Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bill? Or Kevin? And Why?

 "Powerful... the complex plot and affecting characters--especially gritty  survivor Ellie and her basset hound Bump--make for some nail-bitingly tense thrills." 
                                                         --Publishers Weekly

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What a fabulous night! The talented Joanna Schaffhausen launched her book THE VANISHING SEASON to applause and adulation at Brookline Booksmith—surrounded by family and friends and colleagues. 
Her book is getting absolute raves. Raves!  And she signed a special Jungle Red edition that we’re giving away today!
After  last night, Joanna has got to be  still floating.
But, like every good crime fiction author, she is fascinated by—the weird. The deeply weird.

(And hurray! She's giving a copy of THE VANISHING SEASON  to one lucky commenter!)

JOANNA SCHAFFHAUSEN: When crime writers look to real-life murder and mayhem for inspiration, we pounce on the deeply weird stories. Most murderers are identified quickly because it’s obvious who the culprit is. But every so often the police come up against a criminal with unusual cunning or creativity, the kind that gives you chills even as your jaw hangs open at the ingenuity involved. Here are just a few true-crime tales that initially baffled the police…including one that remains frustratingly unsolved.
Killer Competition: David Moffitt saw blood red when his girlfriend, Angie Ver Huel, dumped him in favor of a new love, Justin Michael. While normal people in this situation might play sad love songs and sob in their diaries, Moffitt chose a different path: he bided his time for months, working out a plan for murder. Shortly before Angie and Justin’s scheduled wedding, Moffit broke into the couple’s house and shot and killed Justin while he lay sleeping in bed. What made Moffitt diabolically clever was that he also framed another one of Angie’s ex-boyfriends for the crime. He forged a fake ID and bought the murder weapon under the other man’s name. He might have gotten away with it except for one small detail—in his haste to flee the scene the night of the murder, Moffitt crashed his car six miles from the victim’s house, tipping off police to his involvement.
Out for Blood: A young Canadian woman woke up in her doctor’s office with the distinct feeling she’d just been raped. The doctor had given her a sedative that made her memory hazy, but Candice had DNA in her underwear as proof of the crime. However, when the authorities drew blood from Dr. John Schneeberger’s arm, it did not match the sample from Candice and thus he went free. Refusing to believe the DNA results, Candice pursued him doggedly even as public opinion turned against her. Due to her persistence, the police retested Schneeberger a year later, and again, the DNA sample did not match. Only when he was eventually arrested for a second rape did the cops learn how fiendishly Schneeberger had outwitted the DNA test. He had stolen a patient’s blood, put it into a plastic tube, and surgically implanted the tube into his arm so that it resembled a vein. When the police tested Schneeberger’s DNA from his hair and saliva, they were a match to the DNA from Candice.
All in the Family. In this fascinating case, cops have narrowed the suspects to just two people, but they cannot winnow it any further. Diane Kyne was home one afternoon with just her husband, Bill, and her adult son, Kevin, when she was strangled to death. Both men called 911 to report the murder at roughly the same time, and each claimed the other one had killed Diane. The police arrived to find Bill and Kevin grappling on the lawn, accusing each other of Diane’s murder. Forensic investigation was unable to determine which one is telling the truth. The pair disliked each other intensely, so it seems unlikely they killed Diane together.
The son, Kevin, has a wicked temper. He had made threats in the past and has a record of domestic violence. Indeed, Diane had kicked Kevin out of the house before, but she always took him back. Rumor had it she was considering removing him again, possibly for good.  But it was Bill’s DNA, not Kevin’s, which was found on Diane’s neck. Bill also seemed to have the stronger motive for murdering Diane: he stood to collect $750,000 in insurance money after her death. 
More intriguingly, Bill had already collected $250,000 following the strange death of his first wife.  The police eventually arrested Kevin for Diane’s murder, and he was initially convicted and sentenced to life in prison. At a second trial, however, the jury ruled Kevin not guilty. Prosecutors are reluctant to retry the case a third time.
What do you think? Was it husband Bill or son Kevin? What’s the strangest true-crime tale you’ve ever heard?
HANK: And are you all as deeply devoted to MINDHUNTER as I am? Tonight they talked about discovering the “internal logic” of a killer. An entirely new concept in the 60’s. 
SO: Bill or Kevin? And why?
And a copy of the riveting THE VANISHING SEASON to one lucky commenter!

Ellery Hathaway was tortured by a serial killer when she was a teenager, but rescued before he could kill her. Fourteen years later, she has a new identity in sleepy town where a bike theft makes the newspapers. But locals have been disappearing, and Ellery has been receiving strange messages hinting that the culprit knows what happened to her, and that she might well be next on the list. Desperate, she contacts the one person she knows will believe her...the FBI man who rescued her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.

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Joanna Schaffhausen is a scientific editor who spends her days immersed in research on potential new therapies for cancer, addiction, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Previously, she worked as an editorial producer for ABC News, where she advised and wrote for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter. The Vanishing Season is her first novel.

84 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Joanna . . . "The Vanishing Season" sounds like an amazing story and I'm looking forward to reading it.

    The depravity of some folks always amazes me . . . . I don't really have a good reason for suggesting that the husband, Bill, is probably guilty of the murder, but it just seems to me like that might be the case.

    Perhaps not the strangest true crime case, but John told me about a thief who snatched a camera bag from a just-arriving in Los Angeles tourist and took off with it. He didn't get very far before the police caught him because he neglected to remove the bright red ribbon from the camera bag strap. The owner had attached it to make his bag easy to spot at baggage claim. John says it's a good thing that sometimes the criminals are stupid!

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    1. That’s so great! My husband had a client whose co-defendant robbed a place —wearing a gps bracelet!

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    2. Thank you, Joan! That's so funny about the red ribbon give-away. It's amazing to me what criminals will forget when they are in the act. My other favorite was the woman who was careful to disguise her face from the cameras at the home goods store when buying all the tools to bury her husband's body...but then she used her shopper's discount card (WITH HER NAME ATTACHED) to save 37 cents on the purchase. Oops.

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    3. Hey. Those discounts add up!

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    4. Adding to the "sometimes criminals are stupid" list: here in Columbus, Ohio, there was a recent murder where the perpetrator was wearing a gps ankle bracelet as part of his parole terms when he committed the crime. Police were able to show that he was right in the park at the place where her body was found, at the relevant time.

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  2. Thanks, Joanna, for visiting the Reds today. I have been hearing a lot of buzz about THE VANISHING SEASON and have added this to my TBR lists.

    I do not read or watch much true crime. Those examples you listed clearly show the ingenuity and depravity of some of society's worst criminals.

    Was it Kevin or Bill? I can see why prosecutors are having a tough time in trying and convicting one of them for Diane's murder. I choose Bill as the killer - collecting insurance money from first wife's death, and his DNA evidence found around Diane's neck.

    Canada has had some memorable serial killers in recent years.
    The creepiest one is related to Colonel Russell Williams who at first broke into his female victim's houses and took selfie pictures of himself wearing their underwear. Of course, his crimes escalated and he ended up stalking and then killing several women before getting caught.

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    1. Yeesh. That is so scary—was that recently?

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    2. Hank, the @80 unsolved break-ins where Williams stole 1000s of pieces of women's underwear occurred from 2007-2008 in different communities in Ontario where he worked at a nearby military base. The sexual assaults and murders occurred in 2009/2010 and Williams was arrested in 2010.

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    3. Thanks so much, Grace! I have heard of the Williams case, and yes, he was incredibly creepy! Also, I'm with you. I think it was Bill. You have one dead spouse under suspicious circumstances, okay, maybe, but two? No way.

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    4. Grace, that is so bizarre! I'd never heard of that case.

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  3. Breathtaking, Joanna. What a terrific premise for a story. It's difficult to imagine that out of the ordinary, but ordinary, events don't take on an added layer of meaning to trauma survivors. They have to always be looking over their shoulders. Perfect natural conflict.

    Bill or Kevin. Kevin just to be contrary, and because they were fighting outside. Bill knew he would have an uphill battle and Kevin knew Bill would be the likely choice for who dun it. Was Kevin a contingent beneficiary? Added motive to frame Bill.

    No particular strange true crime tale comes to mind, but I lived in Queens when Son of Sam was active, I was in his age and target appearance group and used to run in Kissena Park until his first kill there. It was a scary time until they caught him since no one was quite sure what his triggers were and profiling was in its infancy.

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    1. Kait—scary ! (That sounds like a great plot, though...)

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    2. Thanks, Kait! The Son of Sam case was certainly terrifying at the time! You all must have been on edge until he was caught.

      The police and prosecutor certainly thought Kevin was the killer because they tried him twice for Diane's murder. I think they just didn't like him much (he doesn't seem especially charming). But this one remains a mystery for sure!

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  4. Yay, Joanna! I am so happy for the success of your debut novel, and was terribly sorry to have to miss your launch party. Yes, those are strange, clever, and creepy stories.

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    1. Thanks, Edith! Missed you last night but will see you on Thursday. xxoo

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    2. Perfect! We were planning next year's Crime Bake last night, so...I had a good excuse.

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  5. I have to say this sounds like exactly the sort of book I would like to read. Congratulations on your first novel, Joanna!

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  6. Hi Joanna (WAVING!)
    I got to read an early copy of this book and LOVED it, and it's so exciting to see a nearly neighbor come out with such a smashing debut novel. Creating a fake vein with someone else's blood in it? Yikes. Try to put that in a book and no one would believe it.
    Anyone who missed last night and lives near the Canton Library should come on down tonight to meet Joanna (and me!) and hear about THE VANISHING SEASON.
    My question for Joanna: You are a scientist! So how does science inform your fiction writing?

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    1. :: waves back at Hallie ::: Hello! Thank you for all your help and encouragement with my debut novel! Given all your years as a professional reviewer and your own amazing mystery books, I am so delighted and honored that you like it! Can't wait to see you in Canton tonight. :)

      I see science and crime solving as highly related. In each case, you have a set of facts to start with and a hypothesis about what the truth is. Then you gather more evidence to see if you can confirm your theory. If you can't, then you try another theory. I read "The Gene" last year, and the early history of people trying to figure out why beavers made more beavers and not elephants was fascinating. They didn't have a concept of DNA so they had to invent ideas about how the process worked. Over decades, scientists got closer and closer to the truth, until they finally hit on the true culprit (DNA!) in the middle of last century. It took the ability to photograph DNA and catch it in the act to fully prove the theory!

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  7. MINDHUNTER is fabulous, Hank. So well constructed and I can't wait to see what Season Two brings. What amazes me is how recent these developments about the mind - that we all take for granted - really are.

    As for Joanna and THE VANISHING SEASON, I too have heard much of the buzz. I look forward to reading it at some point.

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    1. Hi, Kristopher! I loved MINDHUNTER too. Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper was a revelation!

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    2. HANK HERE: Oh, we were just talking about that! One character says--"We need to understand his internal logic" And the other one says: "What does that mean?"
      So fascinating.

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    3. Hi Joanna and congrats on the book! Did you ever find yourself getting too creeped out by what you were writing?

      Regarding "Mindhunter," I'm three episodes in, and I'm having trouble getting in the groove. Was this the case for the rest of you? Should I stick with it? I think the endless graphic descriptions of horrible crimes is proving an obstacle.

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    4. HANK HERE: Well, it's slow. Very talky, I thought. But I think you kind of have to go with it. I tried to think of it as..research. And I think knowing it's based on real life makes it so fascinating.

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    5. Thank you, Ingrid! I don't get creeped out by my own writing because I have to think about it on so many levels. Very occasionally a true crime story will totally give me the willies, though. Especially stalkers and people being watched without their knowledge. ::shiver::

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  8. Follow the money, right? I'm surprised that Kevin was tried, which suggests that the police had more to go on. But on the face of it, I'd look awfully hard at Bill.

    The weirdest crime in recent history happened about four miles from our house. A 39-year old man went to the home of a 57-year old man, to have sex. While there, 39 got angry that 57 wouldn't give him some crystal meth, so he began beating him with a golf club, 57 pleading for his life the whole time. He decided to make it look like a robbery gone wrong, so he tied up the still-living 57's hand and feet, and continued beating him with "various objects" until he stopped speaking or moving. Then 39 removed some valuables (electronic stuff) to the victim's car, then set the house on fire with gasoline and acetone (I am dying to know where this came from, but it's never been mentioned in the news), and turned on the stove with papers alit on top.

    He leaves the house in the victim's car, then drives it to the inner city area (both parties were white, but this was a predominantly black neighborhood. You see what he was trying to do), parks the car, and sets IT on fire.

    The whole ruse was a big waste, though, because they caught 39 within 24 hours, and by then 57 had died. This happened this past July.

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    1. Wow, Karen, that's a crazy tale! Glad they caught 39 because he sounds completely unhinged.

      I'm with you on Bill. Follow that money. Plus, two dead wives in weird circumstances?? What are the odds...

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  9. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths people go to commit and cover up crime. And Hank is right - if we tried to use this stuff in fiction we'd never get away with it.

    I'd be looking really hard at Bill. That much money is a powerful motive.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I'm with you and Hank. Some of the stuff that happens in real life we just couldn't write because no one would believe it. Many years ago in Massachusetts, the cops were looking for a murderer who turned out to be a serial killer. They had the guy in their sights and went to interview him. He wasn't home so they left a note on his door saying to call them. He came home, saw the cops had visited, and promptly moved to PA to resume killing over there. Seriously...the cops LEFT A CARD for a serial murderer asking him to please be in touch, and then never followed up when he didn't call.

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  10. May I say I "like" true crime? I was hooked as a kid by my father's NY DAILY NEWS that had a weekly crime feature (and lots of other lurid stuff as well). Would love some recommendations for true crime books.

    It was Bill. Bizarre though. Poor Diane.

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    1. It is weird, right? I "like" true crime too but then I always feel a little guilty about it. I have two true crime recs for you: THE FACT OF A BODY, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, is both a true-crime story and a memoir. It's relatively new and riveting. Also OBSESSED by M. William Phelps, which details the Sheila Davalloo case. If you aren't familiar with that one, it's a doozy.

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  11. Hi Joanna, looking forward to THE VANISHING SEASON.

    I have a weird true crime (perhaps) story from my neighborhood. A couple of years ago, a neighbor was found hanging in her garage, two blocks from my house. Sad suicide? Probably. Only thing sadder was that her husband's first wife was found hanging in a garage a few years ago, different house and different garage. Coincidence? He's still walking his dog every day when I walk mine. I usually head to the other side of the street though. It's just too peculiar for me.

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    1. So I'd pick Bill for the murderer. As for the doctor and the implanted tube, I have a lot of questions. Who implanted it for him. How did he get someone else's blood in it, what was it made of, was it heparinized, and how did he convince the phlebotomist to draw from that same site each time.

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    2. I'd like to give Truman Capote honorable mention for the best true crime book ever, IN COLD BLOOD. My daughter's godmother was in college with one of the older Cutter daughters.

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    3. Ann, that is just too creepy! I don't believe in coincidences like this--either this man picks desperate women to marry, or he drives them to despair, or--how does he profit? That's the question I'd want an answer to--and Bill for me, too--he had a built-in patsy--Kevin--and who initiated the struggle on the lawn? Question to self: who would marry a man whose first wife died under suspicious circumstances??

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    4. Coincidence my Aunt Fanny. Haven't there been several cases over the years where a husband falls into suspicion over wife number three's death, only to have further investigation reveal he also killed wives number one and two?

      Black Widow killers get all the press, but I suspect there are a lot more Bluebeards out there.

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    5. Oh my goodness, Ann! That is too creepy. I'd get the willies every time I saw that guy, because I agree, the coincidence is totally hinky. I ended up in college courses with not one but two different murderers. One was very normal seeming and the other sent up danger signals from the start...but that's another blog post. ;)

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    6. HANK HERE: Oooh, yes it is! And we hope you will write it for us!

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    7. The difficulty with these death being other than suicide is the hanging. How can you hang someone? Would take knockout drops and a block and tackle at least. BTW, the husband was a rowing coach at a long cal university. Most likely fit.

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    8. A rower would certainly have the strength. But you'd think the police would have looked for drugs in the wife's system....

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  12. I will announce the winners of yesterday‘s contest soon… So keep watching!

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  13. Congratulations, Joanna!

    As to Bill or Kevin: when you say "Bill or Kevin," are you distracting us from the possibility of a third party? I'd look at the patterns, especially on the insurance: did Bill take out policies on both wives shortly before their deaths, was he cheating on both wives before their deaths, that sort of thing. Commonalities would point to Bill.

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    1. Thanks, Jim! If this were a mystery novel, an unexpected third party would make a great late-chapter twist! In this case, it seems highly probable that one of these guys is Diane's killer. That's what I find so fascinating...we can narrow the bad guy down to 2 people out of 7 billion, but we can't get it down to just one so the guy goes free!

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  14. Joanna, THE VANISHING SEASON sounds deliciously creepy, and I mean that in the best possible way. There are very few unsolved murders in Maine, which averages 21-22 murders a year, almost all related to domestic violence or drunken quarrels.

    There is an unsolved mystery from several years back that continues to elude the police. A teenage girl in Scarborough left her home at night without her parents' knowledge (there may have been an argument involved)and went to stay with a nearby family. The family had three sons, one in high school with the girl, two college aged.

    The boys' parents agreed she could stay the night and made up a bed for her before retiring. She was in the family room, hanging out with the two youngest sons. That was the last time she was seen alive.

    In the very early hours of the morning, a driver stopped for what he thought was a dead deer in the road. It was the girl, dead, nude, many miles from either her home or the neighbors'. The cause of death was never released in the papers, and I have to assume there was no DNA evidence, because despite repeated interviews with everyone involved, no one was ever charged.

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    1. Thank you, Julia! And wow, that is a puzzler. I would presume that family knows more than it's telling about what happened to that poor girl, but of course, without hard evidence, it's difficult to be sure.

      My haunting unsolved mystery is Suzanne Jovin, a Yale senior who was stabbed to death a couple of blocks from my apartment in New Haven. It was 9:30 at night on a Friday in a busy college town and yet somehow she was stabbed on the street with no witnesses. Witnesses placed her downtown only a few minutes earlier, suggesting that someone she knew picked her up and drove her a mile away only to murder her. Her male thesis adviser lived in the area and he ended up losing his job due to the suspicion that fell on him despite, exactly zero evidence linking him to the crime. The case remains open and unsolved.

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    2. HANK HERE: Oh, good one. EIther way, chilling.

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  15. The Vanishing Season sounds intriguing and captivating. I would look at Bill closely. Congratulations and best wishes.

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    1. I've got my eye on Bill too. Thanks, petite!

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  16. True Crime is filled with questions that are difficult to answer. This book points to Bill but there are so many imponderables. I rarely follow true crime except for the horrific one in Ontario, Bernardo and his wife who is now living in Mtl.

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    1. I think why people do this to each other is the most difficult one to answer, possibly because there can never be a reason that makes sense to us normal folks.

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    2. HANK HERE: Yes! And that is why Mindhunter is so compelling. Trying to understand how people think is the deepest mystery of all.

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  17. AND THE WINNERS of Liv Constantine's THE LAST MRS. PARRISH are: Joan Emerson, Melanie Bodin, Susan, Helen Nordseth and Sandy!
    Please email me your addresses at h ryan at whdh dot com And the books will be on the way!

    And now back to true crime...xoxo

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  18. I've heard really good things about your book. It is on my list! My money is on Bill too. For that reason. Money. I see he tripled the insurance payout on wife #2. Kevin sounds like he is just a mess and convenient patsy. Back in the early 80s a Houston socialite died under mysterious circumstances. Her father was convinced that her doctor husband was responsible. The husband was murdered in a so-called botched robbery. The father is believed to have orchestrated it. Tommy Thompson wrote a book, Blood and Money, about the case. It was also a TV movie. It's been so long ago that I don't remember if Dr Hill was arrested of a person of interest before he met his fate. Debs might remember the case in her neck of the woods involving an attempted murder of Priscilla Davis, supposedly by her estranged oilman husband Cullen Davis. That story was a real circus!

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    1. Oh! I like Mindhunter too. But I think that younger FBI agent is getting too cocky.

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    2. Pat D--I adored Blood and Money. terrific terrific book.

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    3. HANK HERE: That was me, Hank, above. I keep forgetting to sign in and out...

      And I agree. But because it's true-ish, that makes it better, right?

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    4. Pat, I had to do a little refresher reading on the Cullen Davis case. It's absolutely astonishing that he wasn't convicted--or that somebody else would marry him! He also had quite a fan club of women admirers, including one of the jury members!

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  19. Congratulations, Joanna! This book sounds fantastic. I do read through true crime cases to be inspired to write. I also binge watch the ID channel, which usually ends up giving me nightmares.

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    1. HANK HERE: You know, Ive never watched that channel. Hmmm...

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    2. Hank! How can you be a mystery writer and not watch the ID channel! It's a gold mine for ideas. :)

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  20. Congratulations, Joanna! What a fascinating premise for a story. Now I think not only do I need to read your book, but that I'm going to start watching Mindhunter. How did I miss this?

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    1. Thanks so much, Deborah! I agree above that MINDHUNTER is very talky and a bit slow at times, but also fascinating because it tackles the first efforts to study serial killers. The part of how a lot of this initial effort failed is one of the things I'm talking about tonight in Canton!

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  21. Oh, and I definitely think it was Bill. Kevin sounds like a patsy to me, and the money is just too damning.

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    1. Right?! Bill has the much stronger motive.

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    2. Deborah, totally off today's topic: I just received some Whittard's Earl Gray from a friend in Florida. Although not loose tea, it is very, very good. I know that this friend did not journey to England, so perhaps there is a source here in the US. Happy hunting closer tea.

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  22. Joanna, congratulations on your new book. It sounds chillingly good. As for Bill or Kevin, I have to go with Bill. Follow the money makes the most sense to me. All these unsolved murders are fascinating. They are, of course, tragic, but the lack of evidence and a trail to the killer is amazing. Like Debs, I have some catching up to do in watching Mindhunter, which sounds like a crime reader's dream show.

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    1. Love to know what you think of it, dear Kathy!

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    2. Thanks, Kathy! I just think this one in particular is so interesting because of course Bill and Kevin know the truth...but no one else does.

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    3. I will get back to you on Mindhunter. Going to try and watch some in the next week.

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  23. Thanks Joanna, for visiting Jungle Red Writers and for sharing some true crime stories. The doctor one creeped me out to no end, and I'm still kind of queasy thinking about how he implanted the tube of blood into his arm -- that is one sick man!

    As for Diane's murder, I'm going with Bill because he has precedent with the suspicious death of his first wife. He was probably sure he could frame Kevin.

    I can't wait to read The Vanishing Season, and congratulations on your book launch!

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    1. I love how we're solving this crime!

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    2. HANK HERE: that was me, above. xoxo

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    3. Thank you, Celia! (Celia was on the short-list for our daughter's name, btw. Love it!) I think the doctor story is so fascinating because it took YEARS to catch him. He passed several DNA tests before they caught the creep.

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  24. Congrats! And all I can think is - how sad, that her family consists of two people who both make great suspects. And why do women marry guys with such shady pasts? I vote for Bill as the killer.

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    1. HANK HERE: Yes, you are so right--never thought about it that way...

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    2. Thanks, Susan. Yes, let's solve this one so it can stop haunting me at night!

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  25. Joanna, congratulations on your new book. So sorry, but serial killers and stalking aren't my choice in reading. But others do seem enthusiastic about your skillful writing.

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    1. She’s amazing! But different kinds of books is exactly why we are here. So great to see you. Xx

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    2. Those differences keep me coming back. Thanks, Hank and all the Reds and commenters.

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  26. AND THE WINNER of The Vanishing Season is: Denise Ann! Email me your address at h ryan at whdh dot com! HURRAY!

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