Friday, 30 August 2013

Son: A Psychopath and His Victims by Jack Olsen


Paperback:  Spokane, Washington - the all-American City, the perfect place to raise children.

Yet for two terror-filled years (1978-1981) a brutal rapist stalked its night streets.

On the surface he was clean-cut, conservative, well-spoken.

Behind the mask he was diabolical, violent, twisted.

But nobody guessed, not even his pretty housemate, that Fred Coe was a psychopath dangerously out of control.

And nobody dreamed that Ruth Coe, his mother, would try to kill the prosecutor and judge who put "Son" away.

The author paints the portrait of a man whose exterior grandiosity and air of savoir faire barely conceal his deep insecurity about his career failures - a temperamental prima donna who emulates the pathetic hero of "American Gigolo."

On another even more compelling level, this is the story of the women in Fred's life:  his histrionic, clinging mother;  a wife and later a girlfriend, both devoted to Fred, who are devastated by his exposure as a brutal rapist.

Son is a "chilling and exhaustingly detailed account of familial madness and the social chaos it can beget." (The Weekly, Seattle, Washington)

A highly recommended read.

About the author:  Jack Olsen (1925-2002) is the author of thirty-three books published in fifteen countries and eleven languages, including the highly acclaimed Predator:  Rape, Madness and Injustice in Seattle (1991) which won the American Mystery Award for Best True Crime and his most notable work, "Son":  A Psychopath and His Victims (1983), which won a Special Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America.  Most of Olsen's books investigated the life histories of violent career criminals including studies of serial rapists.

A former bureau chief for Time, Olsen has won the National Headliners Award, citations for excellence from Indiana and Columbia universities, the Washington State Governor's Award, the Scripps-Howard Award, among others, and was listed in Who's Who in America since 1968 and in Who's Who in the World since 1967.  He was named to the Mystery Writers of America's fact-crime committee in 1996 and appointed chair in 1997.

The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "an American treasure", the Washington Post described him as "the dean of true crime authors" and the New York Daily News lauded him as "the master of true crime".  His studies of crime are required reading in university criminology courses and have been cited  in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year.  In a page-one review, the Times described his work as "a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike".

A nationally respected expert on the psychology of criminals, Olsen appeared on Good Morning America, Sally Jessy Raphael, Donahue, Geraldo, Larry King Live, and other network interview shows.  He was the father of eight, a native of Philadelphia, a fishing fanatic and lived on an island in Puget Sound, Washington, where he passed away at the age of seventy-seven on 16 July 2002.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Dark Heart of Florence by Michele Giuttari


The Dark Heart of Florence (2013), the sixth and latest book in the Michele Ferrara series, is a stunning piece of detective fiction, written with incomparable authenticity by former Florentine police chief Michele Giuttari.  Evocative, gripping and atmospheric, it has been a major bestseller in Italy and across Europe.

Hardback:  After enduring years at the mercy of an infamous serial killer, the people of Florence are relieved at news of his death - until a senator and his butler are found brutally murdered.

Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara suspects that the case isn't closed and as he becomes trapped in a spiral of vendettas and corruption, a powerful adversary is conspiring against him from the shadows.

When he's confronted with dead ends and unreliable theories, discovering the truth is only the beginning for Ferrara and he finds himself face-to-face with something rotten at the heart of the city.

About the author:  Michele Giuttari was born in 1950 in the province of Messina.  He was head of the Florence Police Force from 1995 to 2003, where he was responsible for reopening the notorious serial killer case, the Monster of Florence, and jailing several key Mafia figures.  He is now a special adviser to the interior minister in Rome, with a remit to monitor Mafia activity.  More on his website at www.michelegiuttari.com

This book is translated from the Italian into the English by Howard Curtis and Isabelle Kaufeler.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 22 August 2013

E-Book: The Battersea Park Road to Paradise by Isabel Losada


Kindle:  In her bestseller The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment (2001), Isabel Losada set out with a modest aim - 'to be absurdly happy everyday'.

But a few years down the road, she's stuck in a pothole.  No job (not good).  No man (very not good).  Nothing has turned out as she'd intended.

There's only one way to get out of the hole:  throw out the ideas that landed her there and start over.  So, using the ancient Chinese tradition of the five elements of life - Metal, Fire, Wood, Water, Earth - Isabel breaks her own life down to its essentials to explore five areas of inner and outer change.

She calls in a feng shui consultant to discover that her bedroom decor is 'draining the father' (whatever that means), takes a motivational workshop to experience the power of 'doing', turns a silent meditation retreat into an exercise in unrelenting 'being', sits at the feet of a Brixton guru to examine the nature of mind, and undertakes a shamanic ritual in the Amazon to part company with her own mind completely.

As rich as the book is in the particulars of a life hilariously lived, it's also universal:  readers can see themselves in Isabel's experience and look at their lives with new eyes.

About the author:  Isabel Losada has worked as an actress, singer, dancer, researcher, television producer, broadcaster, public speaker, comedian and author.  She remains firmly committed to narrative nonfiction and swimming against the tide.  Her books combine humour with a serious look at their subject matters and are true-life accounts of her own experiences.  She lives in Battersea, London, with her daughter.  Do check out her website by clicking on her name.

The Battersea Park Road to Paradise:  Five Adventures in Being and Doing (2011) is available at £0.99 (price list price £7.99) on Amazon.co.uk.

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

E-Book: The Umbrella Man by Jake Needham


The Umbrella Man (2012) is the second book in the Inspector Samuel Tay crime series set in Singapore.  It is priced at £3.18 on Amazon.co.uk and at $4.97 on Amazon.com

Kindle:  The first bomb cracked the Hilton like an egg; the second gutted the lobby of the Marriott; and the third peeled the front off the Grand Hyatt.  Three massive explosions, all at American hotels in the heart of the city, and all within a few horrifying seconds.  Hundreds are dead and thousands are injured.  Singapore is bleeding.

Inspector Samuel Tay is a senior inspector in the Special Investigation Section of Singapore CID, but he is frozen out of this investigation from the beginning.  He's made serious enemies in Singapore's Internal Security Department, and he has even more enemies at the American embassy, so Tay is assigned routine cases while his colleagues join with the CIA and the FBI in a feverish search for the bombers.

Three days after the explosions, the smell of death still sticky in the city's air, Tay is sent to a run-down apartment near the Malaysian border where two children have found the body of a Caucasian male with a broken neck.  Tay feels an immediate connection with the dead man, although he doesn't think he has ever seen him before.

As Tay searches the dead man's past for clues to who he was and who his killer might have been, Tay's own past begins to give up its secrets.  A long-dead father he can barely remember reaches out of the grave to point to the truth about both the murdered man and the bombings.

And the horror of Singapore's destruction becomes a personal horror for Samuel Tay.

About the author:  Jake Needham is an American screen and television writer who began writing crime novels when he realized he didn't really like movies and television very much.  Mr Needham has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for over twenty years.  He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors where he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has no intention of telling you about.  He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States.

More updates on the author and his books can be found on his Facebook page.  To date, there are two books in the Inspector Samuel Tay series set in Singapore;  they are The Ambassador's Wife (2011) followed by The Umbrella Man (2012).

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 19 August 2013

E-Book: Final Vision: The Last Word of Jeffrey MacDonald by Joe McGinniss


(Kindle/Chapter One):  It is the longest-running criminal case in US history, United States of America v Jeffrey Robert MacDonald and one of the most horrifying murder cases of its time, with chilling echoes of the Manson Family's "Helter Skelter" killings.  It has lasted forty-two years and remains at least three of four years from closure.

If you know about the case, at least some of what you know is probably wrong.  If you don't know about it, you should, because it's a story that reveals as much about America - the best and the worst of it - as any other you'll hear.

Jeffrey MacDonald, a handsome, Ivy League-educated Green Beret Army doctor, was accused of brutally stabbing and clubbing to death his five-month-pregnant wife and two young daughters (aged five and two) in the middle of the night on 17 February 1970.  Military police who arrived at the bloody scene found MacDonald lying motionless next to his wife on the floor of the master bedroom, wearing only a pair of pajama bottoms.

He was alive.  He moaned and then cried out, "Check my kids."

He said he'd been sleeping on the living room couch when two white men and one black men attacked him.  With them was a white woman who had long blond hair and was wearing high boots and a floppy hat.  She was holding a lit candle and chanting, "Acid is groovy...Kill the pigs."  He'd tried to fight off the three men, but they'd knocked him unconscious.  He said he was a doctor and that he thought he was going into shock.  If that happened, he said, the military police should elevate his legs, keep him warm, and make sure he didn't swallow his tongue.

Despite the massacre of his wife and children, MacDonald was almost unharmed.  Other than a small, neat chest incision that caused the partial collapse of one lung, he had two superficial stab wounds, neither of which required stitches, and a bruise on his forehead that hadn't even broken the skin.  From the start, investigators found this discrepancy suspicious.

And so it began:  the saga of the Princeton-educated Green Beret doctor who never served in Vietnam, never saw combat, and killed no one other than his own wife and children.

MacDonald was formally questioned for the first time on 6 April 1970, in front of a grand jury in 1974 and 1975, and at trial in 1979.  The physical evidence from the crime scene was undeniable and he was found guilty on three counts of murder and sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment, to be served consecutively.  His projected release date is 5 April 2071, by which time MacDonald would be 128 years old.

Since his sentencing, MacDonald had filed many appeals of the guilty verdicts and motions for a new trial based on "newly discovered evidence."  All were denied until 2011, when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decreed that MacDonald's new claims should be considered in light of "the evidence as a whole."

An evidentiary hearing was convened in Wilmington, North Carolina, in September 2012.  Because of certain things the author had written in Fatal Vision - which contains a comprehensive description of the physical evidence and how it proved the guilt of Jeffrey MacDonald - the Justice Department subpoenaed the author, Joe McGinniss, to testify.  McGinniss would be the prosecution's final witness, probably the last person who would ever testify against Jeffrey MacDonald in a court of law.

MacDonald, now a gray-haired sixty-nine-year-old, continues to attract supporters, most recently acclaimed filmmaker Errol Morris, whose recent book (The Wilderness of Error: The Trial of Jeffrey MacDonald, 2012) casts doubt on the conviction, but as McGinniss makes clear in his fascinating, authoritative book, MacDonald's guilt is undeniably beyond a reasonable doubt.

About the author:  Joe McGinniss is the author of twelve books, including the political classic The Selling of the President (1969), about the marketing of Richard Nixon during the 1968 campaign, and a bestselling trilogy of true crime books:  Fatal Vision (1983), Blind Faith (1989) and Cruel Doubt (1991).  He is also the author of the Byliner Serial 15 Gothic Street, which follows events in a county courthouse in small-town New England.

Final Vision (2012) is priced at £1.49 on Amazon.co.uk and at $2.33 on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fatal Vision (True Crime) by Joe McGinniss


Paperback:  Fatal Vision is the electrifying true story of Dr Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children in the early hours of 17 February 1970 - murders he vehemently denies committing.

Bestselling author Joe McGinniss chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and intricate crime and probes the life and psyche of the magnetic, all-American Jeffrey MacDonald, a golden boy who seemed destined to have it all.

The result is a penetration to the heart of darkness that enshrouded one of the most complex and longest-running criminal cases ever to capture the attention of the American public.

To this day, one provocative question still swirls around the murders:  What would cause a seemingly happily married man to slaughter his family so viciously?

Fatal Vision (1983, 1985, 1989) is a haunting, stunningly suspenseful biographical work that bares the human soul at its most disturbing.

In 2012, McGinniss published Final Vision:  The Last Words of Jeffrey MacDonald as a follow up to the bestseller Fatal Vision.

About the author:  Joe McGinniss is an American author of non-fiction novels and true crime.  He gained familiarity with journalism for the first time at the College of Holy Cross where he wrote for the school newspaper as well as the Chester Port Daily Item in the summer breaks.  After his graduation, he worked for Worcester Telegram as a general assignment reporter.  After a year, he became a sportswriter at the Philadelphia Bulletin and a year later, started working for its rival, Philadelphia Inquirer, as a columnist.

In 1986, McGinniss found the opportunity to write his first novel, The Selling of the President, which received a huge amount of positive feedback, such that it was in New York Times bestseller list overnight.  Following his huge success with The Selling of the President, he decided to concentrate on writing books and subsequently quit his job at the Philadelphia Inquirer.  His second and third books did not make waves compared to his first book.  In 1980, however, he regained his popularity with his fourth book, Going To Extremes, where he wrote about his adventures in Alaska.

In 1979, McGinniss became recognized nationwide after he met with Jeffrey MacDonald, a former doctor in the US army who was accused of killing his wife and children in 1970.  He worked on MacDonald's case for more than three years and published his first true crime book entitled Fatal Vision in 1983.

According to his biography, whether McGinniss is writing about a politician or a sociopath or even a soccer team, he feels compelled to search for the truth, no matter how elusive, behind the people and events he chronicles.  His approach to his subject matters is always original and his books are never less than compulsively readable.

More information of the author and his works can be found on his website.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

E-Book: The Ambassador's Wife by Jake Needham


Kindle:  The first body is in Singapore, on a bed in an empty suite in the Marriott Hotel.  The second in Bangkok, in a seedy apartment close to the American embassy.  Both women.  Both Americans.  Both beaten viciously and shot in the head.  Both stripped naked and lewdly displayed.

The FBI says it's terrorism, but the whispers on the street are that a serial killer is stalking American women across Asia.

Inspector Samuel Tay of Singapore CID is something of a reluctant policeman.  He's a little overweight, a little lonely, a little cranky, and he smokes way too much.  Thinking back, he can't even remember why he became a police detective in the first place.  He talks about quitting all the time, but he hasn't.  Because the thing is, he's very, very good at what he does.

When bodies of American women start turning up, Singapore CID calls in Inspector Tay.  It's a high profile case, and he's the best they have.

Then why is it, Tay soon begins to wonder, that nobody seems to want him to find the women's killer?  Not the FBI, not the American ambassador, not even his bosses at CID.

When international politics takes over a murder case, the truth is the next victim.

About the author:  Jake Needham is an American screen and television writer who began writing crime novels when he realized he didn't really like movies and television very much.  Mr Needham has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for over twenty years.  He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors where he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has no intention of telling you about.  He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States.

More updates on the author and his books can be found on Facebook.  To date, there are two books in the Inspector Samuel Tay series set in Singapore;  they are The Ambassador's Wife (2011) followed by The Umbrella Man (2012).

Rating:  5/5

E-Book: Red Stripes ( A Joe Hunter Short Story) by Matt Hilton


Red Stripes (2013) is priced at £0.99/$0.99 on Amazon.

Kindle:  Stephan, a young man from a rich family in Miami, and his girlfriend Wendy are kidnapped and held in Jamaica.  After liberating them with his partner Rink, Joe realises on his return to Tampa, that someone from the kidnapping gang is after him.  His investigations lead him to the man responsible for masterminding the kidnap and extortion.

About the author:  Matt Hilton worked for twenty-two years in private security and the police force in Cumbria, North West England.  He is a 4th Dan blackbelt and coach in Ju-Jitsu.  He lives in Cumbria with his wife.  Do visit Matt Hilton's homepage for more information.

Rating:  3/5

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Utube by Rozlan Mohd Noor


Utube (2012) is the third and latest book in the excellent Inspector Mislan series set in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  This series is so superbly written that the reader has to pose an urgent question to the author:  When is the next book in the series out, Encik Rozlan Mohd Noor?

Paperback:  After four rapes (video recordings of which are posted on the internet), one suicide and one bloody murder, Inspector Mislan is convinced that something more sinister is afoot;  all the victims are gay.

"There's nothing to indicate that these were crimes of lust, or opportunity.  The vics were meticulously selected, possibly monitored for days, weeks, even months, before they were raped."  He shakes his head, "These were definitely not one-man jobs.  And, I won't be surprised, if they have a list of potential vics identified."

Throughout history men have controlled 'wayward' women with terror:  beating them into submission, disfiguring their faces with acid, murdering them in the name of honour, and worse.  Now, a group of fundamentalists have decided on the 'final solution' to the 'gay problem' with the ultimate hate crime.

About the author:  Rozlan Mohd Noor was a police officer with the Royal Malaysian Police for 11 years as an Investigating Officer (IO) and a Magistrate Court Prosecuting Officer in Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan.  Although he has left the force, the evolution of crime solving technology has always fascinated him.  It drove him to write crime stories to share with close friends as a pastime, to test their analytical acumen.  Encouraged by his friends, he started writing crime novels.  After leaving the force, he worked in HRD at several major corporations and multinationals, before starting his own human resources and security consultancy.

Other titles by Rozlan Mohd Noor are 21 Immortals (2010) - shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize (Pacific Region) for best first book - and DUKE (2011) - longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.  His books are available in all major bookshops in Malaysia or online at silverfishbooks.com/buybooks or as ebooks - except Utube - on Amazon (both the UK and the USA).

Rating:  5/5

Murder Most Foul (True Accounts) by Yeo Suan Futt


Paperback:  Strangled, stabbed, drowned, bludgeoned, poisoned and dismembered - variously killed, but not by chance.  This volume presents the chilling true accounts of some of the most heinous crimes ever committed in Singapore's short history, crimes of a most personal, most irrevocable kind:  murder.

Why do people commit murder?  It's a question as old as the crime itself, and even if we had the answer under our very noses, it's likely one we cannot universally accept.

Still, Singapore is among the safest places on earth to live as far as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is concerned:  along with Japan, Singapore has around 0.5 cases of "intentional homicide" per 100 000 population.

Malaysia and Thailand stand at 2.3 and 5.3 respectively;  the UK and Australia each have 1.2;  while the most murderous state, Honduras, tops the list with 82.
About the author:  Yeo Suan Futt is a Singaporean magazine journalist with experience in a broad range of subject matter, from automobiles, technology, and timepieces to electronic gaming and cuisine.  Murder Most Foul is his first book published in May 2013.  His latest book, Wild Women Do:  Female killers, tricksters, and crooks in Singapore was published a month later, in June 2013.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Shadow Play by Barbara Ismail


Shadow Play (2012) is the first in the series of "Kain Songket* Mysteries", introducing a female amateur sleuth Mak Cik* Maryam from Malaysia's northeast corner, Kelantan (the "Land of Lightning"), during the 1970s.

Paperback:  Mak Cik Maryam, a smart and take-charge kain songket trader in Kota Bharu Central Market, discovers a murder in her own backyard, shattering the bucolic village world she thought surrounded her.

While the new Chief of Police, a pleasant young man from Ipoh whose mother's admonitions about the wiles of Kelantanese girls* still ring in his ears, wrestles with the bewildering local dialect, Maryam steps up to solve the mystery herself.

Her investigation brings her into the closed world of the wayang kulit Shadow Play theater and the lives of its performers - a world riven by rivalries and black magic.

Trapped in a tangle of jealousy, Maryam struggles to make sense of the crime in spite of the spells sent to keep her from secrets long buried and lies woven to shield the guilty.

About the author:  Barbara Ismail spent several years in Kelantan in the 1970s and '80s, living in Kampong Dusun and Pengkalan Cepa, studying Wayang Siam* and the Kelantanese dialect.  She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, and is originally from Brooklyn, New York.  She intended Shadow Play to be about Kelantan's finest:  market women with enormous sense, courage and confidence as well as to give a sense of Kelantan and its people.

Shadow Play is Barbara's first book in the Kain Songket Mysteries to be followed by Princess Play, Songbird, Moon Kite, Western Chanting and Little Axe.  Shadow Play is available to buy in most English bookstores like Waterstones, Blackwell's, Heffers, W H Smith (out of stock), online on Amazon (the UK and USA) and of course in Malaysian bookstores.

Glossary (taken from Shadow Play):
*Kain Songket:  The queen of Kelantan's textiles made of silk with gold or silver geometric patterns woven into it.

*Mak Cik:  Auntie, a polite form of address for an older woman

*Wayang Siam:  The Kelantan shadow play, performed with incised leather puppets, which throw shadows on a screen.

*Kelantanese girls:  Kelantanese women are famous for their looks and their proclivity for magic, a reputation jealously stoked by those less spirited, less assertive, less active in business than Kelantan's daughters.

Rating:  5/5

Never Enough (True Crime) by Joe McGinniss


Paperback:  Nancy Kissel had it all:  glamour, beauty and the royal lifestyle of the expatriate wife.

She had three children and what a friend described as 'the best marriage in the universe' to Robert Kissel, a successful investment banker.

But that marriage ended abruptly one November night in 2003 when Nancy was alleged to have incapacitated Robert by serving him a strawberry milkshake full of sedatives before bludgeoning him to death.  This case, since then, was known as the 'milkshake murder'.

Prosecutors, who charged Nancy with murder, said she wanted to inherit Robert's millions and start a new life with her lover, Michael Del Priore.

She said she had killed in self-defence while fighting for her life against a brutal, cocaine-addicted husband.

Her trial captured attention worldwide, and less than a year after the verdict in 2006, Robert's brother Andrew, a real estate tycoon facing prison for fraud and embezzlement was also found dead - tied up and stabbed in the basement of his home.

Never Enough (2007) is the true story of two brothers who wanted to own the world but instead wound up murdered half a world apart; and of Nancy Kissel, for whom having it all might not have been enough.  Basically, it is a sad but true story of avarice, hate and murder.

About the author:  Joe McGinniss is an American author of non-fiction novels and true crime.  He gained familiarity with journalism for the first time at the College of Holy Cross where he wrote for the school newspaper as well as the Chester Port Daily Item in the summer breaks.  After his graduation, he worked for Worcester Telegram as a general assignment reporter.  After a year, he became a sportswriter at the Philadelphia Bulletin and a year later, started working for its rival, Philadelphia Inquirer, as a columnist.

In 1986, McGinniss found the opportunity to write his first novel, The Selling of the President, which received a huge amount of positive feedback, such that it was in New York Times bestseller list overnight.  Following his huge success with The Selling of the President, he decided to concentrate on writing books and subsequently quit his job at the Philadelphia Inquirer.  His second and third books did not make waves compared to his first book.  In 1980, however, he regained his popularity with his fourth book, Going To Extremes, where he wrote about his adventures in Alaska.

In 1979, McGinniss became recognized nationwide after he met with Jeffrey MacDonald, a former doctor in the US army who was accused of killing his wife and children in 1970.  He worked on MacDonald's case for more than three years and published his first true crime book entitled Fatal Vision in 1983.

According to his biography, whether McGinniss is writing about a politician or a sociopath or even a soccer team, he feels compelled to search for the truth, no matter how elusive, behind the people and events he chronicles.  His approach to his subject matters is always original and his books are never less than compulsively readable.

More information of the author and his works can be found on his website.