This tasty little tidbit of a macabre midnight snack was a novella I chose from the Black Tide Book Tour folks (formerly Blackthorn Book Tours). This was a fun read but it was a slightly different approach to horror, in my opinion. There is almost nothing horror related (almost) in the first half of the book. However, once the horror starts, it’s pretty much constant throughout the rest of the story.
In this particular tale, we have a group of friends who are getting together for Thanksgiving dinner. Friends and family gather to form a social circle as dysfunctional as any other average familial group. There’s a somewhat overbearing wife Char, whose husband, Doug, is a disappointment to her parents, Judy and Owen. Doug and Char have two children, Charlotte (a teenager) and Tommy (a school ager). They are present for the holiday gathering as well. A couple, Mike and Marleen, are friends of Char’s and invited to the festivities, but Doug isn’t a fan of these people. Or Char’s parents, for that matter. Friends Craig and Amy are also invited and supposed to make an appearance but they end up running late, which they are notorious for doing. Then we have Dan. Dan is Doug’s brother and has recently been released from prison. Doug and Dan’s parents, Fred and Mable, also attend this dinner. Doug also asked his best friend, Randy, to come to dinner for Thanksgiving. So, a typical holiday get-together with everyone there being unhappy that someone else in the group is there. Doug doesn’t like Marleen and Mike. Char doesn’t like Dan and Randy. Owen and Judy don’t like Doug. There are voiced complaints about Craig and Amy. And of course, the kids would rather be doing something on a digital device than interact with family and their parents’ friends.
But as the evening continues, many things start to go awry. Little things, big things, dangerous things, offensive things, and scary things from the dark. All this piles up into the culmination of an evening’s worth of negative energy combined with fear and horror. And that is where the real horror begins. Quite the setup for what turns into a very good story. As I mentioned earlier, the real action is in the second half of this story, but the detail and information given are truly needed to set the scene for what this dinner truly entails. Like with so many family get-togethers, this one doesn’t go as hoped or as planned. But slowly and consistently we get small glimpses of our tormenting villainous monster from the background, the tension of our characters, and the suspense of the unknown building up to a horror lover’s classic bloody and gory action-packed tale. Plus, we get to see what’s happening from different characters' points of view on the same events or other events happening at the same time. This is a creative way to give the reader the story and insight into whom the characters are as people and their role in the circumstances and events constantly unfolding.
I think any suspense lover would find this an entertaining read. Its structure of separating parts and then chapters make for a quick read that both thrills and entertains.
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Length: 385 pages
Before I start, here is the summary of this novel that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go:
“A detective with a dark secret...
Samantha Jazz used to be one of the top profilers in the Austin PD, living for the chase of hunting down a killer and bringing him to justice. That is, until one bad case nearly destroyed her.
A killer with a hidden agenda...
There’s a new kind of serial killer on the loose––and people are turning up dead. The only clues to their murders lie in the riddles the killer leaves behind. A mystery with more questions than answers, and a suspicion that he’s taunting Samantha.
A dead body wrapped in a riddle...
Samantha will have to use all her wits to solve each new puzzle before the killer can strike again. But the closer she gets to the killer, the more she draws him to her as well. And in this thrilling game of cat and mouse––only one of them will survive.”
This was a very entertaining novel to read and I don’t usually go for fiction so much. Here we have a story about a very dedicated law enforcement officer, Detective Samantha Jazz, and her intense and persistent pursuit of one of the most dangerous serial killers she’s ever encountered. And in this particular detective, we not only have a workaholic with an intense, but calm, personality, but we also have a woman with a profound and somewhat dark past.
Detective Jazz’s life is her job. And her job is her career, not just a job. Like a lot of other law enforcement personnel, she eats, sleeps, and breathes being a cop. Her profession permeates every aspect of her life, every aspect of her existence. She has a partner named Lang, who is somewhat the stereotypical male lifer in the department. He’s seen more than his share of horrors, he’s very blunt, perhaps a little bitter, and he’s definitely a pain in the ass. He's full of smartass remarks and witty comments, a lot of each said at many inopportune times. However, Detective Jazz can most assuredly hold her own against any member of the good ol’ boys club and she can fire back at Lang, or anyone else, with just as much wit, vim, and vigor as they throw at her. Sometimes she adds a little sauciness just for fun.
Her adversary in this dramatic tale is a serial killer she has dubbed, The Poet. She chose this moniker because of the unique signature he displays in his killings. At first, this presents as a relatively normal investigation. However, Jazz soon realizes that The Poet is somehow very familiar with her and her personal life, and the people in her life. This of course intensifies the entire situation, raising both the danger level and the need to catch this perpetrator.
In the course of her pursuit of this murderous deviant, she finds that, like many serial killers, this particular offender is of high intelligence, challenging her intellectual capabilities as well as her detective skills. During the investigation, we also find out more and more about Detective Jazz, her past, and her way of thinking, her personality. All of this combines to create a thrilling and suspenseful chase of a brazen and daring killer on the loose. And it’s up to Detective Jazz to stop him.
I was intrigued by the summary of this book, but after the first two pages, I was hooked. I had had this novel on my reading list for a very long time. I finally got to this book’s turn on my list and was super excited to read it at last.
This author is a great writer. The amount of detail expressed in this piece of work is crucial to the suspense and anticipation the content invokes. From the very beginning, I was on the edge of my seat anxious to read the next chapter. This was one of those stories that, as the reader, you are constantly trying to solve the case along with the detectives. With each new victim, we get new clues. We are presented with an array of people that are involved in this case. Some are obviously harmless and not the killer. Some characters are a little on the creepy side and somewhat suspicious but don’t have the serial killer vibe. Others are the kind of characters you just know have to be dirty in some way, but are they the killer?
The way this author reveals tiny pieces of the story at a time reflects the path detectives and other law enforcement officials must take to solve each crime. While sometimes it may seem tedious, each little clue is another piece of the giant jigsaw puzzle one has to complete to solve and close a case. In my opinion, the flow of the case in this novel is fairly realistic. Without having worked in law enforcement, I can only form that opinion based on my experience being raised by a police officer and growing up directly associating with all kinds of law enforcement personnel from patrol officers to judges. This case in this novel moved much like a real investigation. The author was very careful to make sure that the details of the case and the investigation were realistic and believable. Again, in my opinion, she did an excellent job.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes crime fiction, detective stories, or anything full of suspense, keeps you on pins and needles and keeps you guessing, just like the rollercoaster the police go through when trying to work a case. After reading this book, this is an author I am going to follow on Goodreads.com and see what other works she has available.
Pain and Gain
The Untold True Story
Book authored by Marc Schiller
I sat down to start this book and I didn’t put it down until I was at the end. I read the whole book in one day. It was truly gripping and I could not help but finish it. It was an incredible story to read. Not because it was unbelievable. Oh no. Far from it in fact. Unfortunately, when this author first tried to tell his story to law enforcement and even doctors, they assumed he was not being truthful. The truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Indeed, that is the situation in this case. And while some of what this author tells about his experience may seem outrageous or like something you just can’t believe, I assure you, this story is possible. In my experience as a true crime researcher, the one thing that is constant in crime is that there are no limits to human depravity. There are no limits to how dark or demented a person can be, no limits to the arrays of pain, degradation, humiliation, and suffering that some people are willing to inflict upon others. There’s no real limit to the lengths some people go to and no real limit to whatever their reason is for such abhorrent behavior. Crime happens on all levels, in all areas, and it’s committed by people from all backgrounds and situations.
In this particular case, we have one victim and multiple perpetrators. And it’s not just the four people that kept this man prisoner but also people outside of the kidnapping and torture that helped victimize this gentleman further by helping strip him and his family of everything they had in the world. All their property, all their money, their business, their home. These monsters even took the kids' toys. They cleaned him out. The greed was endless and they had no qualms about how they got their hands on what they wanted.
Now, I’m sure many people think this kind of thing could never happen to them. That they would never be coerced into signing over everything they owned. However, you can’t say what you would do unless you’ve been in his position. And his position was very grave. He was chained to a wall. He was tortured physically, emotionally, and psychologically. He was degraded and humiliated. His family was in danger. At a certain point, one has to reach the conclusion that material possessions can be replaced but human lives cannot be. It got down to the most basic of factors---survival. Everything beyond survival could be addressed once he was free.
This story was not just about a kidnapping either. It was about betrayal and loss. It was about fear and pain. And it was largely about the concept of pure faith in general (not religion) and perseverance. No person or animal should have to endure the things this man endured. The trauma and torture inflicted on this man were nothing but sadistic. The leader of this whole vicious circus was violently mentally ill, in my opinion. I saw signs of a severe malignant narcissistic personality. Plus, a horrific anti-social personality coupled with what seemed to possibly be a kind of bipolar disorder. Please know, with confidence, that not everybody that has any kind of mental illness is dangerous. Nobody is dangerous automatically just because they have a mental illness. There are a few that do end up dangerous and their mental illness may exacerbate that. But just being bipolar or just being even a malignant narcissist doesn't automatically mean that you want to hurt people. Still, in this case, this perpetrator's mental illness was not a positive factor in this experience on the whole. I can’t and won’t say that his mental illness caused him to do what he did, because I do not believe that to be the case and because I am not a licensed professional in the field to make such a determination. I will say that an already violent and unpredictable personality was made worse at times by varying factors of his illnesses. All of this becomes crystal clear as you read about what actually happened, how it all came about and transpired, and the explanation of the people involved.
But the main takeaway from this case is hope, perseverance, self-respect in all circumstances, and the importance of family. Marc Schiller is an absolute example of a good human being. He is an example of fortitude and stability. His harrowing account takes you deep into his experience as a prisoner of these demented tormentors. He tells about things he could have easily left out because they were embarrassing. He wants people to understand, as close as they can, exactly what he went through. And the only way to do that is by being completely open and honest about the entire experience. And I can imagine it took quite a bit of emotional and psychological strength and resolve to put all of this down on paper into a book. This must have been painful to write and yet, at the same time, somewhat cathartic.
This was just an average man. A family man that worked a typical accounting job, provided for his wife and kids and tried to be a good person and help others when he could. He lived in a normal house and had a normal, fairly uneventful life as an adult. His childhood was rough but it didn’t hold him back from anything. If anything the struggles he endured growing up would mold him into the man that was able to survive this ordeal. This written account takes you through every event of this case, almost day by day. The detail expressed in this book creates a very clear, very vivid, and very horrifying picture. And it is one survivor’s story you can’t ignore. Marc is very relatable and he tells his story with emotion and transparency.
This was an excellent book. As a frequent reader and researcher of true crime, I had heard about this case before and knew the general story. But I did not know all the details, big or small. Also as a frequent true crime reader, I can say that this is one of the more horrifying kidnapping cases I have read about. It was not only an incredible story but it was an inspirational one as well. Learning about something like this makes you think about things like priorities and how spoiled we can get with all the advances in life now. It makes you think about the difference between what you want to endure and what you can endure. The two are very different. While he didn’t want to go through any of this, Marc endured his captivity day in and day out, vowing not to be broken. And he wasn’t.
Any true crime reader should like this book. It was well worth the read.