This is the House. Come on in.

DEATH IN CITY OF LIGHT

 

My actual review is somewhere between a 3 and a 4 but I tend to round up for a generally well written book. The story of Dr. Marcel Petiot and his victims was likely overshadowed in the world at large by the end of the Second World War and the ensuing Nuremberg Trials but in Paris it was a media sensation and his trial had almost a carnival-like atmosphere to it.

During the Nazi Occupation of Paris, Dr. Petiot lured in those vulnerable to Nazi persecution with promises of passage out of the occupied territories and into relative safety. Many of his victims were unsavory underworld sorts whom Petiot were later claimed were collaborators (his defense in court was to claim he was working for the French Resistance) but others were simply frightened Jewish families. Though there is no doubt that Dr. Petiot killed at least 27 and as many as 100 persons, there are still many unanswered questions regarding his case. King’s book does its best to separate documented facts from rumors which flew freely during this time period.

King’s book paints a vivid picture of Paris during the Nazi occupation and it’s aftermath. The atmosphere of fear and suspicion allowed a serial killer to murder with impunity and to come very close to getting away with all of it.

I have seen the future baby, it is murder.

the-shining-girls

 

I read this book as part of the book club I run for fans of the My Favorite Murder podcast. This was our non-fiction selection for the month of January. Some people who started reading the book before me complained that book jumping around in time made for a confusing read. Perhaps the advance warning helped because I did not find the time jumps confusing at all. I was also concerned that the premise of a time traveling serial killer would wind up being silly but Lauren Beukes book is a gripping, fast paced read that never feels ridiculous despite its far fetched plot.

Harper Curtis is a serial killer who stumbles onto an abandoned house that opens into other times. Using clues from the house, Harper insinuates himself into the lives of pre-selected girls who “shine” at different periods in modern history. He visits them in their childhood, promising he will visit them later. When he does visit them in adulthood, he murders them brutally. Unbeknownst to him, Kirby Mizrachi, one of his “Shining Girls” survives and is determined to find the man who nearly killed her. Kirby teams up with former Homicide reporter Dan Valesquez to solve the case that has left police baffled.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is that (Possible spoiler?) at no point were there any great leaps of logic on the part of the investigators. Even when the evidence starts to mount, the theory seems fantastical. Additionally, Kirby has done her homework on serial killers. Watching her try to apply clinical criteria that won’t fit together is equal parts satisfying and frustrating (satisfyingly frustrating?) because she’s smart and she *should* be right but she isn’t because the reality is so unreal. The only reason I can’t give it a full five stars is that I’m not entirely sure if I like the ending. However, The Shining Girls is a nice addition to serial killer crime fiction that never feels stale or tired.

Butterflies are free…except not so much

the-butterfly-garden

 

I feel like this sort of high concept story would have read better in a fantasy or sci fi setting. The dialogue and character interaction just didn’t work for me in the modern day U.S. It’s also very possible that someone who hasn’t read a metric ton of true crime and gritty realistic crime fiction might find this book more enjoyable. Personally, while the overall story was engaging and kept me interested until the end. The writing style came off almost as if a teen girl who knew nothing about the emotional impact of things like rape and abuse had on a person.

The Butterfly Garden follows the initial investigation after the apprehension of a serial killer known as The Gardener. The Gardener captures girls around the age of 16, re-names them, tattoos them with butterfly wings on their backs and keeps them in a gilded cage until their twenty first birthday. At that point he kills them and preserves them in glass. The story is told through one of his butterflies known as Maya who seems to be a sort of leader among the surviving girls. Maya tells the story of her early life, her capture and her life in The Garden to two FBI agents who may as well just be named “Good Cop” and “Bad Cop.” Maya is clearly hiding something and the agents need to find out what because Maya is their best witness so far.

This book wasn’t a bad one. The story moves along at a good pace and it kept me interested until the end. The writing was often annoying and SPOILER ALERT: The big secret at the end was sort of a let down made the whole cat and mouse game between Maya and her interrogators seem pointless. But it makes for a nice little distraction; especially when you have Kindle on your work desktop and you’re stuck on an eternal hold.

“You think I’m psycho don’t you, mama”

i-am-not-a-serial-killer

 

Fifteen year old John Wayne Cleaver might be a sociopath. He finds it almost impossible to empathize with other people. He has a fascination with murder; specifically serial killers. He has one friend whom he can barely stand but keeps around because he wants to keep up the appearance of not being a loner. His one pleasure in life is working in the embalming room of his family’s mortuary. But despite all this, John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer. In fact, he has a very strict set of rules he imposes on himself to prevent him from becoming one. John’s carefully ordered life is thrown into chaos when an apparent serial killer starts murdering people in his tiny rural town. John is naturally fascinated by the unknown killer, which deeply concerns both his mother and his therapist.

I picked this book up because it was a book club selection but I really was just expecting it to be a YA Dexter. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t. I was also pleasantly surprised to be dead wrong (pun intended) about the “twist” that I thought I saw coming. The book definitely takes an unexpected turn about 100 or so pages in which I won’t spoil for you here. Suffice it to say that this book is definitely not YA Dexter. Dan Wells makes John equally scary and sympathetic. I’m not quite sure how to categorize this book, but if you’re looking for a different sort of read for the Halloween season, I’d definitely check this one out.