Book Review: Sole Survivor

Sole Survivor: The Inspiring True Story of Coming Face to Face with the Infamous Railroad KillerSole Survivor: The Inspiring True Story of Coming Face to Face with the Infamous Railroad Killer by Holly Dunn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We continue our true crime streak today.

I first came across Holly Dunn’s story a few years ago on an episode of 48 Hours. I was floored by her resilience then and when I saw she was writing a book to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her survival, I knew I had to read it.

Dunn is the sole survivor of a terrible serial killer known as the Railroad Killer. Angel Maturino Resendiz is suspected of killed 23 people across the United States and Mexico over a 20 year period. Through luck and quick thinking Dunn was able to live through her terrible encounter with the Railroad Killer and she’s gone on to help countless survivors of rape and violence.

While Dunn’s story is incredible and moving, the book was a bit long and more conversational in tone than well written. Some have complained the book glosses over the aftermath of the attack, which is true. If you wanted a book solely focused on the crime, this is not for you. This book is about Dunn’s recovery, her faith in God, and her life now. There is a heavy religious element to this book and readers need to be aware that there is some witnessing happening.

Overall it was not a bad book. Holly Dunn is an inspiration and a powerful survivor and that is worth more than anything.


Book Review: Sleep, My Child, Forever

Sleep, My Child, Forever: The Riveting True Story of a Mother Who Murdered Her Own ChildrenSleep, My Child, Forever: The Riveting True Story of a Mother Who Murdered Her Own Children by John Coston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

True crime at its most chilling.

I was intrigued by John Coston’s tale of Ellen Boehm since I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where the sordid tale is located. I was very young during the series of events so I only vaguely recalled the story of a mother who slaughtered her children in cold blood. Being a true crime fanatic, I grabbed a copy of this book during an Amazon sale.

Ellen Boehm and her husband Paul came from a long line of abuse. When they met and eventually married, they had dreams of the perfect life together — the house, the children. What happened what much, much different. After meeting a new woman, Paul abandoned his wife and three children, leaving them to fend for themselves with little money and no support. Ellen quickly lost her home and took on extra work when she could in an effort to make ends meet. It still wasn’t enough and soon the woman was overwhelmed with her own fantasy world and three children standing in the way of her wonderful life.

What unfolds next is something of horror stories. Ellen kills her two youngest children within a year and attempts to murder her eldest daughter. By a stroke of luck, her daughter survives unscathed but life will never be the same. Ellen tries to reap the death benefits following the murder of her sons but underestimates the tenacity of the St. Louis Police Department.

Sleep, My Child, Forever is a tale of true monsters. Not the ones that live in closets and under the beds of children, but the ones that we see everyday and never suspect.

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBIKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset.”

Killers of the Flower Moon is an intense read and as usual, David Grann does not shy away from the gory details. Grann’s carefully researched book tells the tale of the systematic murder of the Osage Indians, cut down in cold blood for oil rights that the white settlers thought should be rightfully theirs. What’s even more shameful, is that the murders aren’t the result of a couple of greedy psychopaths, but a deeper plot involving the entire town, desperate to increase their already overflowing bank coffers.

I, personally, had never heard of the murders of the Osage despite the fact that they happened less than a century ago. It is painful to think that this erasure may be intentional but Grann seeks to give the dead a voice.

I don’t know why I’m always surprised by the human lust for money but this book was shocking. Despite that, the lessons imparted were more important than my discomfort. A must read for sure.

Book Review: The Royal Art of Poison

The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most FoulThe Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery set in the beauty and wonder of the Renaissance?

The Royal Art of Poison was disgusting, horrifying, creepy, nasty, and just plain delightful! Full disclosure: I’m a history nerd and a true crime geek (who knew, right?!) and this book fed my love of both. Eleanor Herman starts off with a brief history of poison and there was a lot of it in ancient times. Not just poisons like deadly nightshade but common household items, like makeup and even medicine, with full of arsenic and mercury! Not only was poison a common fear, but the sanitation levels were dismal. If it wasn’t the disease killing you, it was the mercury enemas.

Following the history lesson, each chapter tells the tale of a different historical figure who died under mysterious circumstances. Herman presents the reader with a case study for each, telling the reader about the person’s marriage, the times in which they lived, and the symptoms they presented with prior to their death. Then the reader is left to ponder, did the person die because of poison or were they just unlucky? Never fear, the reader isn’t left hanging! Herman then presents the formal diagnosis along with medical records (if there are any) and the fallout in the event of an actual poisoning.

Eleanor Herman is an historian by training making her books well-researched tales complimented by her vast knowledge. Nonfiction books have the potential to be wordy and difficult to read but Herman’s books are easy to digest, even when the subject matter isn’t. A must read for any history nerd, lover of the macabre, or true crime buff.

Book Review: What Lies Below

What Lies BelowWhat Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel is a mystery novel, a suspense novel, and a romance novel all rolled into one. Gilly O’Connell is a broken woman. She sees things other people can’t and it’s caused her unending heartbreak her entire life. She’s lost friends, family, and even her husband and child. Yet she can’t stop her dreams and must deal with the consequences that come with visions of events she is powerless to stop.

I read mysteries (a lot) and so very little in this book came as a shock to me. There was maybe one “WHOA!” moment in the entire book. However, that didn’t ruin it for me. The characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, and there were times that I thought characters could have asked more questions or probed deeper in a particular situation. Some of the chapters didn’t flow as smoothly into one another but it didn’t detract from the story. Finally, we all know that I hate the tidy bow at the end of a story and this one wrapped up just a little too cleanly for my tastes.

Overall, the book was a good read. It was quick and intriguing and I’d highly recommend it to any fan of mystery/suspense with a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

*I received an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley.*