Items tagged with True crime

CrimeCONN: Mystery Conference, History and the Use of New Technology

October 25, 2014

CrimeCONN featured multiple Connecticut mystery authors along with panel discussions, forensic and police experts. This is the recording of Insights from an Expert: “Cold Case Investigations - History and the Use of New Technology” by Lieutenant Art Weisgerber, Crime Scene/ID Unit Norwalk Police Department from October 25, 2014.

For more CrimeCONN, visit

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CrimeCONN: Mystery Conference

October 25, 2014

Multiple Connecticut mystery authors were featured along with panel discussions, forensic, police experts and more. This recording covers two panels: Research, imagination and life experience. How do you find your greatest inspirations? Moderator: John Valeri with panelists: Jessica Speart, Karen Olson, Lee Barwood, Rosemary Harris and Insights from an Expert: Death Investigation: It's Not Exactly What You See on TV" Speaker: Michelle Clark, Death Investigator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Connecticut on October 25, 2014.

For more of CrimeCONN, visit

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Fread on

Posted by on Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012 - 12:51 PM

Lest last week’s posting about the tasty cozy culinary mysteries available on FREADING lead you to believe that this is all they have to offer, I want to mention a few possibilities for readers of realistic crime fiction and true more

No matter who it hurts?

Posted by on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - 11:06 AM

popular crime coverWhy are crime stories, both fictional and true, so popular?  People ask me this all the time.  I subscribe to the P.D. James theory—“What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.”

But does our society have a cultural obsession with murder? Author Bill James explores this question in his new book Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of more

Butterflies and bombs

Posted by on Friday, Apr 15, 2011 - 9:04 AM

winged obsession coverJessica Speart is a local author, and is known to many of us through her writing classes.

She is a freelance journalist specializing in wildlife enforcement issues and is also the author of ten mysteries featuring Rachel Porter, a fictional U.S. Fish & Wildlife Agent.

Her new book, Winged Obsession, marks her foray into the genre of narrative nonfiction as she chronicles the pursuit of Yoshi Kojima , the world’s most notorious butterfly smuggler … who, as suspense writer Lee Child notes in his blurb, might well be called “the Hannibal Lecter of the conservation world.”

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Ghostwalking in the Garden of Good and Evil

Posted by on Saturday, Oct 2, 2010 - 2:01 PM

garden.jpgIn preparation for my upcoming visit to Savannah I have been re-reading John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a triumph of narrative nonfiction. It came out in 1994 and remained on the New York Times bestseller for 216 weeks … and was nominated for a Pulitzer. Then it was made into a film directed by Clint Eastwood that was a huge disappointment to fans of the book … like me! If you have only seen the film, you have missed most of what really matters. The true-crime story at the center of the story is the killing of Danny Hansford, a local male prostitute, by respected antiques dealer Jim Williams. The death took place in Williams' home, Mercer House, originally built by an ancestor of songwriter Johnny Mercer. I will be staying in a hotel in the historic district just across the square from Mercer House and am looking forward to a martini (or two) in Bonaventure Cemetery. You will have to read the book to find out what that is all about! While putting my trip itinerary together I found more “ghostwalk” tours offered for Savannah than I ever found for anywhere else, including London. stanton2.jpgIf you like a touch of the supernatural, try the Beaufort & Co. series by Mary Stanton. Brianna Winston-Beaufort is a lawyer who inherits a haunted law firm in the city. Publishers Weekly called these stories "a breath of fresh air for fans of paranormal cozy mysteries." Will let you know if I have any ghostly encounters.

Book ‘em Danno

Posted by on Saturday, Sep 11, 2010 - 1:50 PM

cchan.jpgFollowing fast on The Murder Room, from which I learned much about Paris detective Eugène François Vidocq who inspired many famous fictional detectives in the mystery genre, another new book passed through my hands about a similar real-life/fiction connection. Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang is the “biography” of fictional detective Charlie Chan, who is based on the brilliant real-life Honolulu Chinese immigrant detective, Chang Apana. Apana’s bullwhip-wielding raids on opium dens and gambling parlors made him into a legend. This bravado inspired mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers, a Harvard graduate, to write six best-selling Chan novels. And then there were the films … Read the book and find out all about it … “from the glittering beaches of Waikiki to the movie studios of Hollywood.” And, speaking of glittering beaches and Hollywood … after 12 years, a new version of Hawaii Five-O ... being called a somewhat “darker” version … will premiere on CBS on Monday, September 20th, at 10. The theme song will be the same, although an “edgier” version is promised, and Kono is a woman this time around. Hawaii-Five Oh! See the official website for all of the details and a sneak preview. I wonder if the episodes will still end with McGarrett saying “Book ‘em Danno”?


Posted by on Sunday, Aug 29, 2010 - 2:14 PM

murderrm.jpgIn the recent The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases, author Michael Capuzzo takes us inside the secret chambers of the exclusive Vidocq Society, a members-only crime-solving club in Philadelphia that accepts cold cases for review from around the world. The Society was formed in 1990 and solved its first case in 1991. By 2009, the Society had consulted on more than 300 cases and solved 90 percent of them. Members are selected by committee invitation and must be forensic professionals and the membership list includes current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners. The book highlights some of the Society’s most famous cases, including “The Fast Food Killer” – the story of a grisly slaughter at a Roy Rogers restaurant after closing time, and “The Boy in the Box” – a fifty-year-old murder that made national headlines and still haunts Philadelphia to this day. The Kirkus rave review calls it “Terrifying, engrossing, inspirational and surprisingly funny.” It is being touted as the “true-crime book of the year.” The Vidocq Society is named for Eugène François Vidocq, the ground-breaking nineteenth century Parisian detective who helped police by using the psychology of the criminal to solve "cold case" homicides. Vidocq was a former criminal himself, and used his knowledge of the criminal mind to look at murder from the psychological perspective of the perpetrator. His 1829 memoirs, although thought to be ghost-written and highly embellished, are considered to have been the inspiration for many of the earlier fictional detectives. His friend Victor Hugo acknowledged that Vidocq was the model for Jean Valjean. Vidocq rendered his services as a private detective (twice!) in situations arising from the author's complicated love life. Maurice Leblanc's detective Arsene Lupin ultimately leaves the world of crime to become society's defender. Vidocq is also reflected in Flambeau, a reformed thief who is the friend of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. Vidocq's influence on Arthur Conan Doyle is clear and acknowledged – Holmes actually refers to him from time to time. Poe refers to Vidocq's methods in Murders in the Rue Morgue. Dickens cites him in Great Expectations, as does Melville in Moby Dick. blacktower.jpgIn Louis Bayard’s 2008 novel, The Black Tower, Vidocq meets the most challenging adversary of his career in a case with ties to the missing son of Marie Antoinette. Officially, the Dauphin died a brutal death in captivity, but speculation has long persisted that the ten-year-old heir may have been smuggled out of his prison cell. The Kirkus review raved “Rabelaisian Vidocq drags the story along by his flaring coattails, never fearing any challenges to his wit and resourcefulness.”

Bureau of Missing Persons

Posted by on Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 3:15 PM

chandra.jpgThe recently released Finding Chandra: A True Washington Murder Mystery by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz (two Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters) is a riveting expose of the blind ambition, power games and incompetence behind the disappearance and murder investigation of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Levy’s 2001 disappearance made headlines, especially after her affair with Congressman Gary Condit was revealed. It was a year before her remains were finally found in a remote area of D.C.'s Rock Creek Park.

The police immediately focused on Condit in their investigation, but he denied involvement in her death and Higham and Horwitz draw attention to the investigators’ critical mistake of pursuing Condit on a false conclusion that was totally supported (and exploited) by the media despite a total lack of evidence.

The authors believe they have identified the killer, Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique, already convicted of two similar assaults on women committed in the same park around the time Levy disappeared. Guandique has been charged with Levy's murder and a trial date has been set for October 2010.

crater.jpgThe disappearance of New York Supreme Court associate justice Joseph F. Crater in August, 1930, was never resolved. A forthcoming novel, The Man Who Never Returned by Peter Quinn, is set in 1955, the 25th anniversary of the judge's disappearance, when a Rupert Murdoch-like newspaper mogul hires detective Fintan Dunne to investigate.

Sally Crater, the judge’s wife, and many of his close friends believed that he was the victim of foul play. Given his involvement in bribery, back door dealing with politicians, and questionable real estate deals, this was a strong possibility. Perhaps he was about to expose the corruption that had bought his appointment? There was some gossip that he was a womanizer (an epidemic among government officials even then) and that a spurned lover or her mate, did him in. Maybe he just took off with the $5,150 that he had withdrawn from the bank that morning to start a new life somewhere.

In October, a grand jury was convened and 95 witnesses (amassing 975 pages of testimony) were called. The conclusion was: “The evidence is insufficient to warrant any expression of opinion as to whether Crater is alive or dead, or as to whether he has absented himself voluntarily, or is the sufferer from disease in the nature of amnesia, or is the victim of crime.”

On June 6, 1939, Judge Crater was officially declared dead but sightings continued for years. It is unlikely that we will ever really know what happened to the “missingest man in New York”.

You will have to read Quinn’s book for yourself to find out what his theory is!

Booklist says “Freely mixing history, mystery, and novelistic license, Quinn offers a noir-ish tale of Tammany Hall politics, sex, crime, Broadway moguls, and cops, populated by more than a dozen interesting characters. Quinn's rich, insightful, evocative descriptions of New York, both in Crater's time and in 1955, will certainly please fans of historical crime novels.”

If you poison us do we not die?

Posted by on Monday, Apr 19, 2010 - 11:34 AM

phelps.jpgArsenic and Old Lace is a play by American playwright Joseph Kesselring, written in 1939. It is probably better known for its 1944 film adaptation starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.

Acclaimed investigative journalist and crime expert M. William Phelps, whom Radio America called “the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer,” has written over a dozen nonfiction books, including Perfect Poison: A Female Serial Killer’s Deadly Medicine.

His recently released book, The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer provides the real life gruesome backstory to Arsenic and Old Lace.

As a terrible heat wave killed more than 2,000 people in the simmering New England summer of 1911, a reporter for the Hartford Courant noticed a suspiciously sharp rise in the number of obituaries for residents of a rooming house/nursing home in Windsor, and began to suspect Amy Archer-Gilligan, the proprietor.

48 residents had died in just five years — many seemingly healthy — and the relatives of Archer-Gilligan’s patients had also grown suspicious. The authorities were notified and an extremely suspicious pattern emerged. Each of the deceased had died not long after giving their caretaker considerable sums of money.

The home was raided, and arsenic was found. “Sister Amy” claimed she was using the poison to kill rodents, but when the bodies of her second husband and four of her residents were exhumed, it turned out that they were done-in by the house special … a lemonade and arsenic cocktail.

Archer-Gilligan was arrested and tried for murder. She was convicted in 1917 and sent to the state prison in Wethersfield for life. She was eventually placed in an insane asylum where she died in 1962 at the age of 89.

In an article in the Norwalk Hour, Phelps points out that she was the consummate cold-blooded serial killer. "One thing I learned was that she was sending the people to get their own poison … she would send them over to W.H. Mason's [drugstore] to get the arsenic she would use to kill them."

alanbradley.jpgSpeaking of poison, the dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old chemist Flavia de Luce (my favorite expert on the subject) is back in Alan Bradley’s second book in the series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.

Flavia sets out to solve the murder of a beloved BBC puppeteer. All clues seem to relate to the suspicious death of a young child years earlier. It’s a case the local constabulary can't solve without Flavia's help, which she provides … in-between her laboratory work, which includes doctoring-up a box of chocolates left for one of her dreadful older sisters by an anxious suitor.

For an absolutely delightful experience — for me it was like getting to ride around in the car with one of my teen idols, Hayley Mills —try the recorded book, read (to perfection) by Jayne Entwistle.