Starvation Heights–Gregg Olsen

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This is a true crime book but it’s not gory, so if you’re interested in true crime but are squeamish, this might be the ideal choice for you.

The case is actually a fairly famous one in true crime circles. It’s a historical case, turn of the last century, and it involves a quack of a doctor starving her patients to death.

But only the rich ones with minimal relatives. Let’s not get crazy about this. If you were poor or had relatives checking on you a lot, you were fairly likely to walk away without problem from the facility.

Basically, it went like this: a woman named Linda Hazzard, who attended no medical school of any type managed to get herself licensed by some grandfather clause for people who were practicing before 1909? But the upshot is she was a completely untrained person practicing as a doctor.

Her idea was that fasting would cure EVERYTHING. You have arthritis? Fasting. Cancer? Fasting. Migraines? FASTING. Oh and enemas. Super intense enemas.

Claire and Dora Williamson were rich sisters that were mostly alone in the world. They had extended family but no one really close to them. They had a lot of money and property and were always interested in alternative treatments. They didn’t really have a lot of issues, but Claire did have some digestive or uterine issues, but nothing serious, nothing that kept them from travel, which, again, travel in the freaking early 1900s was not easy or super comfortable, even for the rich.

They started by renting an apartment in Seattle, where they started the fast. All they had was vegetable broth and water, plus the enemas and “vigorous massages” every day. They got so thin, so fast that the neighbors were alarmed. By the time the facility in the woods was ready for them, they couldn’t walk alone because of the weakness and had to be carried down to the ferry.

When they got to the facility, they were put in the attic, separated by a curtain so they couldn’t see and barely speak to each other. Claire managed to get a note out to their childhood nurse in Australia before she died of starvation. By the time the nurse came, Claire was dead and Dora weighed less than 60 pounds. Somehow, Hazzard had managed to get herself appointed the guardian of Dora and it took quite some time for Dora to be extracted, and she made a full recovery.

Prosecution was a problem. The place where Claire died was in the woods, in a small county, not the bigger Seattle one. The county didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t want to prosecute. But Claire and Dora were actually British citizens and local British authority pushed and got them to prosecute her.

She was sentenced to a short prison sentence and reopened her business. It’s crazy.

This is a great good, well researched, beautifully written, very educational.

 

H is for Homicide–Sue Grafton

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I’ve read all of these books, except for the newest release, “X is For…” but I recently re-read this one as a way to get my head back in the mindset of this series before the new book.

*side note*

I met the author this past week at a book signing. She is completely lovely. I cannot say enough nice things about her. She sat and had a brief conversation with every single person there, made me feel like I was the only person there when it was my turn, and they tell me that she stayed until every book was signed. Full points for customer service.

*end side note*

These books are all set in the 80s and follow a female private investigator in a town called Santa Theresa, California, which is clearly meant to be Santa Barbara. She gets an office at a local insurance company in exchange for doing some investigation on potential insurance fraud cases.

In this book, we start with the discovery of one of the insurance investigators dead body at the office. It’s disturbing and distressing to her, for obvious reasons, but they push onward. Then an efficiency expert comes in and makes it clear that her time there is limited, but she has a case she figures she can wrap up for them before he actually fires her.

But the case goes to hell almost immediately.

They suspect this woman, Bibianna, of faking a car accident. Her only address is a post office box, she got insurance right before the accident, there are no witnesses, and all her injuries are soft-tissue and hard to prove or disprove.

Our detective, Kinsey, starts by tracking down her real address and making contact. Then she follows Bibi when she goes out for the night. She convinces Bibi she’s just a regular person, hanging out and making friends, and so when Bibi is tracked down by some bad guys and there’s a shootout that kills one of the bad guys, both Kinsey and Bibi go to jail.

The cops tell Kinsey that Bibi is affiliated with a nutcase who is running a massive insurance scam throughout California, with an entire group of people who fake accidents all day long, and tell her they’ll wire her and follow her if she can stay with Bibi when they’re released and lead them to the kingpin, the aforementioned nutcase, Raymond.

But there’s an epic mistake and she’s neither wired nor followed. Instead, she ends up captive with Bibi at the hands of Raymond, who is desperately in love with Bibi and not at all sane or functional.

This is, I think, a solid entry into this series. There were a couple of wobbles in this series a little later on, R and S, I think, but nearly all of these books are really well done and entertaining.