Book 'Em - Vol. 43

May 21, 2015 - by J. Patrick O'Connor - 0 Comments


Crime Magazine's Choice of True Crime Books

by J. Patrick O'Connor

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015, 530 pages). To Norwegians, the most incomprehensible thing about the mass murder in Oslo and at the nearby island of Utoya was that the murderer was not some foreign jihadist but a home grown terrorist from an affluent Oslo neighborhood. On July 22, 2011, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb outside the Norwegian prime minister's office in central Oslo, killing eight people. Then, dressed as a police officer, he made his way to the isolated youth camp on the island of Utoya where in the course of one hour he methodically shot to death 69 more, most of them teenage members of Norway's governing Labour Party. The massacre set off the greatest national trauma since the Nazi invasion and occupation during World War II. In One of Us, award winning war correspondent Asne Seierstad describes not only the massacre itself in copious detail but how Breivik's life goal morphed from new-Nazi musings to wanting to rid Europe of every Muslim and end the continent's slide into multiculturalism.  Somehow, as Breivik descended into fanaticism as his plans took shape to start the war on multiculturalism, no one seemed to notice. One of Us also carefully reconstructs the lives of several of Breivik's young victims. Following a trial that allowed Breivik to act as his own counsel and to rant against the state, he was convicted on August 24, 2012 and sentenced to the maximum penalty the law allowed: 21 years. However, as long as he is viewed as a threat to society, the sentence could be extended by five years every five years "until death claimed him," Seierstad writes.


Bloody Lies: A CSI Scandal in the Heartland by John Ferak (Black Squirrel Books, an imprint of The Kent State University Press, 2014, paperback 243 pages). The shotgun murders of Wayne Stock and his wife Sharmon on Easter Sunday night in 2006 at their farmhouse in a remote section of Cass County, Nebraska were senseless acts of depravity. In addition to ammunition shells from a .12 gauge shotgun, a flashlight, and a marijuana pipe were left in plain sight on the Stocks' gravel driveway near the front door. The investigation soon focused on two young nephews of the murdered Stocks. One of them, under extreme duress from intense police questioning, confessed and implicated his cousin. When he recanted the next day, an Omaha Crime Lab that had already spent over eight hours unsuccessfully looking for blood traces in the alleged getaway car now miraculously found a blood trace with the DNA of Wayne Stock. The case against the two young men was all of sudden iron-clad. Or was it just another case of a crime lab stepping over the line to nudge a case along? When investigators began following another crime-scene clue -- the DNA laden marijuana pipe -- the case veered radically away from the nephews and eventually to the actual killers, two Wisconsin teenager who picked the Stock farmhouse at random to burglarize.  Once the killers were sentenced to life without parole, the question that took center stage was how did the blood trace get in the getaway car that had never been a getaway car.


Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto's Last War by Peter Edwards and Antonio Nicaso (Random House Canada, 2015, hardback, 313 pages). A well-researched, well-written account of the last years of Vito Rizzuto's storied life of crime. For years, Rizzuto was the unchallenged leader of the Canadian Mafia, operating out of the Port of Montreal, the northern gateway to the major American drug markets. Extradited and put on trial in 2006 for his role in a decades-old Brooklyn triple murder, Rizzuto spent the next six years in federal prison as a rival gang -- the Calabrian Mafia -- decimated his family, killing his father and son as well as many of his lieutenants and friends. When he was released from prison in 2012, the 66-year-old don emerged with one thing on his mind: vengeance.


Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago by Gillian O'Brien (The University of Chicago Press, 2015, hardback, 303 pages).  The murder of Dr. P.H. Cronin, a respected Irish physician whose naked, beaten body was found in a Chicago sewer in 1889, set off a media storm that exposed a web of intrigue, secrecy, and corruption within the secret Irish societies of the day. The murder made headlines across the United States to England and Ireland. What caused Cronin's murder to attract the biggest funeral procession Chicago had seen since Lincoln's body lain in state at the Cook County Courthouse in 1865, makes a fascinating story of Irish politics at the turn of the 20th century. O'Brien's research and writing are first-class, bringing to life how Chicago replaced New York and Boston as the center of Irish influence in trying to turn British-controlled Ireland into the republic it became in 1922.


Accused: A Heartbreaking Death and the Quest for Justice by Brittany Ducker (New Horizon Press, 2015, hardback, 305 pages). The brutal murder of 14-year-old Trey Zwicker in Louisville in 2011 resulted in his stepfather, an ex-con with a pronounced violent streak, and his stepbrother, a 15-year-old honor student, being tried separately for the murder. The author, a Louisville-based defense attorney, goes step by step through this bizarre case, explaining the pathology behind the senseless murder and showing once again how often law enforcement can get it so wrong. For readers interested in the inner-workings of a capital trial, Accused is an informative look inside.


Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White by Rick Geary (Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine Publishing, 2013, 80 pages). Rick Geary is the master of short, illustrated stories, many of them having to do with celebrated crime cases such as the Lindberg kidnapping, Sacco and Vanzetti, Lizzie Borden, and Jack the Ripper. In his latest book he presents the cold-blooded murder of famed architect Stanford White by millionaire Harry K. Thaw. Thaw, an insanely jealous husband of former showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, kills White at he sits in the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden -- a building designed by White and considered his masterpiece -- on the evening of June 23, 1906. Five years earlier White had a brief affair with the 17-year-old showgirl. In 80 pages of narrative and illustrations Geary tells of this fatal triangle in a detached style that manages to bring to the surface the roiling passions behind this most unlikely murder. It's quite an accomplishment to behold.


John George Haigh: The Acid-Bath Murderer by Jonathan Oates (Pen & Sword True Crime, 2014, hardback, 212 pages).  Serial Killers, no matter how different their modus operandi, have two things in common: a total lack of conscience and the complete lack of remorse. In the late 1940s, John George Haigh, an intelligent, well-educated man from a strongly religious family of Plymouth Brethren, embarked on a killing spree that stunned London. Haigh was intent on committing unsolvable murders by dissolving his victims' bodies in acid, removing all traces of their existence. The book reconstructs the murders in graphic, forensic detail one at a time and the trial that followed.

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