Friday, July 26, 2019

July's Book Reviews

For your possible reading pleasure:
  • A true crime story from the Jazz Age in the United States (The Ghosts of Eden Park);
  • A tale of compelling psychological suspense (A Girl Named Anna); and
  • A true story of murder inside a cult (Without a Prayer).
Hope you find something for your library,

The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott

A Tale of Bootlegging, Betrayal, and Murder Diluted in the Telling

The Ghosts of Eden Park is set in the Jazz Age in the United States. It was a time of great change—women received the right to vote; fashion, music, and social norms were being transformed; and alcohol became illegal. Into this setting, insert George Remus, a lawyer turned bootlegger who quickly amassed a vast fortune by finding loopholes in the new Prohibition laws. Opposing Remus was Mabel Walker Willebrandt, appointed as US Assistant Attorney General with responsibility for enforcing Prohibition. Fresh out of law school, few expected her to upset the benign indifference shown by most politicians; they were wrong. Remus was convicted and sentenced to prison. His second wife, Imogene, betrayed him with one of Willebrandt’s agents, Franklin Dodge, and they stole much of his fortune. And then, the histrionics Remus showed in the courtroom became more prevalent and much more violent. But was it insanity, or just a ruse to defend himself in his own trial for killing Imogene? Find the complete review on Amazon:

A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber

Lives Forever Changed by Experience and Held Constant by Blood

If you’re looking for a whodunit, this book isn’t it. The author’s synopsis pretty much answers that question and even the culprit’s name is known halfway through the tale. But if you want your heart in your throat from compelling, psychological suspense fiction, then read on.

A Girl Named Anna is the story of a British girl’s abduction from an American theme park some fifteen years prior to the events in the book. Anna, kidnapped at the age of three, has been raised in America by a woman with extreme religious beliefs, obsessive in her pursuit of physical cleanliness and spiritual purity. While the characterization is a bit stereotypic, author Barber paints the figure well. Chapters told from Anna’s perspective alternate with one’s from her sister’s point of view. That sister, Rosie, lives what seems a more ‘normal’ life in London with their parents and a brother. Find the complete review on Amazon:

Without a Prayer by Susan Ashline.

A Difficult Read for a Couple of Reasons.

Without a Prayer is a difficult read. I recognize that there are different interpretations of that sentence and at least two of them apply.

First, it’s difficult because it’s disturbing to read about the level of toxicity that existed in the Word of Life Christian Church (WLCC) and the brutal and callous beatings that occurred there. It’s made even more difficult because the story is true, or at least as accurate as a meticulous author reviewing massive amounts of data can make it. The followers were religious, often submissive, and generally at a point in their life when options were limited, e.g., they had been kicked out of their home. So, they fled to the WLCC, only to suffer worse there. The message of the church was that they were surrounded by evil—demons, witchcraft, impure thoughts. Everyday actions were questioned—could two brothers playfully wrestle or was that sexual perversion? No one outside the church could be trusted, but even inside, parents couldn’t trust children, sisters couldn’t trust brothers. Who knew if a spouse was being himself/herself or if a demon was in control? Given such a threatening world, the followers became paralyzed, unable to act until it was sanctioned by the church. It was, simply put, an environment that led a father to participate in a fatal beating of his son because the church called for it. Find the complete review on Amazon:

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