NB True Crime books are most certainly not for the faint-hearted. Whilst A Reader’s Review Blog concentrates mostly on fantasy fiction in romance, paranormal, historicals, thrillers and chick-lits in order for readers to escape, every once in a while I (Caroline) return to reality and try to analyse, without much result, as to why there are such horrific crimes being made and what drives people to commit them. The books that I have reviewed below, as my reviews themselves, may be controversial and my opinions will not reflect others. Most of my reviews are my personal opinions at the time of finishing the book I have reviewed. It is not my intention to offend and I sincerely hope that I don’t. I would welcome any comments you may have. If this page is not for you, please return to our Home page. Caroline @ ARR Blog
Kathy’s Story: A Childhood Hell Inside the Magdalen Laundries by Kathy O’Beirne
Chilling is not the word for this book. It is horrific and appalling how these State institutions in Ireland were treating their youngsters and female occupants.
I have read articles that claim this book to be untrue, however untrue or not I personally believe that there must be certain aspects that are true and it is up to the individual reader what they believe. Nobody can deny though that some of the torture and abuse that is written in this book has taken place at one time or another somewhere and for those victims I believe that it is important for people to open their eyes at these terrible possibilities.
It is a gripping book and I read it within a few days. I feel that although we’ll never know everything that is happening at any one time people these days seem to be more open and there doesn’t seem to be many ‘family secrets’ as years ago. People are more accepting today rather than have stigma’s about, for example, unmarried couples and having children out of wedlock, and therefore there are less reasons for people to be ‘hidden’ or suppressed, hopefully making it less likely for victims of this to be abused!
I’m no fool and appreciate that there are evils out there but I’d like to think that abuse on the scale that this book is regarding, where the State do not intervene, are left in the past and hopefully people are more aware and outspoken of such things.
All in all, it is an eye opening book whether true or not, and I personally believe that Kathy O’Beirne is recalling the abuse that she received, maybe there are the odd exaggerations as our memories can alter slightly over time. On the other hand, there could be more that we haven’t heard about. She does say that there were some things even now she finds too difficult to think about and I think that this is a brave attempt to come forward to encourage people to take an interest for all those that have suffered.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
The Cutter by Michael Litchfield
This book was well written, detailed and an eye opener. I cannot say I enjoyed this book as it is based on a true crime (or crimes) and there were points that made me feel sick.
In November 2002, Heather Barnett, a mother of two was viciously attacked and killed in her own home and her body was later found the same afternoon by her two teenage children when they returned from school. The killer, Danilo Restivo, had gone to some lengths to leave very little DNA evidence and leaving hair of another victim in Heather’s hand, making it clear that this crime was premeditated. Over time, detectives heard of a similar case in Italy via Interpol. Michael Litchfield’s book, ‘The Cutter’ follows this investigative path and the reader discovers the connections between the two cases.
I still do not understand how a human being can carry out these awful, horrific acts. And, for the first time in my life, I had a nightmare after reading this book. I think it was knowing that the crime was premeditated in detail and that the killer followed women on a regular basis and knew the people he killed. These were not random victims but victims that he envisaged carrying out terrible acts on. This book, for that reason alone, is eerie to say the least. The killer was so prepared that he was aware of forensics and took as much care as he could to ensure that he left virtually no clues/DNA for detectives and scientists to use to find their killer quickly.
It is a huge relief knowing that this killer was caught and will not be allowed in the outside world again. Justice was done. But my heart still goes out to the families involved and the terrible ordeal/s that they had to go through.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
Madeleine: Our Daughter’s Disappearance and the Continuing Search for Her by Kate McCann
Whilst this subject has undergone some very controversial opinions, after reading this book I have my own. The book in general highlighted, perhaps in slightly more detail, areas that have largely been covered by the press. Therefore, I have only given it a rating of three, however due to the pain that Kate McCann in particular must have gone through to bring herself to write it (and knowingly facing more criticism) maybe I should give it more.
Before reading this book I, like many, questioned why did the McCann’s leave their children unaccompanied whilst they were enjoying a meal/drinks with friends quite a few metres away? And I can still understand why this is such an important question. I am a mother myself, and even though the situation may have been similar to that of sitting in your garden at home with the children in bed I could not leave them without even a baby monitor to hear them with. For example, what if they were sick/choking, or cried out for you without you knowing? But I do not think that the McCann’s need anyone to point this out to them, I’m sure they have filled themselves full of guilt and have had to realise the stupidity of their actions that will remain with them for a lifetime.
However, they still have a valid point in the fact that someone has abducted their little girl and they cannot be blamed for the sickness that this individual has. I do feel for them in the sense that the authorities did not investigate thoroughly from the very beginning and unfortunately this dramatically reduced the chances of finding Madeleine.
After reading reviews on this book, I have noticed that many still cannot bring themselves to read the whole book as they blame the McCann’s for leaving their children, and almost feel no compassion, but anger. But again these feelings are not helping Madeleine. Just for a second think about the child where she may/may not be and with whom. We all can make mistakes, and when you’re on holiday in particular it’s easy to feel relaxed and laidback. I’m not making excuses for them but I am trying to reason and understand both viewpoints!
It was an upsetting read and the book made me blame them for leaving their children, made me wonder if they were trying to clear their name, make money etc. But in the end, unless you’ve experienced what they have gone through, who knows how you’d react. I do feel that Kate felt she needed to do this for many reasons. Ultimately, for spreading the word of Madeleine and hoping for more witnesses etc to come forward, to aid funding for the Madeleine Fund which also helps other Missing and Abducted Children but maybe also too, to let out her own feelings.
It is a good read and if you can skip past the feeling of blaming the McCann’s the remainder of the book does go into detail on how the investigation let Madeleine down from the beginning and the inhumane articles that the press and certain individuals have had printed about the case!! Not forgetting the home/social life that the McCann’s have had to live ever since that terrible day!
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
When Kids Kill by Jonathan Paul
Overall, I found this book to be informative of certain cases and what ‘supposedly’ happened, although for some cases we may never know the extremities of torture that these poor victims were put through (physically and psychologically). Cases such as the James Bulger and Damilola Taylor were probably the most horrifying and upsetting to read as the victims were so young and I can remember hearing of them on the national news at the time they happened.
I do feel that in trying to find out why the perpetrators did what they did, Jonathan Paul didn’t explain very well. He seems vague and almost sympathetic to these child killers due to their own experiences of growing up. However, although I could try to understand the way they must have felt about society, especially those that were abused themselves, I still do not believe that this is a justified reason to what they inflicted upon others. There must be, and have been, many children that feel (or have felt) deprived/neglected by their families and/or society that would never even contemplate carrying out such an horrific crime.
I feel these cases, although are connected with ‘problem children’ also have very much to do with the chemistry that these children have with their best friend or peers, and combined together it brings out the worst of their imaginations and fantasies – which are then sometimes carried out. For example, had Jon Venables not met Robert Thompson then their crime would not have taken place. However, who is to know whether they would have carried on to do something as bad later in life? There are also cases, of those children that kill alone in which I can only think that they have psychological problems.
I do not know the answers, I am merely reacting and expressing my personal thoughts after reading this book and feeling very sickened by what humans can actually do to others. I understand my views are controversial and I have not researched this area much to explain it in any other way. There is probably a great deal I have overlooked. I hope my views do not offend anyone as it is not my intention to do so.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen
This book looks into the mind of an infamous murderer and the author, Brian Masters, had first hand meetings with Dennis Nilsen himself. There is a great deal of detail in this book which would certainly not be for any reader, however I am sceptical on the reasonings behind the killings and to believe whether or not Nilsen had an abnormality of mind during the killings.
It appears that he was fully aware of the law, knew the difference between right and wrong and did appear at times quite humane. There were times when he helped others and yet there was also this dark, horrific side to him. I think most people would deem a serial murderer to be quite ‘mad’, insane or pyschopathic and I find it quite difficult to believe that the loss of his grandfather was possibly the huge moment in his life that affected him in the most profound way that could have perhaps been the onset to his ‘different’ mental ability. It has been said many times that throughout our lives we all experience the death of our grandparents and other close relatives and friends and yet we do not react in the way in which Nilsen did.
I do find it very difficult to come to any conclusion, especially as I recently watched a documentary regarding Nilsen and it was shown from a different angle than the book. The book portrays Nilsen as a man that the police almost warmed too, as he was so open and honest with them about what he had done. The documentary, on the other hand, made him out to be the cold and callous killer the majority would think he is! I did find it a relief to complete this book!
Reviewed by Caroline Barker