Invisible Darkness by Stephen Williams: This is one of the most unsettling books I’ve read, and I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. Starting with the good, it’s a very complete and detailed account of the relationship between Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka and their crimes. It also offers a good insight into the very controversial legal agreement between Karla and the prosecution, that ended with her serving only ten years despite being an active and willing participant in the rape and murder of three girls. The third act of the book, dealing with this, was one of the better things in the novel, although I wish the actual trial had been covered more in depth. As for the bad… I thought the rape scenes were excessively and unnecesarily detailed, and I felt like the author enjoyed writing those disturbing passages a little too much. His narration is also very uneven, especially in the first part; while I liked his subtle sarcasm while describing the legal proceedings and Karla’s life, he also made some strange time jumps that made it a bit confusing to know when things are happening. There are so many private scenes that he couldn’t have possibly witnessed that he must have made them up, which made me question a little the credibility of the whole book. Finally, his obsession with Karla turns her into a fleshed out, complex character, but the opposite happens with Bernardo, who seems almost a caricature with no real insight. I still feel like I don’t know much about him other than he’s a narcissistic, sociopathic idiot. Bottomline: A good introduction to this case, if you have the stomach for it, but you’ll probably need to complement with other books later (Thank you @adeadlyinnocence for recommending me this book).
Conviction by Juan Martinez: Last year I read Picture Perfect, which is the better book to learn about Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander and how their story ended with her murdering him. This book was an interesting complement because I enjoy the details of trials and this one in particular was a very intense and eventful one. Juan Martinez, the man who prosecuted Arias, describes in detail his investigation and strategy to get a conviction, and he certainly doesn’t pretend to be humble when detailing his role in putting her behind bars. There’s no new information or revelations that I hadn’t seen everywhere else. He’s also extremely biased and portrays her as the worst of the worst, he even talks of her “dark soul” at some point. I have to say, I personally didn’t mind that because I can’t stand Jodi Arias, but if you’re looking for a more objective look into her, you should stay away from this.
True Crime Addict by James Renner: I already wrote about how bad this book about the disappearance of Maura Murray is here, but to summarize: don’t waste your time with this narcissistic, self infolved piece of sleazy reporting disguised as “journalism”. The author is insufferable and seems to think we care about his life while offering nothing new to the actual case of Maura.
Bringing Adam Home by Les Standiford: I can only describe this book as “correct” but is not really very engaging nor memorable, despite covering a very famous and horrible case. The kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh in 1981 and the many years it took to be solved was one that shook the United States and started many changes. I feel like this book doesn’t quite manage to portray those changes, mostly because it decides to look away from Adam’s parents and their struggle and instead it focus on the story of the detective that eventually gave sufficient evidence for police to close the case naming Ottis Toole as the killer. Toole’s story is also described in some chapters but again, it seems to only give a superficial portrayal of him.
Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton: This book was written by one of the prosecutors in the Casey Anthony trial, so it’s important to keep in mind we are seeing only one side of the story, and he certainly doesn’t hold back in showing her as the most manipulative and lying person on Earth. That being said, it’s really hard to see how this woman was found not guilty. Ashton explains all the evidence they had in detail and it’s very compelling, and tells about all the things going on behind the scenes. He also can’t hide his contempt for the defense lawyer (he openly admits he dislikes him) and for the jury too, whom he clearly blames for the ultimate decision of the trial. My only issue with this book is that I didn’t see much introspection or real analysis into why they lost the case.
Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller: It’s so hard to find an unbiased analysis of JonBenet Ramsey’s murder, because so many people who’ve written about it have been “part of the investigation”, which makes it a big no no for me because we know that investigation was far from stellar, for many reasons that aren’t just the fault of the police. This book is hardly perfect (see what I did there?) but it’s a decent start to the case, because it details the investigation and the many inside shenanigans, the Ramsey’s version, the complicated dealings with the prosecution’s office and why they refused to charge the Ramsey’s, and also how the press covered the case. It doesn’t really give much perspective on other potential suspects and the title is misleading, since it suggests it will explore more the context of Boulder, the town where the murder happened, but I didn’t see much of that. I’d say this is an okay book to understand why this case went so wrong, but I don’t think it gives one convincing theory about what really happened.
Devil in the Darkness by JT Hunter: Israel Keyes is one of the most chilling and intriguing serial killers in recent times, not to mention there’s still a lot of mystery around him, so it’s a bit surprising he hasn’t been more deeply covered by other authors. This book is a decent attempt at it, and gives a good introduction into what kind of person he was before he started his crimes; not so much after. Because there are a lot of unconfirmed things in his story, including his victims, the book mostly dedicates time to his most infamous murder, the one of Samantha Koenig. The narration jumps back and forth between the time around that crime and Keyes’ past, with a lot of attention put into his relationship with the mother of his daughter, probably because she seemed to be one of the few people involved willing to talk to the author. I found this book a bit hard to follow at times, but I’d still recommend it if you’re interested in true crime.
The Cases that Haunt Us by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker: As you probably know, John Douglas is the guy that pretty much built the department of behavior analysis in the FBI and is one of the pioneers in profiling criminals. He makes sure to tell you that a hundred times in this book, because he can never flatter himself enough, although I get that the talk of his past experiences is important here to validate his opinions. This book covers famous unsolved or solved but controversial cases through America’s history (plus Jack the Ripper because who can resist) and in each one Douglas gives his point of view of the profile of the suspects, and whether or not they fit with the actual murderer. Lizzie Borden, the kidnapping of the Lindberg Baby, the Boston Strangler and the Black Dahlia are among the cases covered. I found his views in the JonBenet’s case particularly interesting because he got to be involved personally in it, and he got a lot of criticisim because he thought the Ramseys were innocent (and I have to say, strictly from a profiling point of view, I agree with his assessment). The book can get exhausting because the writing is very academical and not very fluid, but it’s also a good learning experience if you like investigations.