Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth #BlogTour #BookReview

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Delighted to join the blog tour for Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth today! My thanks to the publisher, Mirror Books, for the opportunity to join the tour and the review copy!

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The book behind the sensational Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Drawn from more than 150 hours of exclusive tape-recorded interviews with Bundy, this collection provides shocking insights into the killer’s 11th-hour confessions before his death in a Florida electric chair. A unique, horrifying self-portrait of one of the most savage sex killers in history.

This updated edition contains a new foreword by Robert Keppel, president of the Institute for Forensics.

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Author

Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth have co-authored five books together.

Michaud writes extensively on criminal justice topics. He maintains a website at stephenmichaud.com.

Aynseworth has 50 years experience as a reporter, writer, editor, and publisher. Currently, he is Southwest Bureau Chief for the Washington Times.

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This is the face of one of America’s most famous serial killers:

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I just had to look it up and see what he looked like. What do you think? You really can’t begin to imagine what thoughts go on in that head of his, do you? Well neither could I but I was thrilled to find out what the man himself had to say!

Now, Conversations with a Killer is not a straightforward reply to all the questions we might want to ask Ted Bundy but it certainly is a good start if you’re curious about his personality. The interview gives an insight how he started and what sort of a person he is. I thought it would go into the crimes in great detail too but that is not the case, there are no big revelations in this novel in that way but I did manage to build some sort of a picture of him in my head and how he looks at himself and the world.

So who is Ted Bundy? After reading this book I have come to the conclusion that he comes across as someone who’s highly intelligent (much more than I had expected from someone who gives in to his impulses so easily), his attitude is quite confident and at times even cocky. He said he had low self-esteem multiple times and he explained that this lack of self-worth coupled with environment’s impulses (he means porn) made him what he is. He’s an expert in avoiding telling something he doesn’t want to, he’s a manipulator and even in his time with the authors I saw him trying to get his way, making false promises, leading them on. He didn’t sound like the devil incarnate when you hear him talk but when he said he didn’t feel remorse, he had nothing to feel sorry for, it pulled me right back to the crimes he committed and into thinking what sort of a monster he really was, a real wolf in sheep’s clothes. And to think he does everything to stay alive yet didn’t value the lives of the innocent people he pursued at all himself!

Even if you have to take everything this notorious killer says with more than a pinch of salt, it’s still intriguing. I’m sure he said a lot of BS but there are also other things that ring true and make sense. I’m telling you again, he was anything but stupid. I still can’t grasp how he could kill again and again and again (how many times, nobody knows really, Wikipedia tells me he never admitted a specific number) but it was fascinating to hear him talk, be it in a 3rd person voice about ‘the serial killer’. It did create some distance so I probably would have liked it better if he had just told us in his own POV but it wasn’t really hard to transfer his observations and thoughts onto himself either, everyone knows it was really about him.

Confessions of a Killer was a very interesting read and a unique insight in the mind of a killer. It’s a lot of things that it’s not: it’s not a confession, it’s not about the details of his crimes, but if you want to read about the person that is, or I should say was Ted Bundy, then it is certainly worth reading. I’ve certainly enjoyed this short time inside this devil’s mind.

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I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamera #BookReview

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A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

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Isn’t it unbelievable that a person is able to stay undetected for so many years while he attacked more than 50 people in their homes and even escalated to murder? Well sadly this is the incredible but true story of the Golden State Killer, although he goes by a few other names as well in his early days such as the East Area Rapist or the Night Stalker.

After a very impressive introduction by Gillian Flynn I wanted to dive right in and see for myself what an unsurmountable task Michelle took upon herself. It was clear right away from the huge listing of places where he attacked that she had made an immense engagement to write this novel and to try and propel the investigation forwards.

I didn’t quite know what to expect of this novel, written by a woman who ploughed through so many documents, testimonials and notes but sadly passed away in her sleep before she could finish the story she had started. What I discovered from the parts she left behind was an intriguing portrait of the man responsible for so much grief over such a long period of time. Case after case passed before my eyes and it became clear how illusive this man is. What makes it even weirder is that even though there were many encounters with him – and we know it’s him because he has some particular markers of the things he does and pretty specific habits – his persona remains ever so vague. One time he’s described as blond haired, another time he has brown hair.. I couldn’t really get a good image of him in my head nor get a grip on who he is and what drives him.  He’s really just as slippery as an eel and an important factor why he was able to stay out of the hands of the police for so long must have been because he was clever enough to expand his territory so it spanned several states. In those days there wasn’t a computer system yet that could detect the same MO in crimes over state borders and finger printing methods were also near non-existent, which became painfully obvious from this novel.

Where the first part of the novel was mostly a historical overview where I could feel the desperation that this perpetrator couldn’t be found, the second part of the novel was more hopeful and it shone a light on possible suspects, letting me scrutinize every morsel of additional information that was offered. Thoughts and ideas are tossed around and shared with the reader, even if dismissed subsequently. It was fascinating to read what possibilities there were and which loose ends needed more work. Michelle had interviews with retired detectives, went around to look at old crime scenes and her obsession for the investigation is almost palpable.

As much as this is a quest to find the Golden State Killer, it is also one to find out who Michele McNamera is and I think at least that last part was achieved. The novel didn’t feel finished and it really isn’t all neatly wrapped up and organised, but it gives a pretty good idea of all the work Michelle already did and what she was working on and you can feel what could have been if she had had the chance to continue her hard work.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a novel that is begging to be discussed among readers and true crime lovers and I’m positive new ideas and courses of action will find root from this work. There are no set answers in the end but at least this novel will make sure that it is not put to rest and new energy can be drawn from this laborous oeuvre.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris #BookReview

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What’s it about?

Based On An Incredible True Story

What makes a survivor?

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport of men from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tetovierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever.

One day as Lale is tattooing the arm of a young woman, he looks into her eyes and falls instantly in love.

His life given purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

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Review

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No matter how many historical novels of this nature I read – and I’ve read about a dozen books about WWII already – it’ll never ever be enough to grasp the entirity of monstrocities that fell upon those held captive and how they found the strength to survive these atrocities. The number of testimonies from survivors is unfortunately dwindling fast as time goes by and I’m very grateful that Lale Sokolov found the courage to revisit his past and share his personal story. It’s a cruel legacy of an era but so important that we never forget.

I’ve actually met Lale as a character in plenty of books before, without him ever being named. He was always someone in the periphery of a story but I never thought about the person who actually saw everyone still so unknowing of what was waiting for them when they entered those gates of Birkenau or Auschwitz, and gave them their camp number. Lale has the job of Tettovierer, one of the better jobs that gives him a better place to sleep, more food and a little bit more freedom to help others. He has a guard with him every time he goes to work called Baretski but he was able to talk to his guard and was treated fairly well by him given the circumstances.

He’s such a gentle soul and Lale felt particularly bad tattooing old people and young girls because he knew the first group’s fate was sealed and that Mengele had an unhealthy interest in the second group. Mengele often came by to inspect the new arrivals and to select new girls for whatever he had in mind. Lale didn’t want to hurt the girls so he did his best to be tender. He grew up with respect for girls and women, his mother taught him well.

However barbaric and hellish life was, there is beauty to be found in this novel as well. It’s hard to believe but in these grisly circumstances, where there’s nothing left to enjoy and happiness is nothing but an alien feeling, two people were able to find love. Lale falls in love the moment he lays eyes on a girl waiting to be tattooed. It’s quite incredible that the ability to still feel so much for someone never dies. The contrast with his surroundings couldn’t be bigger and made me feel it even deeper. Lale falls heads over heels for Gita and it strengthens his resolve to go on another day and another… I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier about a love story than now. I wished it so hard for them, they were so deserving of each other and I could only hope with all my heart it wouldn’t come to a cruel end. Loving someone when you don’t have the power to safeguard them, when you don’t know if they are still going to be there the next day, is dangerous but a risk Lale is willing to take. The heart can’t be dictated and I found tremendous joy in the fact the SS weren’t able to take that away at least.

I really admired Lale from the very start of this novel, his positivity and his determination to survive shine through from the very beginning and it was wonderful to see how he tries to give Gita hope when she sees none. He’s her light at the end of the tunnel and she means everything to him too. Heather Morris did a brilliant job writing Lale’s personal story, and even though it was a very compelling testimony and there were still many sad moments to get through, the overruling feeling after I finished it is one of warmth and contentment for these two individuals. Lale and Gita’s love story was a perfect counterweight for the predominant harshness of this novel.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher through Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

Blood Moon by John David Bethel #BookReview

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What’s it about?

On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted. What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war. He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors.

Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.

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Review

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I’ve had this novel Blood Moon for quite some time already and I have no idea why I haven’t read it sooner really because when the author contacted me I was immediately interested when I heard it was based on true events. Nothing prepared me for the horrendous ordeal the main character, Redicio Suarez, had to go through while abducted though. The preface is written by the true victim of these crimes and I thought at first that it’d be easier to read, maybe I was even a bit disappointed I already knew how the story was going to end, but I had to revise this opinion quite soon! I was nothing but relieved to know that this man would survive ultimately. Reading about the time he was held captive was in some ways worse than many thrillers I’ve read and you wouldn’t even be able to come up with this if it was fiction. These abductors were crossing the line of human dignity in every way possible, they were monsters. If I hadn’t read the preface I wouldn’t have expected him to have survived really, it was that brutal. I had no idea where the line was drawn between fact and fiction and it felt so outlandish that even part of it was true, it left me wondering and occupied my thoughts largely throughout this story.

The first thing I did when I finished this was look up what I could find about Marc Schilling in an attempt to recount some of the facts and it turns out that plenty of what he went through wasn’t made up. Blood Moon was really intense to read and the accounts of duct tape around his face, being in the dark all the time and having to sign documents without seeing a thing actually turned out to be real. I got chills while reading this but knowing afterwards that these parts weren’t fiction and did actually happen made my blood run cold. The way his abduction ended was quite spectacular although the true version of events would have suited just as well. The first part was largely a description of every single thing he was subjected to, along with the backstory in how they started to get the idea to plan all of this. I can’t believe someone would do all this and go to these lengths to get everything, not wanting to leave a single penny.

His escape from the money grabbing vultures who abducted him didn’t go how I’d anticipated at all and you might think it would put an end to his nightmare but even then it continues. While he should be protected by the police, the bad people put away behind bars, that apparently is a storyline that only occurs in fiction stories. It was sad and frustrating to read that he had to go through all of this and then wasn’t believed, even ridiculed and yes in another way but a victim once again. This time personal grudges were dragged into it as well and unfortunately he’s right in the middle of it.

I shook my head quite a few times while reading. At times it’s just so unbelievable, or maybe I almost didn’t want to believe this could be so close to the truth. I felt it was a bit of a stretch that his lawyer would do the legwork the police should have been doing. I wanted to shout as well that it was dangerous what he was doing but then I also wanted to get some justice, some closure for him so that he didn’t have to be afraid anymore. I just can’t imagine what that does to a person.

Blood Moon was a tense and quite violent read at times so I wouldn’t recommend this one for the faint at heart. There’s no gussying up and I can assure you that the writing isn’t suggestive so it is all due to the facts and his account without embelishments that it was so heart-breaking to read at times.

If you want to know more about what Marc Schiller, the true victim, went through, then you should definitely read this book. For your info: there was also a movie made based on the story that many have probably seen (I know I did) but doesn’t do justice to him at all. I can’t believe either they actually made a comedy out of this, there’s really nothing to laugh after reading this. You can check out an article with more info here.

I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Fact of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich #BlogTour #Bookreview

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It’s my turn on the blog tour today to tell you all about the fabulous debut novel  The Fact of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, which was published on 18 May! Huge thanks to PanMacmillan for inviting me on the tour and I hope you enjoy my review!

What’s it about?

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

About Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Alexandria-Marzano-Lesnevich_MACD-15-201_414A 2014 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, she has received a Rona Jaffe Award and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Her essays appear in the New York Times, Oxford American, and the anthologies TRUE CRIME and WAVEFORM: Twenty-first Century Essays by Women, as well as many other publications. She received her JD from Harvard, her MFA at Emerson College, and her BA from Columbia University. She now lives in Boston, where she teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Connect with the author on Twitter : @alexandriaml

If you want to learn more about the case, here’s a link to the evidence pack, which includes footage of Ricky Langley.

Review

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Where to even start discussing this novel? How to explain what a special novel The Fact Of A Body is and give honor to the unique and extraordinary nature of this story? I have read a few courtroom cases but none where the court case is really put together by a narration outside of the courtroom in such a striking way.

My first favourite point of course already goes to the fact that this is true crime, reason enough for me that I really wanted to read it and what drew me to this novel in the first place. This is not just some fictious story, this is a legal case about real people (you can even look Ricky Langley up on youtube) and this makes it even a more interesting and valuable read to me. Sometimes in life the realism is just as horrendous as what some authors are imagining and writing down as fiction, and taking the life of an innocent 6-year old boy for no reason at all is so horrific to me that I wanted to know more: who was this person, how could this happen? Could I somehow understand this human better and see him for more than the crime? After reading this novel I have found the answers for myself because yes this one makes you self-reflect about your own beliefs and it will certainly make you ‘live’ Ricky’s life story. This novel is more than satisfying because it gives a face and creates a real character of someone you would only know by name in the media’s headlines. There is no question about guilt here, but it’s his background and past, going back so far as his parents getting together and his conception, and the lead up to this hideous crime that will come forward in the story. The history of Ricky Langley was very thoroughly penned down and the image painted is vivid and an outright tragic and rocky account of his life. The author did it all without any contact with him so this must have taken a painstakenly amount of work and time. The question that rises though is if he could really have escaped this path with everything that’s happened to him? Personally, I still think so. It’s not because you were treated badly (which is debatable too) and you struggle in life with who you are that you can’t change the hand dealt to you, that you have no choice. I know that he was looking for help but does that serve as an excuse? It’s all about the choices someone makes and there’s only that one pivotal moment of wrongful action. It might have started before he was born but there is only one moment that matters to me. Still, there’s plenty food for discussion to be found in here and this novel is all about forming your own opinions and thoughts and trust me that they were bubbling up and there was no keeping them down this time. I love it when a novel makes you think and occupies your thoughts like this.

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich grew up in a household with two lawyers as parents and she chose to go to law school too (if this is something inspired by the desire for justice for those who aren’t heard in life or her encouraging environment is something I definitely wondered about as well) and she’s opposed to the death penalty. She begins her internship in a law office watching a video tape of Ricky Langley and has to wonder if she can still hold on to her beliefs. Little did she know that it would change her forever because the deeper she gets into his case, the more she’s also relating to her own past. While she’s researching she’s bravely revealing what happened to her as a child and she’s being so devastatingly honest. Entangled is a very raw and painful family history. She really weaves her own history into Ricky Langley’s story in a subtle and magnificent way.

I have a sense that this novel was kind of cathartic for the author. Something that was silenced and ignored for so many years and now there’s no ignoring anymore, now everybody will know. I got the idea that she needed to let it out and to change that feeling inside her of people not acknowledging what happened for so long. Now every reader is part of it and I can understand that gives her some relief. It can’t change the past but it changes the future.

This was a very well researched novel about a crime and a brave memoir of abuse which made it an unforgettable novel to me. I can highly recommend.

Many many thanks to the author for sending me a free copy of this novel through her publisher. It was my pleasure to provide my honest opinion.

You can read an extract of the first chapter here. Go ahead and read it, but know that you’ll probably want to read more!

Here’s the full list of blogs of this book tour, check out the other tour stops too :

Grab This Book
Keeper of Pages
Crime Worm
Liz Loves Books
Breathing Through Pages