Review: The Fact of a Body – A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

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★★

Flatiron Books | 2017

Filed Under: I’m very uncomfortable right now


I really wanted to like this. I didn’t want to write a negative review for a book that is, in part, detailing the author’s personal experience with molestation.

The heavy subject matter makes a negative review seem tacky, to a degree. And I didn’t want to be that asshole. But, that’s not where this review is coming from. At all.

I applaud the author’s use of writing to work through her trauma and to find an understanding of how trauma shaped her. If this book was a tool for personal peace (which I suspect it was,) then really, any negative review means nothing in the grand scheme of that healing.

But, I am a reader and book reviewer and so I’ll be honest about my reading experience, as I always am, beyond the personal aspects Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich bravely shares.

The Fact of a Body weaves two true life events. One: the re-trial of Ricky Langley, a confessed pedophile who was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of his 6-year-old neighbour, Jeremy Guillory. In 2003, he was awarded a new trial. The intention of his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, was to reduce Langley’s death sentence down to life in prison. Clive the Lawyer runs a law firm which specializes in Death Row cases. He is staunchly anti-capital punishment, taking on many cases where the intention is only ever to reduce the sentence, not to prove innocence.

The author begins an internship at Smith’s law firm at the same time the re-trial is starting. During her orientation, Alexandria is shown Langley’s ’92 confession where he talks about his sexual attraction to children and what he did to Jeremy Guillory.

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Review: Working Stiff – Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

“To confront death every day, to see it yourself, you have to love the living.”

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★★★★★

Scribner | 2014

Filed Under: Putting the Y-incision in the “Y-incision party!”


Oh. My. Fairy. Godmother. I loved this fucking book!

Judy Melinek is my new role model/inspiration board/personal icon.

Goddamn, this was some good stuff.

Dr. Judy Melinek – amazing human being and most badass bitch I’ve read about it since I can’t even remember when – takes you on a journey through the first two years of her career after she started a forensic pathology fellowship at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City.

I swear to the god of thunder, this bitch is living the dreams I would have had if I hadn’t recognized early on in my life that I have zero talent or brain cells dedicated to understanding science.

The romanticized/dramatized version of being an M.E. is that it’s all homicides all the time, and that you’re in the shit with the detectives solving crimes.

And that’s really not at all accurate. I mean I totally knew that on a logically level, but I still love those crime shows. So sue me.

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Review: Helter Skelter – The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

“You can convince anybody of anything if you just push it at them all of the time. They may not believe it 100 percent, but they will still draw opinions from it, especially if they have no other information to draw their opinions from.”

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★★★★

W.W. Norton & Company | 1974

Filed Under: The folk singer with the swastika tattoo seems on the up-and-up.


Everyone and their mother knows the story of Charles Manson. Or at least the bullet points, because the bullet points are fucking insane. The evil “hippie” cult leader who brainwashed otherwise normal young people into brutally murdering pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her house guests in the Hollywood Hills in 1969.

Everyone knows the blurb. Everyone knows the images of Manson at his wildest moments. Everyone has seen, at some point, that image of three happy girls singing on their way to their murder trial with swastikas on their foreheads. Everyone knows that Sharon Tate was pregnant because it’s those kinds of headline specifics that make your stomach turn or your jaw drop.

The famous imagines and soundbites are so robust and insane and sensational and seared into pop culture by our own doing, that it led me to believe that I knew basically everything there was to know about this case. Or that I had enough of an understanding that reading this book was going to be just to say that I’d read it. It’s kind of a must for true crime fans, in my sometimes abrasive opinion.

But I was wrong.

There is so much information to be gleaned from this book by the prosecutor who convicted Manson, Vincent Bugliosi. Helter Skelter is a broad picture of Manson’s crimes, his early life and his followers that I found utterly fascinating, even if the audiobook narrator sounded like he stepped right out of Fast Talking, High Trousers.

Image result for fast talking high trousers
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Review: Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

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★★★★

Penguin | 2004

Filed Under: Thinking about your own expiration date has never been more fun!


I think if you’re into the macabre and the dark side of life, or death as it were, then this book is recommended reading for you.

Truth be told, I am not a science-brained kind of girl. Or history. Or geography. Or math. Really anything that requires a level of intelligence that is based on facts and an excessive amount of information and concentration.

Those are just not my strong suits.

As much as my high school teachers would want to make me feel bad about that with those shitty grades I kept getting, I’ve accepted myself now as an adult. I fully embrace that I will never be able to help my stepkids with science or math homework. They could ask me about English and art though. But, I do appreciate logic and thoughtfulness.

I do have some intelligence, thank you.

With that in mind, Mary Roach makes heavy scientific topics, experimentation and the history of anatomy and scientific discovery, easy enough for this dumb-dumb to understand. And even find funny! Roach imbues her writing with levity and a flirtatious tone that makes this more entertaining and less textbook.

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Review: The Girls Are Gone by Michael Brodkorb & Allison Mann

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★★★★

Wise Ink Creative Publishing | 2018

Filed Under: Your Honour, this case comes down to one fact – this fucking bitch is cray.


I was offered this book by the authors in exchange for a review. At first, I was like, Woo! True crime! But then I read the description and was like, No one dies? This is going to be boring.

But, shit was I wrong! Who knew family court drama could be so fucking crazy? I mean, I suppose I should have because I’ve been through a little bit of this myself (my husband has custody of his kids for a reason,) but nothing I’ve witnessed my husband deal with really comes close to the levels of nuttiness presented in this true tale.

I’d like to do a quick rundown of the basic facts of this story, but I don’t know that I can do it all justice in just a few sentences. There are a lot of twisty, crazy events and people that round out what that took place in 2011, continuing to 2018.

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Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

This is how it ends for you. “You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.

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★★★★½

Harper | 2018

Filed Under: 12+ murders, 50+ rapes, 120+ burglaries


This is a beautiful work of non-fiction/true crime.

The East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, the Visalia Ransacker, the East Bay Rapist, the Dollner Street Prowler, the Diamond Knot Killer…

This killer has gone by many names, but the one you’ll be hearing the most is the Golden State Killer. A term coined by the late Michelle McNamara, a true-crime writer/amateur detective, whose life mission was to see this most prolific villain unmasked after a reign of terror that lasted more than a decade, and getting away with it for over 40 years.

Michelle McNamara died on April 21, 2016. She was nearly done with writing this. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, as well as Michelle’s research partner and a journalist friend, finished the book for her. They knew Michelle needed to see this published. It was her life’s work, her greatest obsession.

There are parts of the book with editor’s notes and annotations to let the reader know Michelle hadn’t finished a chapter, or that Michelle had written a note to follow up on something, but never had the chance. These were constant reminders of this wonderful woman’s tragic passing and it made this a much more emotional reading experience for me than I usually would have with a true-crime book.

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Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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★★½

Random House | 1966

Filed Under: How much bullshit in true crime is too much bullshit?


I have an unhealthy obsession totally normal interest in true crime. I love mystery-crime fiction. And I’m not comfortable just resting on my laurels and staying in the here-and-now. I want to know the history of the things I love. I want to develop an appreciation for those that came before and helped contribute to making these genres as accessible as they are, and as artistic as they’ve become.

I also want to be that girl who reads classic books and has a nighttime face routine and wakes up early to take her dog for a walk before making a fresh smoothie full of kale or cucumber or like, avocado toast. Whatever the healthy people are doing these days.

But if my reading experience with In Cold Blood has taught me anything it’s that I’m none of those things and classic books are boring as shit. I got out of bed this morning fifteen minutes before I needed to leave. And I don’t give a fuck.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. I give a tiny baby of a fuck and not all classic books suck. #NotAllClassics.

Honestly, I’m super disappointed that I didn’t like this. I feel like I should have. It’s almost a rite of passage to read this book if you’re in the murderino scene. It’s so popular and has all those keywords on the cover – “spell-binding”, “masterpiece…”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? This book is giving me an extensional crisis.

In Cold Blood was written over a period of seven years and published in 1966. It was not the first true crime book ever written, but it is the first to bring the true-crime genre to mainstream culture. Capote created the blueprint. He’s a trailblazer.

And I didn’t like it?! I DIDN’T LIKE IT.

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