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Book 69-71

Fatal: The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial KillerFatal: The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer by Harold Schechter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a well written true crime novel about Jane Toppan that was about a 3.5 star read for me. At first I was annoyed with it because it took over fifty pages to get to Jane. The beginning was spent on another serial poisoner with only connection, beyond the type of crime was one of the doctors knew both poisoners via their victims (which you don’t know until much later so this seemed like so much needless filler.) There’s another odd bit of filler toward the end with the world’s fair that I basically skimmed.

Jane is interesting because not only is she a sociopath gaining sadistic sexual gratification from the poisonings, she’s intelligent. Jane did have a rough start in life (something many -but not all like the book claimed - sociopaths share). Jane was very jealous of her foster sister who landed a good husband (pastor) but Jane had no luck in the love department (which she later blames for her murderous habits).

Jane trained as a nurse and like most narcissistic sociopaths was adept at charming people and blaming others for mistakes. In spite of never getting her license (and killing dozens while training) Jane became a private nurse, killing patients, family and friends as she please. What makes her interesting and different from the usual arsenic poisoners is her choice of murder weapon.

She used two contrasting drugs of atropine and morphine to mask their pupillary affects and other symptoms. It worked wonders in confusing the doctors. What really amazed me was who finally figured it out (hint, it wasn’t a doctor). It dragged a bit with all the court details (for me the less said about the court proceedings the better). I’d recommend this one.

And a minor spoiler here: I wonder if what happened in the asylum was Jane being influenced by the other patients, the way we see a decline in cognition in competent patients if they’re put among those with dementia.




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Arrivals and Arrests (Isle of Man Ghostly #1)Arrivals and Arrests by Diana Xarissa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It was a 3.5 read for me but I rounded up because I did enjoy it and for an amateur sleuth mystery it didn’t contain any of my personal ‘nopes.’ Fenella, a history professor, has inherited her aunt’s flat in the city of Douglas on the Isle of Man. She’s left her old life behind giving up her job and the lackluster relationship with Jack going on the theory Aunt Mona has left her enough money to get by on. She wants a new life and maybe write a history book or three. I found that an iffy premise, more like wish fulfillment (especially giving up a hard to get teaching job and going to a country she’s not been to since she was a child).

Instead she finds the body of Alan Collins, unscrupulous philandering
real estate agent who tried to buy her aunt’s place. At first I didn’t quite like Fenella who seemed like a cold fish more worried about her groceries getting wet than the dead body. I did warm up to her though and liked that she was forty-eight instead of the usual twenty-five.

Fenella has no plans of investigating the murder but the ghost of Aunt Mona has other ideas. Mona appears real as life and talks to her all the time in this mystery (if that sort of paranormal thing bugs you.)

There’s also a bit of a love quadrangle between Fenella and Inspector Robertson and Peter, the guy next door, and the wealthy bad boy, Donald, who worked with the dead guy and his partner, Potter. It’s not really over done but it was a tad distracting. Fenella isn’t really looking for a man but Aunt Mona is pushing it (Mona liked the lads back in the day).

The mystery was good. I wanted a bit more of the feeling of the island but over all, it was a good read and not too unbelievable. At least Fenella ignores Aunty’s suggestion that she be bait to lure out the killer. I’ve seen cozies where the sleuth would have jumped at the chance.




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Famished (Ash Park, #1)Famished by Meghan O'Flynn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I picked up Famished as a freebie because I wanted something other than the cozies I’ve been reading and this delivered. It’s very gory which doesn’t bother me. However, in this case it’s salacious and it bears mentioning the serial killer’s point of view is one of the many and they like to eviscerate and play with the intestines, running experiments, while their victim is alive. Speaking of the many povs, there are several, most of them in third person but Hannah’s is not. They are, however, distinct, and there’s not a lot of head hopping. The pov changes at scene breaks.

Petrosky is the lead detective (most of the book is his or Hannah’s pov). He’s a bit of an alcoholic struggling with his daughter’s murder. His partner, Morrison is one pov we don’t get (and probably should have). They’re saddled with trying to solve a series of murdered prostitutes who have a connection to a battered woman’s shelter where Hannah volunteers, having been sexually abused in the past and her current boyfriend is also abusive. She just refuses to admit it to the point it’s hard to sympathize with her (she’s rather dim and whiney to me).

The other pov characters are her dashing boss, Hardwick, Noelle, her co-worker friends and Robert, a sexual predator working under an assumed identity and looking for the woman to love him and make him “clean” so he can stop being a monster (also a victim of abuse at the hands of a very religious foster family) and his friend, Thomas, who’s interested in Noelle (and Robert thinks Hannah is his ‘one’ but he also gives us horrifying similes like Thomas is grinned like a fifteen year old with a cock in her ass, so who really cares what he thinks?)

Petrosky can see Hannah is somehow involved with the killing but keeps conflating her with his own dead daughter. No one knows why the killer is leaving parts of a Lewis Carroll poem at the crime scenes (and you won’t either because in spite of so many povs, the killer’s why for what they’re doing is never clear).

We don’t know which of these pov characters are the killer until the end of course (I did guess). The mystery unfolds well and I did like it. However, I didn’t like a single character except maybe Morrison and Petrosky you can understand why he’s so unhappy but the rest I couldn’t care less about. It was the ending, however, that I hated. It didn’t work for me at all. I’m not sure I’d read more of this series or not. The writing is good but maybe revels too much in the gross details without enough emotional content to back them up.




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Tags: mystery, true crime
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