For those of you wondering, yes, my True Crime book club is still active! I’ve been so engrossed in reading (true crime, items for my 2021 Reading Challenge, for another book club I’m in, and other books as I find them), that I have not slowed down enough to actually write about what I’ve been reading! So, to help catch you up on what has been going on in my True Crime reading, I am going to summarize our last five reads and our reactions:
• November’s read: The Burger Chef Murders in Indiana by Julie Young
Back in November of 1978 in Speedway, Indiana, four teenage workers at a local Burger Chef restaurant were murdered. To this day, the crime has not been solved. In this quick read, Young looks at the crime, investigation, and the aftermath.
This book was quite fitting for my group because of two reasons: the crime is unsolved (I really should not have named the group We Know Whodunit) and the police work was … questionable. Overall, everyone enjoyed this book despite all the frustrations with the investigation and the lack of answers. Since most of us live in Indiana, there was also the added perk of knowing the spots that Young was referencing when talking about the case. Gemma likened this crime story to the Brown’s Chicken massacre that took place in Illinois. Except that mass murder was solved.
• December’s read: Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King
This one was on our to-read list for a while and when we finally read it and discussed it, we drank wine, wore berets, and had Paris-themed backgrounds on our Zoom call. Fun fact: one of our group members lived in one of the Parisian locations mentioned in this book! This case was quite interesting. While it was solved, there was also some sketchy police work involved here. I promise I have not been picking this occurrence as a theme! Not only were the crimes cringe-worthy, this book covered the trial of Dr. Marcel Petiot, which was quite amusing. I know that is not usually an adjective one pairs with a court case, but there is no other way to describe it. It is my deepest wish that someone makes a film or mini-series about Dr. Petiot so I can see the trial on any size screen. I don’t mean to sound as if I am making light of his crimes; he did some messed up stuff! But it does make me feel better that this case did not go unsolved.
• January’s read: If You Tell by Gregg Olsen
Oh, boy. I can’t even remember who suggested this as a choice, but let me tell you that we were all blown away by the details in this one. Now I’ve seen Mommie Dearest, Flowers in the Attic (and I’ve read the book), and other films about abuse but this one, this one was just so shocking. This mother abused her children (and friends!) verbally, emotionally, and physically. She even created new methods of torture for them. The worst part? Her husband let it all happen and at times participated in these sick behaviors.
Everyone enjoyed the book and although the culprit was arrested, we did have a small chuckle at bits of questionable police work. We just could not believe what the mother did and how no one helped these children. It was heartbreaking to know that this was a true story.
• February’s read: For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz
Before reading this, I had heard the names of Leopold and Loeb and Clarence Darrow (one of the attorneys), but all I knew was that the two boys had committed a murder and I only knew of Darrows’ involvement in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Not only did this book go into the details of the planning and execution of the crime, you get to read about how the attorneys came up with their game plan and argued their sides of the case.
For once, there was no shoddy police work! It was laughable that Leopold and Loeb thought so highly of themselves and were caught so quickly. This read is long and very detailed, but a good one. It also took place in areas that my group is familiar with.
• March’s read: American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan
If I had been reading a physical copy of this book, there were several times when I would’ve thrown it down in frustration. This story is captivating! I hate to say anything positive about a criminal, but I have to admit that this guy was smart. Like strategically and deviously smart. One of the frustrating parts with this book was the questionable involvement of an attorney and the way that the local jail ran things. I don’t want to say too much in case you want to read it yourself, but just brace yourself for irritating behavior when procedure could be followed better!
Once again, everyone enjoyed this read and had a lot of varied reactions to the story. While Cat and Ramona were equally appalled at the necrophilia, Gemma loathed the lack of order in the jail. I just wanted to know more about the bio-hacking that was referenced. Oh, and another frustration? If things had run tighter and/or differently, more of his crimes probably would’ve been discovered.
Did you know that the month of April tends to have the most mass shootings? Our April read was A Dark Night in Aurora by Dr. William H. Reid MD MPH. I am also working on Dave Cullen’s Columbine so if anyone wants to read it and talk about it, let me know in the comments!
Lead image: The History Press (2019) (via Amazon)