Book Review: Darker than Night by Tom Henderson

The disappearance of two hunters in the Michigan Woods in 1985 took 18 years to solve and prosecute. This story was not so much a who-done-it as it was a how-to-prove-it. The break in the case came when one eyewitness to the brutal homicide was eventually persuaded to testify by state policeman Bronco Lesneski. He worked the case every day. He spent many of his off hours tirelessly re-interviewing witnesses. Everybody seemed to have an opinion as to what had happened, but nearly all fingers and lines of questioning pointed back to the Duvall brothers. It’s a story straight out of Deliverance. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this case was that it was successfully prosecuted without a body, without a weapon, and without one iota of physical evidence. The courtroom testimonies are the most fascinating and at many times rather amusing parts of this story. It’s a horrific crime. No doubt about that. And certainly nothing amusing about it either. But the cast of characters is so unbelievable that one can’t help but laugh. And some of the testimonies were beyond belief.

The writing however was sloppy, and the editors missed many an error. The mystery didn’t really carry the story either because early on, the reader had a good idea of what happened and who had done it. What keeps the reader engaged is perhaps one of the same motivators that kept Lesneski plowing away. The reader wants to see justice done and the truth come out.

I’ve read better true crime novels. Ann Rule is hard to compete with in terms of quality of writing and storytelling. However, the courtroom drama in this book makes it worth the read for true crime fans. It leaves the reader shaking his head and wondering if he picked up a work of fiction or non-fiction. There’s a quote attributed to different people that says the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense. That’s how I know this crime and these players are real. No one could have made them up in their wildest imaginations. The witness who by his own definition was a recovering amnesiac still has me laughing. The world can be a crazy…and scary…place. Out of 5 stars, I give it 3.

Book Review: In the Still of the Night by Ann Rule

In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda ReynoldsIn the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds by Ann Rule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a difficult time staying with this book and finishing it, although I’m a big fan of Ann Rule. Perhaps I was frustrated by the lack of answers after all these years. If I feel that way, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the mother of Ronda Reynolds. Because the case has not been resolved, this was not a typical Ann Rule book. I like when she draws clear pictures of all the people involved and takes the reader along as the pieces of the puzzle come together. This case remains murky as do the backgrounds and true character of some of the main players. So although I felt a great deal of empathy towards Ronda Reynold’s strong and resilient mother, I was a little disappointed in the book. Even so, I’m glad Ann Rule wrote it because it may help find justice for Ronda someday. For more information on this case go to www.justiceforronda.com, the site that was established by Ronda’s mother, Barb Thompson to keep her daughter’s case alive.

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