Bitter Blood–Jerry Bledsoe

Standard

Another true crime book!

This book is excellent and the story is CRAZY.

This woman marries a dentist, they have two kids. He moves to New Mexico with them, which she HATES, because she wants to be home in North Carolina where her family is well known and people treat her like she’s special. She’s abusing the kids, too, but the husband apparently doesn’t notice that.

Eventually she leaves him and goes back to North Carolina with the kids. She files for divorce and he’s ok with letting her have primary custody but she starts saying she doesn’t want the kids to go to New Mexico at ALL, that he should have to come to them for visits, and just generally being terrible about everything.

The fights are bitter and expensive and eventually he gets a month in the summer, but he has to pay for transport and also her transport to an airport where the kids can fly direct to his house from, since there was no direct flight from her city to his and the kids are too young to make a transfer by themselves.

Meanwhile, she’s getting way more paranoid and jumpy and starts hanging out with her cousin who is also full of problems, being as he’s the son of a white supremacist who thinks vitamin C shots can cure everything. Her cousin is also faking being a doctor, after having faked his admission to and enrollment in medical school.

And then her ex-husband’s mom and sister are shot to death at their home in Tennessee.

He decides to use the money he inherits to fight to have custody switched to him. To this end, he starts visiting North Carolina and talking to her family and the kids’ schools. Eventually her dad agrees to testify that more contact with their dad would be a good thing.

By now, she and her cousin are living together and lamenting the fact that it’s illegal for cousins to get married in their state. Ew.

And then her parents and grandmother are shot to death.

At this point, the police start to find her complete lack of reaction to the deaths of her parents and grandparent suspicious and when they find out her mother and sister in law were also murdered within the year, they start to be really suspicious. They start moving on the cousin, whom they believe to be responsible for the shooting of her parents.

It does not end well.

 

The Man in the Brown Suit–Agatha Christie

Standard

It is a common thing to denigrate the thrillers that Agatha Christie wrote. They aren’t as good as her cozies, people will tell you. I’m not at all sure that’s strictly accurate. I think the thrillers are more parody than earnest fiction, and as such, they’re amazing.

Regardless, if you like the early 20th century thriller, you’ll probably like her thrillers, too, so it’s all good.

This is one of her thrillers. It follows the thrilling (HA!) adventures of Anne Beddingfeld, an impoverished orphan. Her father, an esteemed anthropologist, dies and leaves her penniless. She moves in with her lawyer’s family in London and looks for a job, but in the course of so doing, she encounters a man on the train. Clearly from a more enjoyable climate, with a tanned face and a jacket that smells like mothballs, he becomes alarmed at something behind her and steps off the subway platform, dying instantly. The man behind her announces he’s a doctor and examines the body, but as he’s leaving, Anne follows and discovers a piece of paper that he dropped, a paper that smells of mothballs. It came from the dead man’s jacket, clearly, and has a series of numbers and words on it.

Later it comes out that a beautiful foreign woman was found strangled that same day, in an empty house. The dead man had that house’s address in his pocket. A man in a brown suit had been seen leaving the empty house and is the presumed killer.

Anne realizes that the numbers and words refer to a boat that is sailing from London to South Africa. She spends the rest of her money on a first-class ticket and takes off. There she encounters Suzanne Blair, a rice society lady, her friend Colonel Race, and Sir Eustace Pedler, who owns the house the dead woman was found in.

She also encounters a suspicious pastor and a very touchy young man who is serving as Pedler’s secretary.

During the course of the journey she and Suzanne become friends and confidantes, and Suzanne has a film canister filled with uncut diamonds dropped into her cabin in the middle of the night. Colonel Race tells a story of two young men who were caught smuggling diamonds out of Africa. The rich one was disowned and then killed in the war, and the poor one was reported missing in action. Clearly these two events are related.

Once they land in Africa, Anne is kidnapped and held hostage, escapes and takes the newly opened job as Pedler’s secretary, is lured into a ravine where she nearly dies, and solves the mystery of who stole the diamonds and why they framed the two young men, as well as unmasking a criminal mastermind.

I think what I love most about the earlier Christie books is the atmosphere. The early 20th century was a tumultuous time and it’s hard for modern writers to get all the details and differences correct. It’s hard to believe that this book is not quite a hundred years old, because while there are many familiar aspects, the differences (no planes!) are so dramatic.

Cat Among the Pigeons–Agatha Christie

Standard

This is one of my favorites of Agatha Christie’s books, and I read it often.

The book opens with two old school friends, one of whom is a British pilot. The other is the ruler of a small middle eastern country. There’s a coup coming and their lives are in danger. The prince hands the pilot a small bag of jewels and asks him to find a safe way out of the country for them, in case the two of them are killed. After some thought, he goes to the hotel where his sister and her teenage daughter are staying and hides them in their luggage.

He is forced to leave the country with the prince before he can tell anyone where he hid them. He and the prince are both killed in the escape attempt.

His sister and niece travel by sea back to England, where, after the state department searches their luggage, the niece goes to her boarding school. His sister’s house is robbed and then the boarding school starts having trouble.

Muddying the waters a bit, there’s a girl at the school who is also middle eastern royalty and who claims to have been engaged to the dead prince. She knows about the missing gems, and she is constantly talking about how she’s likely to be kidnapped for them, or perhaps that someone will find the gems and bring them to her for a reward.

And then the game’s mistress is killed. Although many people have often thought about killing their physical education teacher, most people don’t actually do it.

Not long afterwards, one of the school administrators is also killed in the gymnasium.

The French teacher tries to blackmail the murderer and is killed herself.

Will the jewels be found? Who is the killer?

I love this book.

 

Green River, Running Red–Ann Rule

Standard

Another true crime book. If you’re not into true crime, avert your gaze now.

The Green River Killer was a hardcore serial killer–he has been confirmed to have had more kills than Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy, but do you know his name or anything about him? I doubt it. I pay attention to true crime and even I mostly only knew that the Green River Killer was a thing that existed. And honestly I didn’t even know where the Green River was, I thought it was in the midwest somewhere, but nope, it’s in Seattle.

Basically, this guy would pick up women, mostly sex workers but not exclusively so, and rape them and then strangle them and then dump their bodies somewhere in the nearby open natural areas around the city.

He got his name because the first five victims were found in the Green River, in late 1982.

He was caught in 2001.

Let that just sink in for a minute.

He was convicted of 48 murders, almost all of which occurred between late 1982 and 1986, with a couple more as late as 1998.

Here’s my theory: there are WAY MORE MURDERS on his hands than that. What are the odds that he killed 40 odd people in 4 years and then just stopped? I’m going to go with, not freaking likely. He did get remarried in 1987 and his wife thinks that she saved lives by making him happy, which…maybe? But I’m thinking not.

But here’s the thing. He made a deal that he would confess to everything and help them find the bodies, and in exchange he would plead to the murders but not get the death penalty. The caveat was, if he was later found not to have told them about a murder or if he was discovered to have killed outside that county’s borders, he was on the hook for those murders separately and the death penalty was a likely option.

This means that he had every incentive to tell the truth about how many people he killed. Unless he was killing them in neighboring counties, where some bodies were discovered.

Also during his last interview with the sheriff, he casually said, we’re up to 71 bodies now, and actually, no, they were up to 48. Why would he say that suicidal thing, except possibly as an ego booster? More likely, this man (with an IQ of 82 which I think is relevant to this) slipped up and gave his real total of kills and not the amount that they’d found.

Anyway, he was under suspicion in the 80s when the murders were happening and was arrested twice in connection with picking up sex workers, and that’s how they caught him in the end. They were so sure it was him that they got a judge to sign a warrant for hair and saliva samples, which were held and stored and in 2001 when DNA testing became available, they tested the samples against samples from the victims and nailed him.

Let this be a lesson to potential murderers: even if you can figure out how to avoid detection at the time you commit the murder, there’s no way to ensure that you can avoid future technological advances. And there’s no statute of limitations on murder, so you can go down at any time.

I’m not going to write his name here. He wanted to be famous like Bundy and I have no interest in gratifying that. You can google it if you want.