even though historical fiction is my favourite genre, I’m mostly drawn to the Middle Ages period or really anything before the 20th century, so at first, I didn’t feel drawn to this book at all.

Going into the story, when Joshua Mandley the nanoscientist is introduced I half expected the plot to have everything to do with scientific discoveries and turn into an episode of CSI. And while I really enjoy watching things such as Making a Murderer etc, I felt like in a book format it would bore me to death. Thankfully the investigation took a different route, almost turning into a treasure hunt where Mandley and Wang have to follow a trail of clues in order to discover the truth. I really enjoyed that and I think it served the story well, rather than being confined to the rigidness of science.

The fact that Mandley and Wang are closely watched and followed by different organisations also livens up the plot and it becomes an actual thriller with some very fast-paced scenes, rather than a simple crime novel. The thriller aspect of the book and the writing itself reminded me of French author Guillaume Musso, a master of the genre (and one of my favourites) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lionel was inspired by him.

I didn’t know much at all about the JFK’s assassination beforehand so I actually learned a lot from reading this book AND it picked my curiosity enough that I found myself Googling details of the event after finishing the book so it is fair to say I got into the story a lot more than I originally thought I would.

I was slightly disappointed by the end results of the investigation as I found it all a bit anticlimactic but the ride, for as long as it lasted, was enjoyable.

I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in this part of history, but also to anyone who likes a good thriller and mystery novel.

Review #22: Dark Paradise *Spoilers*

Dark Paradise by Gene Desrochers

Ebook

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Published on 25 June 2018

I was approached by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After the unexplained death of his wife in Los Angeles, Boise Montague decides to go back to his native Carribean island of St Thomas for a change of scenery and with hope of rekindling some old friendships. Once there, he discovers that his oldest school friend, Roger Black, became a drug dealer and got killed in what the police assumed to be a settling of scores between drug lords. Unconvinced by the police’s explanation, Boise, with the help of reporter Dana Goode, sets off to unravel what really happened to Roger.

To be completely honest with you guys, I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. I liked that it’s set in a struggling Caribbean island so the setting differs to most murder mystery novels, and it does transport you there. The fact that the author used the local dialect also enhances this feeling of authenticity and exoticism. The author very successfully describes an island where poverty has struck and the only sources of income come from tourists and the odd politicians visiting; and even the police system is somewhat corrupt.

Now the part that I struggled with is the believable-ness of the story. Boise has literally just landed on the island, and within a couple of days, manages to convince a complete stranger to take on an investigation with him, even though none of them are qualified for the task. In particular, the part with the pizza shop owners baffled me. Boise and Dana manage to break into a crime scene and all they find is a pizza box, so they decide to go and talk to the pizza shop owners and within an hour or so of talking to them, they convince them to come along and help them rescue a kidnapped victim. This just doesn’t seem realistic to me. There’s also a lot of running around and interviewing random people, most of which are too briefly mentioned to really make a mark on the story. I know this is supposed to be a fast-paced action story, but it felt excessive and unnecessary. None of the characters, apart from Boise, are given enough back story for the reader to relate to them. There is just too much going on at any one time, and it overshadowed the characters development.

Now, when it comes to Boise himself, he is somewhat of a lovable character. Devastated by the death of his wife and prone to chronic health problems, he has become dependent on pain killers and beer. I believe that he set himself the mission of discovering what happened to his old friend as a way to regain some sense of purpose in life and possibly righting some wrongs (since the death of his wife remains a mystery). However, I found his way of going about it problematic. For example, he goes to someone’s house to ask them some questions. When the lady won’t tell him all that she knows because she needs to leave for work, he follows her to her place of work and basically stalks her all day until she finishes her shift and drives home, where he follows her again and as she says she’s leaving for the airport, he books himself tickets on the very same plane and follows her back to St Thomas. Now, this is not diligent detective work, it’s just downright stalkerish and creepy. I don’t know about you, but if a random guy was following me around all day, I would call the police within the hour and get him arrested.

Finally, I wasn’t particularly surprised by the resolution of the crimes and therefore not very impressed. Overall, I liked the exoticity and unusual setting of the book but the plot itself fell a bit short.

Review #16: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Ebook

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Publication date: 18 September 2018

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine you wake up one morning in the middle of a forest, with no recollection of what happened the night before, or even who you are… and when you find your way back to safety in an immense country house called Blackheath, everyone there seems to know you but you have no idea who they are. Imagine that shortly after that, you encounter a mysterious messenger who explains to you that someone is going to die tonight, and that the only way you can escape this place is by solving their murder… what would you do? Run away or start investigating?

Aiden Bishop is trapped in Blackheath where, inevitably, Evelyn Hardcastle will meet her death each night at 11pm, unless he can solve her murder and break the cycle. To do so, Aiden is given eight days and eight “hosts” (guests to inhabit for one day). If he cannot solve the murder in the time given, his memories will be wiped and the cycle will begin again. But Aiden isn’t the only person trapped in Blackheath. Among the guests are two other persons, just like him, investigating to save their lives. But only one of them can escape…

Blimey, this book was insane! If I had to define it I would say it’s a crossover between Groundhog Day and Agatha Christie or even a mix between Pride and Prejudice and Criminal Minds. Blackheath is a huge estate owned by the Hardcastle family and on the 19th anniversary of their son’s death, the lady of the house decided to throw a party, inviting the very same people that were present 19 years ago when her son died. It reminded me of Agatha Christie in the way that the action is set in one place and all the characters are the same throughout the book. It’s also set in a time where maids and servants were still a thing hence the Pride and Prejudice vibes. It also reminded me of Groundhog Day because Aiden repeats the same day again and again until solving the murder, and of Criminal Minds because the story gets dark really quickly and Aiden will have to observe the guests’ personalities and habits to help in his investigation.

The story is incredibly complex, there are endless characters, each with their own quirks and background stories and we go through so many clues trying to solve Evelyn’s murder that it is impossible to keep track of them all (but in a good way, like where they stay somewhere in your brain and start to make more sense as the story advances). This is a book that made me guess, page after page, what was going on as it took me through Aiden’s investigation and I tried to decipher the clues. I had a few different theories at some point, but the book outsmarted me every time and this is my favourite kind of book, where it makes me think really hard until I eventually have to give up and admit that the only way I’ll make sense of it is to just read on.

It’s a pretty long book (over 500 pages) and reading it in a week was a challenge but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The story is so complex that it needs the pages to unfold itself, and every single chapter is a cliffhanger. Once again, I am very surprised that this is a debut novel, as it is astonishingly brilliant. So much work (and post-it notes!) must have gone into it!

The only criticism I have about this is that I could have done with a floorplan of the country house since it is huge and it’s sometimes hard to picture it all in your own mind, but after snooping around on Amazon I realised that the book actually does have a floorplan, it’s only my advanced copy that didn’t, so I guess I can’t even fault it on a single thing.

If you’re into your murder mysteries, do get your hand on it, you won’t be disappointed!

So, what was your favourite book this summer? For me, it’s a toss up between this one and The Psychology of Time Travel that I read the other week.