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Squeaky Joe

Aberdeenshire
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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-07-18

Not for the faint-hearted

True crime writer Ann Rule tells the story of the Green River killer in this extraordinary book. Researching the case for more than twenty years, she later discovered the perpetrator had carried out many of his grisly crimes close to where she lived and had even attended her book signings. America’s most prolific serial killer is known to have murdered at least 49 women and evaded detection until he was caught in 2001. The author sifted through thousands of documents, police records and photographs to bring this harrowing tale to life, detailing the lives of the many victims, their stories and their deaths.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted – packed with gory details and scene-of-crime minutiae, Rule outlines how the police investigation team went through many permutations before they eventually apprehended the killer. At a time when DNA evidence was virtually unheard of, the Green River Task Force struggled to find links that might tie any of the victims to a particular person. Fighting the quirks and whims of political enthusiasm for the case, the detectives were often left with only a skeleton crew, and some members even followed up leads in their spare time.

This is a disturbing story of an apparently mild-mannered but deeply troubled individual and the trail of bodies he left across King County, Washington.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-05-18

Fascinating account of the infamous killer

Comprehensive examination of the life and career of America's first serial killer, using contemporary letters, documents, court records and newspaper articles. The book traces the infamous Holmes through several marriages, medical experiments and early attempts at insurance fraud, to the many individuals he may and may not have murdered.

Adam Selzer leaves no corpse unturned in this fascinating account of evil doctor HH Holmes. The details are at times gory, and include particulars of the deaths of several children, which some listeners may find upsetting. The author also has a tendency to repeat himself a little, though as the text runs to a smidgen under five hundred pages, it was useful to be reminded of earlier events and misdemeanours as the story came to its conclusion.

Selzer paints a thought-provoking portrait of Holmes, showing the many and varied versions of himself played out by the killer over the span of a relatively short life. While he was plainly a crafty individual, Holmes does not fit the usual criteria of serial killer and may have simply knocked off people who got in the way of his plans, rather than killing from a psychological or sadistic motivation. Nevertheless, some of his victims – such as the slaughter of several members of the Pitezel family – demonstrate a distinct lack of feeling for his fellow human beings.

A fascinating and well-researched book that will no-doubt sell in shed-loads when the forthcoming Martin Scorsese/Leo DiCaprio movie (The Devil in the White City) is released.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-04-18

Classic Agatha Christie mystery

When a young woman recounts a series of apparent mishaps, Hercule Poirot, holidaying in Cornwall, is intrigued. Along with his friend Hastings, he sets out to investigate what he believes to be a threat to the woman’s life. But how do you solve a murder that hasn’t been committed?

I read a great many Agatha Christie novels in my teenage years, but the plots of most of them have vanished from my memory, so it may be that I’ve read this one before. First published in 1932, this is the sixth of the Poirot books and features Captain Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp, who add to the fun.

My memories of Christie’s writing are tarred with the idea that I stopped reading her books due to boredom (with plots, characters etc), so I wasn’t expecting too much with this one. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. The writing is generally clever and witty (especially Poirot’s dialogue) and, though I did get a bit confused towards the end, it was an entertaining story that kept me guessing.

The audiobook is read by the lovely Hugh Fraser, who brings out the humour of Christie’s writing (and also played Hastings in 43 episodes the Poirot TV series).

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-04-18

A clever and witty story

London, 1587. A new play entitled Tamburlaine opens at the Rose Theatre, but when a member of the audience is murdered, young actor Will Shakespeare is the prime suspect and is thrown into jail. Playwright and part-time spy, Kit Marlowe, knows his friend is innocent and sets out to investigate. But when another body turns up, it seems the mystery is not a simple one.

This is the first time I’ve delved into MJ Trow’s massive oeuvre, which includes several book series (Lestrade, Maxwell, Marlowe etc). In this adventure, he spins an absorbing tale of murder, spies and money-lending. Having said that, while he paints a generally authentic picture of the times, the people and the minutiae of everyday life, his use of more modern language and modern expressions did occasionally jar with me.

For lovers of truly historic murder mysteries, it’s a clever and witty story that adds yet more layers to the legend that was Christopher Marlowe.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-03-18

Classic science fiction

One of the earliest works of science fiction, Jules Verne creates a fantastical subterranean world in this classic adventure. Along with his nephew Axel and Danish eiderdown hunter, Hans, eccentric Professor Lidenbrock, charts a course to the planet's core, with only the occasional clue left by sixteenth-century explorer Arne Saknussemm to guide him.

The audiobook is narrated by that master of silver-tonguery, Tim Curry, whose variety of accents are by turns hilarious and impressive. The language does occasionally get a little over-technical, particularly when the Professor is explaining his theories, but otherwise it’s a rollicking good tale that shows off Verne’s fantastic imagination (the book was first published in 1864).

Classic sci-fi at its best.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-03-18

An enthrallling book

In 1967, a 19-year-old EMU student was last seen walking home to her apartment in Ypsilanti, Michigan. A few weeks later, her violated, naked body was found on an abandoned farm. Over the next few years, six more bodies were discovered, leading the police into a murder investigation that would taunt them with a maddening lack of evidence, suspects or the slightest clue as to who the killer might be.

Though I also have the paperback version, this review is based on the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Pete Cross. First published in 1976, this is a fascinating account of a series of murders that terrorised Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor in the late sixties. The details of the crimes, particularly relating to the difficulties and frustrations of the police investigation, reveal a well-researched and skilfully told story of how one man almost escaped capture simply because he was exactly what the authorities did not expect – an intelligent, clean-cut all-American guy.

The story held my attention from start to finish and had me rooting for the cops through all their defeats and dead-ends. My only grumble in terms of the writing, is that the author chose to change the names of not only the victims and their families, but those of several witnesses and even the person responsible for the killings. While it may have seemed an understandable courtesy forty years ago, for anyone wishing to do further research now, it’s a bit irritating.

That aside, provided you have a strong stomach (there’s lots of gory detail), this is an enthralling book that’ll appeal to anyone who enjoys true crime.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-03-18

Classic science fiction

An impetuous scientist manages to make himself invisible by interfering with his body’s refractive index. However, on discovering the impossibility of reversing the process, he begins to consider how this new characteristic might have unexpected benefits. Turning to crime, he becomes obsessed with making the most of his invisibility and gradually descends into madness.

Given the plethora of film and TV series based on the book, it was interesting to see what HG Wells originally wrote. I was surprised to see the development of the character from a clever reclusive scientist, into a thoroughly unpleasant villain, though the change makes total sense. The story is mostly told in third-person dramatic, so many of the protagonist’s antics are seen from the point of view of the villagers, the two doctors and the tramp-cum-assistant, Marvel.

A clever and thoughtful tale that explores the social restrictions and accepted behaviour of the time. It also rubber-stamped the author’s talent for writing what was then referred to as ‘scientific romance’, but would eventually become known as science fiction.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-03-18

Superb

1699. A magistrate and his clerk journey to the remote community of Fount Royal in The Carolinas, intending to put on trial a woman accused of witchcraft. But the young clerk, Matthew Corbett, isn’t convinced of the woman’s guilt and when the magistrate falls ill, takes on the task of putting questions to the so-called witch. But despite Matthew’s misgivings, Magistrate Woodward sentences the woman to death by burning, giving the young man only a few days to pursue his own theories.

I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of best-selling author Robert McCammon, but I certainly won’t be ignoring him any longer. ‘Speaks the Nightbird’ is the first book in the Matthew Corbett series (there are six so far), and it gets off to a cracking start. McCammon is a consummate storyteller who creates a world so compelling and all-encompassing that I even considered staying off work so I’d be able to finish the book. The writing is superb, and immerses the reader in a God-fearing, witch-hating community that is as convincing and as frightening as anything I’ve ever come across in the pages of a book. His characters are totally believable and the plot, which throws its hero into a complex and disturbing investigation, had me completely absorbed from page one.

Robert McCammon is my new favourite author and I’ve already got the next Matthew Corbett adventure (The Queen of Bedlam) on my bookshelf.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-02-18

Chilling account of the CIA's role in JFK's murder

Mark Lane’s final book on the JFK assassination explores the role of the CIA in the murder, gathering together fifty years of research, court appearances, witness statements and testimonies. Anyone who still thinks Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, should read this book now.

To be fair, Lane is repeating himself a bit this time around. A great deal of what he covers has already been said in his previous books, particularly ‘Rush to Judgement’, his first, and perhaps, most devastating expose of the Warren Commission’s kack-handed management of the inquiry. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of new information here, most of which blows the CIA, FBI and a lot of other folk out of the water. After reading this volume, I watched the documentary version of ‘Rush to Judgement’ (available on YouTube), which even now is chilling in the sheer weight of unheeded evidence.

While I was never one of those who believed Oswald was solely responsible, even fifty-odd years on, the CIA’s role in the assassination (and a whole load of other murders), is pretty damn scary.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-01-18

Authentic and entertaining

Following his adventures with Tom Sawyer and the murderous Injun Joe, Huck Finn fakes his own death to escape his alcoholic father and with his slave pal Jim, travels down the Mississippi through the Deep South.

I tried reading this book many years ago but was never able to finish it. Getting my hands on the audio version however, was a great way to have another go. Elijah Wood narrates superbly, providing a wonderful variety of voices and accents and bringing out the humour in the book to great effect. If, like me, you find the sheer length of the novel a bit daunting, this is a perfect way to enjoy it.

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