This Year’s Best Crime Novels So Far

Today we are featuring a guest post by Cassie Peters:

Crime novels offer glimpses into the minds of those who choose to either take the law into their own hands or ignore it entirely. Through the author’s words, we are able to contemplate, observe, and judge the motivations that make the criminals tick. If learning about the underworld is within your literary interests, here are some of the best crime novels of 2018. Following a long tradition of crime-based literature, many of these novels are brilliant subversions of the well-known and popular genre. Get ready to take a harrowing leap into the minds of 2018’s fictional criminals.

The Outsider by Stephen King

Terry Maitland is a Little League coach, family man, and all-around beloved pillar of the community who was arrested for the mutilation and murder of a young boy. Honest cop Detective Ralph Anderson struggles with deciphering all available evidence for fear of convicting the wrong suspect, until his wife Jeannie asks all the right questions that leads the investigation to the truth. Meanwhile, time-warping details both obscure and provide glimpses into hidden, deeper truths. Stephen King’s The Outsider is a masterful twist on the classic crime genre. A smooth and effortless tale of modern day crime with just the right amount of noir, politics, and psychedelics. Not a lot of writers can so pleasurably disorient readers like King.


Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz

An orphan who at 12 was enrolled in a top-secret government training program for assassins escapes to become an unlikely vigilante in Hellbent. The novel is the latest in author Gregg Hurwitz’s international bestselling series of books in the Orphan X series. It’s a sordid look into the all-too-fragile lives that evolve on their own amid government motives and conspiracies. Crime and conspiracy take on a humanitarian form via bullet train-paced prose. 

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

What if Mary Poppins was a sociological suspense-thriller that didn’t hold anything back? There’s nothing mystical or magical about Leila Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny, but she manages to masterfully subvert expectations via her sublime prose. It’s no secret that the lives of the characters in the story are in danger, including young children.  The mystery is whether or not you’ll be able to make it through the slow simmer of how a wholly trustworthy figure can transition into a rationally irrational monster. Library Journal says, “What initially feels like routine, unremarkable women’s fiction morphs into a darkly propulsive nail-biter overlain with a vivid and piercing study of class tensions”.  Peppered with social realist truths amid subtle but constant mounting dread, The Perfect Nanny submits a poverty-stricken view of Paris that culminates in one of the most satisfyingly horrible endings yet.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

FBI rookie Caitlin Hendrix is assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit to find a serial killer who leaves behind grisly clues. In this  dark, disturbing portrait of murder from the perspective of a career forensic psychologist, Agent Hendrix works with the FBI’s serial crime unit and a legendary FBI profiler to dissect the motivations behind a killer based on the available evidence. Into the Black Nowhere is a gripping novel that doubles as a crash course in sociology, critical thinking, crime research methodology, psychological testing, and criminal theory. Based on the exploits of the infamous Ted Bundy, Gardiner’s novel succeeds at a creating a realistic depiction of how serial killers function that is horrendous and unflinchingly educational at the same time. Don’t worry – you won’t need an actual degree in forensic psychology to enjoy this book. However, you should be prepared to learn a thing or two about the criminal mind – insights that might be too dark or true to be forgotten. Watch your step.

This feature post written for Cheshire Library Blog by Cassie Peters.

Devil in the White City

NOTE: This post deals with a difficult subject matter, serial killers, so if you’re easily disturbed, you might not want to read any further.

A book kept passing through my hands and it seemed intriguing – psychopath, history, award-winning – probably good, and I read it at last. The Devil in the White City  by Erik Larson tells the true story of the great Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, a celebration of Columbus’s 400th anniversary of discovering the new world and an attempt to outdo the 1887 Paris World’s Fair, which amazed the world with the new Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure in the world. The fair covered more than 600 acres – almost six times the size of Disney’s Magic Kingdom – and attracted more than 27 million visitors in its 6 month-run (versus 20 million visitors to Magic Kingdom in 2016). It also chose Tesla’s AC electric current to power it because it was cheaper than Edison’s DC current, cementing the road for America’s future electrical grid.

Chicago was no charming city, known for stink (stockyards), grime (trains and soot), crimes and vice. And in this mix lurked a serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Holmes’s background was a perfect mix of known factors of psychopathic development – strict, cold, abusive parents with severe religious obsession. By the age of 6, Holmes liked to dismember animals, and by his teens was implicated in the death of a young boy but cleared due to the pitiful state of investigations. He fled to Chicago, where he became a con artist, bilking insurance companies, furniture companies, and drug supply stores. He also charmed single ladies, killed them, reduced them to skeletons, and sold them as medical supplies. He built an elaborate hotel nicknamed “The Castle,” complete with gas jets in the rooms, soundproof rooms, and a personal crematorium in his basement. When finally cornered for killing his long-time assistant, Holmes confessed to 29 killings, though only 9 could be proven, but his total might have been as high as 200. He was hung for his crimes. Leonardo DiCaprio bought the film rights to the book, and a film is in production with Martin Scorsese as director (it had a tentative 2017 date, but is still in process).

Serial killers – those that kill large numbers of victims over time – are rare as far as murder goes, but the extent of their crimes garners a lot of press. Connecticut has its own serial killer in Amy Archer Gilligan of Windsor, who killed as many as 48 of her nursing-home patients for insurance claims between 1885 and 1917. Some of the more notorious American serial killers include:

Jeffery Dahmer (1991), who killed (and ate) at least 16 young men and boys. Not a high count for a serial killer,  it was the cannibalism that made him famous. He was beaten to death in prison not long after his conviction. Some things scare even murderers.

John Wayne Gacy (1978), who dressed as a clown for kids’ birthday parties and killed more than 33 men.  Stephen King said “It” was fiction.

Charles Cullen (2003), convicted of 40 murders while he was a nurse, but possibly responsible for up to 400, making him the most prolific not only in New Jersey, but the USA. Carl Watts (1982) was also a nurse, convicted of six murders but possibly as many as 130.

Ted Bundy (1975), one of the most famous and perhaps sickest, who killed more than 30. He decapitated at least 12 victims and kept the heads in his apartment, and often performed sex acts on rotting corpses (I warned you). He was executed in Florida.

Gary Ridgeway (2001)  the “Green River Killer”, with 49 proven deaths, 71 confessions, with a probable total closer to 90.

Ed Gein (1957)– Gein was convicted of only two murders, but if you’re looking at psychopaths, Gein is King. Gein had a bizarre attachment to his mother (back to that cold/abuse/super-religious thing), and would go to graves and dig up women’s bodies, skin them, and save parts attempting to wear his mother. Gein was the inspiration for Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Silence of the Lambs. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic, incompetent, and died in a mental facility.

What predicts a serial killer? Most professionals look for early abuse, neglect, brutality, bullying, and mental illness. Animal cruelty, especially in young children, is a warning sign. Killers are often charismatic (Holmes, Bundy, Jim Jones, too) and manipulative, gaining friendship and trust.  Lack of empathy for their victims is  always present. Some do it for attention, especially media attention. One interesting point: 70% of serial killers had experienced significant head trauma as children; with what we now know about violence among football players and boxers who receive blows to the head, could this be a risk factor?

So hug your kids. Be patient. Be kind to them and to others, and teach them to be kind as well. Take bullying and animal cruelty seriously, and report it to authorities. You don’t know how many lives you might save.

Sherlock Holmes Lives On!

Sherlock Homes, the quintessential detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1887.  Doyle penned four novels and 56 short stories, chronicling the adventures of the great detective as seen though the eyes of the narrator of the Sherlock tales, Doctor John Watson.

Yet, when you go to our catalog and type “Sherlock Holmes” in the search box, much more comes up that just the Arthur Conan Doyle tales.  Sherlock Holmes appears in many new and sometimes surprising stories. One of my new favorites is The Daughter of Sherlock Homes by Leonard S. Goldberg.

It is no secret from the outset of the story that Joanna Blalock, a widow with a ten year old son who looks just the late Sherlock Holmes,  is the daughter of the great detective. The pleasure of this tale is not making that discovery but uncovering a world where the descendants of all the original Conan Doyle characters are living intertwined lives. The son of Inspector Lestrade bumbles his way though a murder investigation. The son of Doctor Watson is at the side of his elderly parent and just as blind to observations and deductions that never escape the sharp eyes of Joanna (whose mother is none other than Irene Adler, the only person to ever get the better of Sherlock Holmes!) Even the offspring of the infamous villains that Holmes faced are present.

I recently wrote a blog post about Enola Homes, the younger sister of Sherlock in Nancy Springer’s clever children’s mystery series. Since then, I have realized that the exploits of Sherlock Holmes did not end with the final Conan Doyle story, and, being a big Holmes fan, I’m glad that the great detective lives on. Here is a small sampling of other incarnations of Sherlock Holmes:

The Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series by Laurie R. King.
In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first book in the series, a chance meeting with a Sussex beekeeper turns into a pivotal moment when fifteen-year-old Mary Russell discovers that the beekeeper is the reclusive, retired detective Sherlock Holmes, who soon takes on the role of mentor and teacher.

Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil and Other New Adventures of the Great Detective by Donald Thomas.
Five original tales inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character feature Holmes taking on such challenges as the famed siege of Sydney Street, a planned German invasion of America, and a supernatural curse.

Sherlock Holmes and the Shakespeare Letter by Barry Grant.
Searching through modern London for a stolen letter purportedly written by Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes discovers a plot to arm terrorists and enlists the aid of his roommate, James Wilson, to track the arms dealers to a Scottish castle.

The Perils of Sherlock Holmes by Loren D. Estleman.
A collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and essays, including “Channeling Holmes,” “On the Significance of Boswells,” and “Was Sherlock Holmes The Shadow?” that delve deeper into the world of Sherlock Holmes and the imaginative mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma by Larry Millett.
Dogged by depression and—as a trip to the Mayo Clinic has revealed—emphysema, 66-year-old Sherlock Holmes is preparing to return to England when he receives a shock: a note slipped under his hotel room door, from a vicious murderer he’d nearly captured in Munich in 1892.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in October

Welcome to October at Cheshire Library! We’ve got a lot of science coming your way this month, in addition to some spooky fun. And don’t forget our 4th Annual Scavenger Hunt! Here’s a sample of what’s in store for October:

Terrific Tweens – Make a Spectroscope!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018, 4:00 – 4:45PM

A spectroscope is an instrument used for breaking down light into its component wavelengths for visual observation. We’ll make a spectroscope and separate light into all its component colors! For grades 5 – 8, no registration required.

4th Annual Town-Wide Instagram Scavenger Hunt

Saturday, October 6, 2018, 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Charge your phone and fill your gas tank for the fourth annual Town-Wide Scavenger Hunt! Form a team with members of any age and travel around town solving clues and posting your solutions to Instagram. When time is up, come back to the Library for celebratory snacks and a raffle drawing. Participants of all ages are encouraged to join the hunt. Each team needs a vehicle, a smartphone or network-enabled device, and an Instagram account set to public for the duration of the hunt. Technology help will be available when you pick up your clues.

  • 9:30-10:00  Pick up clues at the Library
  • 9:30-1:00  The scavenger hunt is on!
  • 2:00-3:00  Post-hunt party

Pre-registration is required for all teams, starting September 1.

Makeup 101: How to accentuate your best features

Thursday, October 11, 2018, 6:30 – 8:00PM

Cheshire’s own Dana Bartone of Co. Salon and Spa will demonstrate on how to apply makeup.  Not just any makeup routine but one that will accentuate your best features. Our two models that will be demonstrated on are a millennial and baby boomer. Registration is required.

DNA Testing: Get Into Your Hand-Me Down Genes

Saturday, October 13, 2018, 2:00 – 4:00PM

Thinking about doing a DNA test for your genealogy research or have done one already?  Genealogist Janeen Bjork will talk about the three major companies offering DNA testing. Registration is required.

Cat Tales – Writers Group

Thursday, October 18, 2018, 6:00 – 8:00PM

Do you write in secret, or do you publish your own blog? Are you working on your dream novel, a memoir, or poetry? Join us at the library for an open writing group that can help answer your questions on writing, editing, grammar, and publishing. Read a selection of your work to the group for general constructive feedback, or discuss a book you’ve read that might help someone else. Join us once, join us every month!  Registration required for this adult program.

The Ever Changing Connecticut Forest

Monday, October 22, 2018, 6:30 – 8:00PM

The resilient Connecticut forest has undergone dramatic changes over the past 400 years and earlier. This talk by  Dr. Jeffrey Ward will cover the changes in our forests since the ice age, and what the future forest may look like. Registration is required.

Crazy Colorful Chemistry (Ages 6+)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 4:00 – 5:00PM

To celebrate National Chemistry week, Jane Snell Copes from Science Outside the Box will be presenting a hands-on chemistry class for children ages 6 and up.  Space is limited, so please register starting October 1.

Library After Hours: Halloween Spooktacular

Friday, October 26, 2018, 5:00 – 7:00PM

Join us for a spooky bubble dance party and face painting.  Pizza and drinks will be available for sale by the Friends of the Library. There is no admission fee, but there is a suggested donation of $5 per family to help offset costs.  Please note that the Lower and Upper Levels of the Library will not be open to the public. Please register so that we know how many goodies to have! Sponsored by the Friends of the Cheshire Public Library.

Culinary Chemistry

Saturday, October 27, 2018, 2:30 – 4:00PM

Through discussion and hand-on demonstrations, participants will gain an appreciation of chemical transformations in a culinary context.  This seminar will explore cooking through the four ancient elements of fire, air, earth and water.  Each of these ancestral elements will be paired with a contemporary cooking method (roasting, baking, fermentation, sous vide) and applied through a featured food.  The session concludes with light tastings of the featured foods. Registration is required for this adult program.

Paranormal Investigations in CT

Tuesday, October 30, 2018, 6:30 – 8:00PM

The truth behind investigating the unknown will be presented by the Eastern CT Paranormal Society. This program focuses on educating the public about how paranormal investigations are actually done, as opposed to what is seen on TV. We stress the importance of education as an asset to researching paranormal claims. We will showcase evidence that we have caught and explain the process of debunking paranormal activity, such orbs, light anomalies, and apparitions. Registration is required.

Spooky Storytime (Ages 2-5)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018, 10:00 – 11:00AM

Spooktacular stories, ghoulish goodies, and decorate your own mini pumpkin!  Costumes are encouraged!  Supplies are limited so please register starting on October 1.

Boom! Pow! The Benefits of Reading Graphic Novels

Today’s post comes to us from Ali, our Head of Children and Teen Services.

You bring your child into the library to find a book for them to read. They don’t seem interested in any chapter books you suggest.  They find the graphic novel section and seem really intrigued by a few titles.  You don’t allow them to choose one of those books because you want them to read a “real book”.  Sound familiar? I see this scenario often in the Children’s Room.  A child finally finds something they want but are told that, “those books don’t count”.

Graphic novels and comic books have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Parents and educators often dismiss these books as “junk” however, it is important to see the benefits of reading graphic novels. They are great resources for teaching important literacy skills, especially with unenthusiastic readers.  They serve as an initial gateway to reading because they often have more visual appeal than traditional novels.

Graphic novels are great for visual learners because they force readers to decipher differences in the text format to determine narration, tone, or mood.  The illustrations also help to decode difficult vocabulary. Graphic novels can serve as an introduction to non-linear storytelling. Each chapter may present a different time period or flashback to a past event forcing the reader to stop and contemplate the story.

I think it is important to start viewing graphic novels as “real books” because they truly offer so many literacy aids. They offer the same benefits as traditional chapter books, plus some.  If you’re looking for a good starting place, here are a few of my favorite new graphic novels:

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol.  A hilarious memoir of a middle school student who tries to fit in. It’s not easy for Vera, being a Russian girl surrounded by friends who live in fancy houses and go to expensive summer camps.  Her mother can only afford to send her to a Russian summer camp.  Vera is sure she will fit in, but the camp is not exactly what she expected.

All Summer Long by Hope Larson. Thirteen-year-old Bina and her best friend Austin do everything together.  Austin is off to soccer camp for a month, so it’s up to Bina to find something to do this summer.  When Austin returns, he isn’t the same as when he left.  Can they reestablish their friendship?

Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss.  Grace decides to help her classroom’s pet guinea pig, Gus, because she knows what being lonely feels like.  She is determined to do something special for her four-legged friend.

 Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson.  Izzy loves acting in skits and making up funny stories. Bri is the smart one. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just her good grades. This books captures the angst, drama, and humor of middle school life.