Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
I can be a bit verbose with my reviews but I write what I want to see when I read the reviews of others. However the three-letter heading really sums it up! But, if you insist.....
While I know that forensics didn't begin recently, there has been a huge gap on books about criminal investigation in the decades between Victorian-era Sherlock Holmes and present day "CSI: Miami". And both of these accounts are largely science fiction - my long-time Sr. Crime Scene Investigator boyfriend doesn't drive a Hummer, conduct highly technical forensic and chemical tests, arrest perps, or interrogate suspects! He mainly "bags it 'n' tags it", i.e., collects evidence like bullet casings, weapons, blood, drugs, etc., dusts for fingerprints, and thoroughly documents the crime scene with schematics, photos, and video, assuring that everything is logged in which begins the critical chain of custody for trial.
This book gives credit to 2 brilliant dedicated scientists who created, formally organized, and set the current standard for catching murderers and/or exonerating innocent people of the most elusive and complicated manner of death - poisoning. Before there were mass chromatograph spectrometers, there was chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler, scientists who dedicated their time and, often, their own money to convince the corrupt NYC legal system that forensics had a much- needed place in criminal investigation. And they did it with glass tubes, petri dishes, and Bunsen burners in the 1920s! They could keep working in a blackout while today's forensic labs would have to close up until the computers had power!
My only complaint is the narrator. While she can spit out long hard-to-pronounce chemical names without batting an eye, for some strange reason she had Dr. Gettler sounding like Tony Soprano! Totally unnecessary and often distracting. This is not a book which requires gimmicky accents. The subject matter stands on its own. AMAZING!!
As a "woman of a certain age", I remember when this crime was committed. All the media talked about was the apathy of Kitty Genovese's neighbors during the 1/2 hour it took for her to be savagely murdered. Author Catherine Pelonero gives a complete and unbiased account of this heinous crime. Instead of focusing on the more sensational headliner-grabbing fact of a white woman being killed by a black man, Pelonero tells the good and bad about everyone, including the 30+ witnesses who didn't help Kitty that night.
For the first time, I learned that Kitty was a lesbian - considered "deviate" for that era - and had a criminal record and worked in a bar. Not that her lifestyle made her at risk for this savage crime. However, the media of the time made no mention of any of this. Her killer, Winston Moseley, heretofore shown only in a booking photo, was a middle-class professional husband and father with no criminal record. He owned his own home and two cars. His wife was a registered nurse. Again, I don't remember these facts being told by the press. That said, Pelonero gives each of these two very disparate persons equal weight, choosing to focus on FACTS of the crime.
What no one knew was Moseley was a serial killer and rapist. He'd previously terrorized women of his own race so not much investigation was put into those crimes. In fact, Anna Mae Johnson, a black woman, had been murdered on her porch then dragged into her living room where Moseley raped her post-mortem, with her husband asleep upstairs. The medical examiner stated that the woman had been stabbed. It wasn't until Moseley confessed to that murder and saying he'd SHOT the victim, did an exhumation reveal bullets in the dead body. (While much has been written about Kitty Genovese, I've yet to find any books written about the life and death of Mrs. Johnson.)
Moseley, a prolific but undetected criminal has gotten less attention in history than Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahlmer, John Wayne Gacy and other white serial killers. It is this very racial oversight which led FBI profilers into mistakenly predicting that the DC Sniper had to be a white male. They should had done the research that this author put into her book.
This is one of the best true crime books that I've read in years. Pelonero does get a bit weighty in some places, giving a blow-by-blow account of some court testimony. But her attention to detail in other areas is well done. This story is not just about 3 dozen people who failed to act by merely not calling the police - although not much has changed in many decades since then, as evidenced by the recent murder in a yoga wear store while 2 Apple Store employees next door listened with their ears to the common wall. This is a story about a horrific crime, an innocent victim, a mentally ill killer and the question of the public's MORAL duty to assist a fellow human being fighting for his or her life.
I actually enjoyed this book after a spate of recent true crime books which were absolutely awful. Even veteran crime writer Ann Rule has lost her "mojo" after decades of dominating this genre. In this book you get good writing, research and narration - the must-have "triple crown" in audiobooks. Well worth the price of admission.