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February 2020: Crime & Mystery

Reading Through Time

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Jan 5, 5:30pm Top

February: Crime/Mystery

I wanted to highlight some historical crimes and mysteries.

You could read about Jack the Ripper, Richard III (did he kill his two nephews?), or other famous or not-so-famous crimes and mysteries, solved or unsolved.

And/or feel free to look at advances in crime fighting/solving over time, as well.

A few recommendations of books I’ve read:

- Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood / William J. Mann
- The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House / Kate Summerscale
- Helter Skelter / Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry
- The Complete History of Jack the Ripper / Philip Sugden
- The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz… / Deborah Blum
- The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science / Douglas Starr
- H. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil / Adam Selzer
- Thunderstruck / Erik Larson

And, please do update the wiki with what you read this month:

Jan 5, 6:21pm Top

I've been wanting to read The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. I've heard great things about the book. February would be a great month to read it, but no promises. I am feeling overloaded with commitments right now and all books I am looking forward to reading! It's a nice problem to have. Thanks for the reminder of this book from my virtual TBR.

Edited: Jan 5, 7:42pm Top

My plan is to read The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. It is a novel based on the actual unsolved disappearance of a NY state Supreme Court Judge in the 1930s.

Jan 5, 8:11pm Top

Trying to stay with something from my own shelf, I think I'm going to tackle The Devil's Grin (Kronberg Crimes) (Volume 1), which I got free from Kindle in 2014.

Jan 5, 8:17pm Top

>3 beebeereads: I have had this book on my list as well since hearing great things about it from booktubers. Perfect month for it!

Jan 5, 10:44pm Top

>3 beebeereads: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper was really good and very readable. I hope you have time for it in February.

Jan 5, 10:45pm Top

I'm spoiled for choice on this topic but have no idea what to pull from my shelves. I'm looking forward to February.

Jan 5, 11:41pm Top

>3 beebeereads: That one is also on my tbr!

Jan 6, 8:08am Top

I plan on reading Murder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens's London by Claire Harman, a true story about the murder of Lord William Russell in 1840. From the inside cover: "Murder by the Book is the fascinating story of a Victorian-era murder that rocked literary London, leading Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and Queen Victoria herself to wonder: Can a novel kill?"

Edited: Jan 6, 5:12pm Top

Im not big on whodunit, but I do like a well written psychological thriller written in the hands of Ruth Rendell
or Emma Donogue. Still consider Fingersmith the best book in this genre I have read

Oh wait - is this True Crime?

Jan 6, 9:26pm Top

>10 GerrysBookshelf: Oooooh, that sounds good!

Jan 6, 9:28pm Top

>11 cindydavid4: Personally, I always try for my "Reading Through Time" to be nonfiction, but I have had some topics where I just can't find anything on my tbr that fits. I have, occasionally, switched to historical fiction.

So, I believe my suggestions are all true crime, but I'm going to say you are ok if you want to do some fiction in there, instead. I think we're all pretty ok with tailoring it to fit what works for you. :-)

Jan 6, 10:59pm Top

>4 clue: I have The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress on my Kindle so I will most likely be joining you for that read.

Edited: Jan 7, 4:41am Top

>11 cindydavid4: I think the group page indicates that fiction or non-fiction is acceptable in this group: https://www.librarything.com/groups/readingthroughtime
That said, I try to make my fiction selections to be historical fiction, in which the book is set in a specific time and place, and is based on (or inspired by) historical events.

Jan 7, 12:58pm Top

>15 kac522: Definitely - both fiction and non-fiction are acceptable - reader's choice :)

Jan 10, 2:16pm Top

Maybe I'll finally get to The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher in February. It's been on my shelf for a long time.

Edited: Jan 13, 4:59pm Top

I'm going to read one of my ROOT books that is also the only one in my library that is a mystery. It takes place during 1600's Louis XIV reign in France.

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and The First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

Jan 13, 6:30pm Top

I've got a dozen or so possibilities. I'm tempted to a reread of The Executioner's Song, which I haven't read since its first publication. Mailer's love-him-or-hate-him. I'm a lover.

I've also got a probably schlocky pulp novel by Cameron Kay, Thieves Fall Out. Should be amusing. It was a pen name of Gore Vidal (another of my loves).

Jan 25, 5:53pm Top

I think I’ll give Hot Toddy: The True Story of Hollywood's Most Sensational Murder by Andy Edmonds a try. It’s about the murder? suicide? of 1930s actress Thelma Todd.

Jan 26, 7:48am Top

Our Lord Peter Wimsey monthly read will fit: this month Clouds of Witness.

Edited: Jan 26, 11:04am Top

>15Thanks guys; I guess because I read so much historic fiction I just sort of lump it all together, tho some if it like Atwoods Alias Grace definitely tilts a bit toward true crime. But I'll look for a non fiction that suits me andd Ill keep my Rendell and my Caedfael in historic fiction , it will be a good challenge for me:)

Jan 26, 11:10am Top

so heres my challenge - a well written book, that relies a great deal on the stories of different people involve, and heres the rough one, that is minimal on blood guts gore, harm to children. Prefer something victorian or edwardian, but more moderen is fine. Suggestons?

Jan 26, 12:15pm Top

I'm probably going to read The Book Thieves, by Anders Rydell, which is about the looting of libraries & books stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust and modern attempts to recover & restore them. It is non-fiction.

>23 cindydavid4: I sympathize. Perhaps books about stolen art or forgeries (art or otherwise)? I generally only read "cozy" mysteries. The only book on my shelf in the true crime category is Devil in the White City, which I haven't read (and dread reading), but only have here because it's about Chicago. Maybe one day....

Jan 26, 1:59pm Top

I read The Devil in the White City several years ago and it still gives me the willies, even at the mention of the book. You are right to dread reading it!

Jan 26, 4:30pm Top

>24 kac522: I did read that and yes it was splendid. Theres a similar one that I meant to read The Rape of Europa, perhas should try that.

Edited: Jan 26, 6:04pm Top

>24 kac522: Putting The Book Thieves on my TBR - thanks for the heads up on that book.

Jan 27, 3:38pm Top

Gaslight series by Victoria Thompson

Edited: Feb 3, 4:00pm Top

My choice for this theme was Andy Edmonds’ Hot Toddy about the death of Thelma Todd. I couldn’t finish it. The author says she spent seven years researching the story, but it’s just a mishmash of quotes and conjecture with no source notes; nothing more than tabloid trash trying to disguise itself as non-fiction.

So I’m going to read The Widows of Malabar Hill, a mystery of 1920s Bombay. I still want to read a non-fiction book for the theme, but will choose more carefully this time!

Feb 4, 2:47pm Top

>29 marell: The Widows of Malabar Hill is exactly what I'd been planning on! Hoping to get to it soon, but for the next week-and-a-half I've got to get my nominating petitions circulated, running as an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Deadline is February 18, but my candidate's campaign needs the stuff by February 14 and I've got to get 300 signatures.

Feb 4, 3:03pm Top

>30 CurrerBell: Good luck hope you get to be a delegate!

Edited: Feb 4, 7:34pm Top

>29 marell:
>30 CurrerBell:

I read The Widows of Malabar Hill last year and I liked it; not so much for the mystery, but for the culture.

Feb 6, 11:04am Top

I am enjoying The Widows of Malabar Hill very much for the same reason. I have read quite a few novels and mysteries set in India but this is the first time I’ve encountered the Parsis or Zoroastrianism.

Feb 6, 11:07am Top

I hope you enjoy it! And good luck!

Feb 9, 12:42am Top

It might be a while before I get the book I had decided one - the Bonnie and Clyde one.

However, I read this for another challenge, and it fits here, too. Especially the "mystery" part:

Feb 9, 12:42am Top

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident / Donnie Eichar
3.75 stars

Nine Russian hikers disappeared in February 1959 while hiking in the Ural Mountains in Siberia. When they were found, their tent was all set up nicely, though it had a few rips, and their bodies were a ways from the tent. The oddest part was that they were in various states of (un)dress and not one of them was wearing their boots. This was in very cold -- far below freezing -- weather. The American author heard of the mystery and was interested in trying to figure out what happened.

The book was told in three different “parts” - the hikers (almost all in their early 20s), based on photos and diaries; the searchers, only a month to three months following the hikers’ disappearance; and the author’s trek to Russia to see what he could find out (including a trip to the place they disappeared, and interviews with a tenth hiker (in his 70s when the author met him), who had had to turn back early due to health issues).

I was particularly interested in the parts from the ‘50s. The author’s story, I didn’t find quite as interesting, until he came closer to the end where he ruled out many theories (and, of course, explained why he ruled them out), and put forth a scientific theory as to what may have caused the hikers to retreat from their tent, to ultimately succumb to the elements. There were plenty of photos included, as well.

Feb 9, 11:54am Top

Death of a Red Heroine by Xiaolong Qiu This was an inspector Chen mystery. More than crime, politics drove the plot. This took place after Deng Xiaoping began his reform. It's Mao politicans vs. Xiapoing politicians; interesting, though. Besides being a chief inspector, Chen is a poet. This is book #1 in the series. I might read another one; hoping to get more culture and less politics! 3.75 stars 477 pages

Feb 9, 12:07pm Top

I finished The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, and enjoyed the read. I think the subtitle is a bit misleading, though. The murder was certainly shocking, but the investigation didn't actually "undo" Detective Jack Whicher, who wasn't all that great a detective either, based on the details of his career documented here. To be fair, the whole art/science of detection was very new in the mid-19th century. Apparently he did figure out who dunnit, and nobody believed him until his prime suspect confessed five years later. But he hadn't established any great reputation at the time. The disappearance of three-year old Saville Kent, and the discovery of his stabbed and mutilated body in a privy behind his home in 1860 led to the investigation detailed in the book. The entire Kent household--family and servants-- came under scrutiny, in an age where personal privacy, modesty and discretion were so highly valued that a policeman asking to search for a murder weapon in your home, even under such dire circumstances, was almost unthinkable. God help us, the state of the women's underwear became an issue! (It's really no wonder so many women in the 19th century were seen as suffering from a form of madness...) This is more than a "true crime" story; the lives of all the principals, before and after the event, are set forth in a fair amount of detail, and some of them are quite remarkable. The victim's older half-brother, William (whom Whicher never entirely exonerated in his mind, despite sister Constance's confession and insistence that she alone was responsible) grew up to be a dedicated naturalist, whose book on coral reefs was definitive on the subject for decades. His half-sister Constance lived to be 100 years of age, and was noted for nursing lepers in Australia. This was an interesting companion to Affinity, the Sarah Waters novel featuring the infamous Millbank prison on the Thames, which I read last year.

Feb 9, 2:00pm Top

>10 GerrysBookshelf: I have Murder by the Book somewhere in my stacks, I believe. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

I think I would consider Belfast in the 1980s historic even though it is more recent than most of what we read here. Belfast in the 1980s was a different place to set a mystery and a police procedural at that. Not that the detective, Sean Duffy, was good at following procedure. He was a bit of a maverick but I found myself routing for him in The Cold Cold Ground.

Edited: Feb 9, 8:19pm Top

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey.

Perveen Mistry is a young Parsi woman living in Bombay who is one of the first female lawyers in India. She has joined her father’s law firm, although, as this is 1920, she is unable to represent clients in a courtroom. Perveen is appointed to execute the will of the late Mr. Farid. His three wives and their children live in the family bungalow in purdah (seclusion from the outside world). Intrigue and foul deeds ensue.

I look forward to the next book in the series which I believe is out now. Ms. Massey has also written a series of books set in Japan.

I have found a non-fiction book that sounds intriguing: Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder that Scandalized Harvard by Paul Collins.

Edited: Feb 13, 4:15pm Top

Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder that Scandalized Harvard by Paul Collins was a fascinating, if gruesome, read. The book is well-written and contains notes, sources and indexes.

It concerns the disappearance and death of Dr. George Parkman, one of the leading men and richest men in Boston. A number of famous people appear here, in person or mentioned, as they were contemporaries or related to persons in the story: Oliver Wendell Holmes, the dean of Harvard Medical College, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne to name a few; Charles Dickens and Mark Twain make brief appearances.

What I found so interesting were the discoveries made at the time and some of the things that came about as a result of the trial. Ether had just been discovered and Oliver Wendell Holmes gave it the name “anesthesia.” He also insisted that doctors wash their hands, opponents suggesting that surely, “a gentleman’s hands are clean.”

At the time neither Massachusetts nor the federal courts had a standard definition or instruction of “reasonable doubt.” Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw’s explanation of reasonable doubt stood for over a century before any modernized version appeared.

An interesting book in so many ways.

Feb 13, 6:26pm Top

I'm nearly halfway through The Red Door by Charles Todd. I'm not sure why I find this series so addictive. Perhaps because I want so badly for Ian Rutledge to find some happiness in his life. At any rate, a terrific series.

Edited: Feb 14, 6:13pm Top

double post

Feb 13, 6:42pm Top

>41 marell: I first read this author in a book called Not Even Wrong (touch stone does not work) he wrote about his son, who was diagnosed with autism. Beautifully written with plenty of information along with the stories he tells about his journey. Also wrote sixpence house about his family moving to hay on wye in Wales where he bought a book store

Feb 13, 10:36pm Top

>41 marell: Oh, I think this is a BB for me!

Feb 14, 10:45am Top

I read Sixpence House years ago. I remember he talked about his autistic son who was very young then. Thank you for the recommendation of Not Even Wrong. I think I need to read more from this author.

Feb 14, 10:50am Top

I hope you like it. Strides were being made in forensics as well. The author has an easy writing style which I enjoyed.

Feb 15, 8:14pm Top

I finished The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. I only rated it 2.5, I thought it was a little beyond the author's reach.

Yesterday, 12:16am Top

Michael Finkel, The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit 3***, the story of Chris Knight, the "hermit" who beginning at age twenty spent the next twenty-seven years camping in near-complete isolation in the Maine woods, surviving by small-time burglaries of food and supplies from nearby resort homes.

Yesterday, 10:07am Top

>49 CurrerBell: I read that one when it first came out---astonishing to contemplate.

Yesterday, 1:03pm Top

>49 CurrerBell: Wow, interesting!

Today, 10:41am Top

I just finished the third book by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse, Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage. Wonderful Victorian period detail, with the queen herself making an appearance; two sidekicks, Cyrus Douglas and Huan, both originally from Trinidad; and two mysteries to solve. Mycroft and Sherlock are young men, Sherlock having quit school to follow his passion of becoming a criminal detective — financed at this point by his long-suffering brother. Intelligent and entertaining.

Today, 11:12am Top

>52 marell: I read the first of that series, and I thought it was pretty good, but had a bit too much swashbuckling adventure in it for me. The second sounds better, and I intend to get to it one of these days.

Today, 11:41am Top

>52 marell: I didn't know about this series, my library has it and I'll check the first one out...sometime.

Edited: Today, 6:44pm Top

I thought this one was better than the first one. I think I missed the second one somehow. The mysteries were solved rather abruptly right at the very end. Not much swashbuckling in this one. I really like them for the interactions between the characters and period details more than for the mysteries themselves.

Group: Reading Through Time

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