An Intriguing Cold Case and an Exhausting Memoir

Book review: The Kill Jar, by J. Reuben Appelman Over about a year spanning 1976-1977, at least four children were killed in Detroit’s Oakland County by a serial killer clunkily dubbed the Oakland County Child Killer, or OCCK. The case remains officially unsolved, but as J. Reuben Appelman lays out in this true crime narrative cum memoir, that’s not for lack of information, plenty of … Continue reading An Intriguing Cold Case and an Exhausting Memoir

The Mystery of a Clairvoyant and a Con

Book review: A Deal with the Devil, by Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken We knew that many people thought of all psychics as frauds. We’d heard plenty of horror stories about people who lost thousands of dollars to storefront psychics or psychic hotlines. But we had never heard of a psychic scam quite like this one, in which fraudsters used the mail to pinpoint vulnerable targets. … Continue reading The Mystery of a Clairvoyant and a Con

The Obsessive, Expensive World of Arowana Collecting

Book review: The Dragon Behind the Glass, by Emily Voigt Once upon a time I had wanted to find out why a pet fish was so irresistible that people smuggled it into the United States, risking their very liberty. Three and a half years and fifteen countries later, I was now in Brazil (possibly illegally) pursuing the fish myself. At some point, things had gotten … Continue reading The Obsessive, Expensive World of Arowana Collecting

Catfishing ISIS

Book review: In the Skin of a Jihadist, by Anna Erelle When one worked on “societal” issues, it was out of passion. If only I could write about this topic in a new way, one that avoided treating individuals as part of a succession of similar cases. I wanted to investigate the roots of “digital jihadism” and get to the bottom of an evil phenomenon … Continue reading Catfishing ISIS

The Fall of a Too-Good-to-Be-True Medical Startup

Book review: Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou Her emergence tapped into the public’s hunger to see a female entrepreneur break through in a technology world dominated by men. Women like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg had achieved a measure of renown in Silicon Valley, but they hadn’t created their own companies from scratch. In Elizabeth Holmes, the Valley had its first female billionaire … Continue reading The Fall of a Too-Good-to-Be-True Medical Startup

Arguing Against “Incomprehensible” When a Mother is Responsible

Book review: To the Bridge, by Nancy Rommelmann Journalist and author Nancy Rommelmann found herself captivated by a disturbing news story. Young mother Amanda Stott-Smith had, in the early morning hours of May 23, 2009, driven to the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon and dropped her two young children into the Willamette River below. The elder of the two, seven-year-old Trinity, survived. Four-year-old Eldon didn’t … Continue reading Arguing Against “Incomprehensible” When a Mother is Responsible

Favorites of the Year So Far

2018 has seen so much great nonfiction and we’re only halfway there. It’s been quite the year for big nonfiction news stories too, kicking off in January with Fire and Fury frenzy, then the memoir debut of a daughter of Mormon survivalists taking the literary world by storm, James Comey’s much-anticipated tell-all, and a triumphant moment for criminal justice with a serial rapist and killer apprehended more than four decades … Continue reading Favorites of the Year So Far

Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Book review: Them and The Elephant in the Room, by Jon Ronson This book began its life in 1995 as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the extremist monsters of the Western world – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them as they went about … Continue reading Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Reinvestigating Roanoke

Book review: The Secret Token, by Andrew Lawler Roanoke has long been a setting for our national nightmares. A recurring topic of Andrew Lawler’s new exploration into the lost colony of settlers at Roanoke in the 1580s is just how much this story, from the early beginnings of European history in North America, fascinates us. And why, when there have been so many other strange … Continue reading Reinvestigating Roanoke

A 1937 Crime and Trial Setting Historical Precedence

Book review: Little Shoes, by Pamela Everett I noticed this book was coming out after reading Piu Eatwell’s take on Elizabeth Short’s infamous murder, Black Dahlia, Red Rose. In that book, Eatwell repeatedly references the profiling work of Dr. Paul De River, a psychiatrist who, before psychologically profiling and interviewing Dahlia suspect Leslie Dillon, had used similar techniques to help secure a conviction in the case of … Continue reading A 1937 Crime and Trial Setting Historical Precedence

The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Book review: Hidden America, by Jeanne Marie Laskas I discovered this book through the excellent New York Times Match Book column. If you’re not already familiar, people write asking for specific book recommendations based on previous favorites or highly specific genres. This one was mentioned in a social issues-themed reading list. Hidden America began when author Laskas was writing about coal mining and ended up spending … Continue reading The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Unsolved Mysteries of the I-45

Book review: Deliver Us, by Kathryn Casey It’s only natural to want to believe we are in control, that when we wake each morning, we decide what we do, that our lives don’t rest in the hands of others or, even worse, of that unseen yet eternal influence commonly referred to as destiny. Kathryn Casey generally writes the kind of true crime I avoid. When … Continue reading Unsolved Mysteries of the I-45