This blog is the place where I post reviews of the books I have read. I review audiobooks, regular books and eBooks for authors and publishers as well as any other book or audiobook that catches my eye.
Mike Browne, host of the popular Canadian podcast Dark Poutine, chronicles some of his all-time favourite stories of true crime and dark history from Canada and around the world.
Divided into four sections —Murders with a Twist, Perpetual Puzzles, The Madness of Crowds and Notable Disasters — all the stories in this collection (except two) are brand new and haven’t been covered by the podcast.
In Murders with a Twist, Browne recounts seven true crime stories with atypical elements, including weird motives, unusual perpetrators and bizarre murder weapons. In one case, we meet a man who is willing to kill to possess a human voice. In another, two women play a deadly game to prove their love to each other.
Perpetual Puzzles covers six stories that remain unresolved and will leave you with more questions than answers. They include the archaeological find of the century, which turns out to be something far more sinister, as well as the discovery of a dead man on the beach with a mysterious clue in his pocket.
The Madness of Crowds reveals that murder and mayhem are sometimes a group effort. We meet two young Canadians who leave home one summer to find work and instead end up on a murder spree, and a bizarre California cult that asks its members to topple the Mormon church.
The book concludes with Notable Disasters, which describes some of the most tragic and deadly events in history, including the deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, as well as the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017.
The book includes a foreword by Alan R. Warren, bestselling true crime author and host of the House of Mystery Radio Show.
I am a True Crime fan. I listen and subscribe to several true crime podcasts. As I live in Canada, I am extra interested in those podcasts which are Canadian based. It is through that medium that I first became aware of Mike Browne.
Mike Browne is the host and creator of the “Dark Poutine” podcast. When I learned he was planning to author a book of true stories, I was immediately intrigued. I wondered if he would simply convert episodes of the podcast into written form or if he planned to tell all-new tales.
I now have my answer.
Instead of rehashing stories he had previously covered, MURDER, MADNESS AND MAYHEM is filled with new and fascinating true stories.
The book contains a total of 25 stories, which have been divided into four categories.
Those categories are:
MURDER WITH A TWIST: which contains seven stories that prove that truth really is stranger than fiction. The strangest is the story about spelling out the word M-U-R-D-E-R.
PERPETUAL PUZZLES consists of six stories that remain mysteries to this day. These tales are guaranteed to leave readers wondering.
THE MADNESS OF CROWDS delves into the weirdness that can develop when twisted people join together. This section includes the story of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult.
Last, but not least, is the section called Notable Disasters.
NOTABLE DISASTERS is not a typical chapter you would find in any other true crime book… This is a good thing. I love that Author Mike Browne included such events as the horrific Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, and the story of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, England that took the lives of 72 people and injured more than 60 others in June of 2017.
You will definitely want your friends and family to read this book so that you can discuss it with them. If you work in an office, this book is sure to heat up conversations around the water cooler.
One of the characteristics that I most appreciate about Mike Browne is that he does not cheapen his stories by resorting to shock value. He includes enough details to ensure the reader understands the magnitude of what the victims suffered, but does not include gratuitous gore.
Mike Browne is a fabulous podcast host, and now he has expanded into being a fantastic author as well.
I look forward to his next book as well as to the next episode of Dark Poutine.
I rate MURDER, MADNESS AND MAYHEM as a solid 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
MIKE BROWNE’s curiosity, love of storytelling, and lifelong interest in the true-crime genre led him to create the popular, award-winning Dark Poutine podcast in 2017.
New episodes released weekly cover true crime and dark Canadian history, with a smattering of stories from around the world. Mike’s experience as a trauma survivor is evident in the compassion and thoughtful connection he brings to the stories he writes and voices.
Mike is also a regular co-host on the radio show The House of Mystery, which plays nightly on KCAA in Los Angeles.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
The year is 1969, and fresh-out-of-college smart-aleck Howard Shane has just landed his first teaching job—at Belchertown State School, a bleak institution where people with disabilities endure endless days of silence, tedium, and neglect.
Howard is stunned by the conditions at Belchertown and the challenges of his new job, but as he gets to know his diverse, endearing, and intelligent students, he becomes consumed with a mission: to unlock their communication skills and help them reach their full potential. Pitting his youthful idealism and passion against the rigidity of a rule-bound administrator, Howard battles his way to small joys and victories with his students—and, along the way, learns just as much as he teaches.
A stirring and spellbinding memoir from internationally renowned AAC expert Howard Shane (Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School), Unsilenced is a candid look at a pivotal era in disability history and a deeply personal account of how all human beings can flourish when we care for each other and fight for change.
“It began in 1969, at a school with a name that’s repellent to modern ears: ‘Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded.’ Located in the sleepy town of Belchertown, Massachusetts, it was a grim institution where children with a wide range of disabilities were warehoused for nearly a century. At that time, parents of children with disabilities had few alternatives when it came to raising and educating their children.”
This fantastic memoir is an important addition to the history of people with disabilities. This is a story that MUST be told.
Howard Shane was only 22 when he took a teaching position at the Belchertown State School. Much has been written about the institutions where “disabled” people were warehoused in the past. However, this book is completely unlike any other.
Institutions such as the Belchertown State School were not places of learning as one would expect from the name. It’s full name says much about the commonly held attitudes of the time: The Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded. These were NOT places where hope or inspiration could be found. Instead, the residents were taught either only the basics of self-care, or were taught nothing at all.
When Howard Shane arrived to begin his teaching position, he had no idea that it would shape his entire future.
Determined to actually educate his students, who were the most severely physically disabled residents of the “school,” Howard devised a way for the non-verbal students to actually communicate. This invention changed the lives of his students in untold ways.
His dedication to actually educating his students caused him to butt heads with the administration continuously. His views were seen as radical and his goals for his students were seen as unrealistic and a waste of time.
This book will grab your attention and is 100% unputdownable. Readers will find themselves rooting, not only for Howard Shane, but also for the students in his unconventional classroom.
This book is important. We need to remember the past and how people with disabilities were viewed and treated. This knowledge is essential so that society is never allowed to slip back into believing the uneducated views of the past.
I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who believes that every person, despite their physical and mental disabilities, are important and deserve the chance to be happy and to live a fulfilling life.
I am very much hoping that Dr. Howard Shane decides to write a follow up to this memoir. I would be extremely interested in hearing more about his career and the devices he helped to create. In my view, Howard C. Shane is an exceptional human being and his life and work need to be celebrated.
I rate this book as 5+ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be eagerly awaiting the next volume of his memoirs. . *** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
* Hear an Excerpt Read by Howard Shane, Ph.D. here:
Howard Shane, Ph.D.,is an associate professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center for Communication Enhancement and the Autism Language Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
He has designed more than a dozen computer applications used widely by persons with disabilities and holds two U.S. patents.
Dr. Shane has received Honors of the Association Distinction and is a fellow of the American Speech and Hearing Association.
He is the recipient of the Goldenson Award for Innovations in Technology from the United Cerebral Palsy Association and has authored numerous papers and chapters on severe speech impairment, lectured throughout the world on the topic, and produced numerous computer innovations enjoyed by persons with complex communication disorders.
BROOKES is the premier publisher of practical, research-based resources that support children’s healthy development and boost the learning and success of all people, with and without disabilities. We partner with pioneers and fresh voices to inspire readers and provide them with the tools needed to help all learners achieve academic success and work toward a bright future.
To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:
The Following Photos and Links have nothing to do with Dr. Howard Shane’s memoir. They are included here as additional content I found interesting:
INFORMATION ON THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL
From: The ATLAS OBSCURA WEBSITE
THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL FOR THE FEEBLE-MINDED was founded in 1922.
The 845 acre campus comprising some 57 buildings must be called scenic, if nothing else—the Holyoke Range is visible from the campus, and many of the original structures were old farmhouse cottages (five farms were purchased to build the school).
After its establishment, the school became the only institution for developmentally disabled children in Western Massachusetts. Conditions deteriorated over the next few decades. Wards were overcrowded and attendants overworked. As a result, patients were often left to soak for hours in their own excrement. Sometimes, handicapped patients had their teeth removed to facilitate feeding.
In 1992, the school was finally closed after decades of reported human rights violations. In 1994, the campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the buildings are all boarded up. Graffiti and vandalism are rampant. Many of the ward rooms have been destroyed. Weather has also done its fair share of damage. The buildings have asbestos and, while possible to walk in, aren’t structurally sound.
However relics remain of the old school. One room in a large dormitory building still has plastic mats nailed to the walls—a padded cell. Large recreational rooms on either side of the dormitory halls get the most sun. The light is fractured by old-fashioned wheelchairs. In the basement of one building, a piano is lying on its back like a sleeping horse.
And, while the town of Belchertown may have forgotten this nasty piece of its history in the few decades since the state school was closed, it is possible the former residents still remember. In an upper floor, a note was scrawled on the floor, on top of which were human feces. “We were here. Now we’re gone,” it read. “Clean this place up. It’s a mess!”
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
The grounds are conveniently located right behind the Belchertown Police Department. There are No Trespassing signs, and the local paper reports trespassers being arrested on a weekly basis.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you might find the following links interesting:
Book: Crimes Against Humanity: A Historical Perspective. It was written by Benjamin Ricci, who sent his six-year-old son Bobby to live there not knowing what the conditions were like, and who was involved in the initial 1972 lawsuit.
Another book with vivid descriptions of Belchertown is Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer’s I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes. She was a resident of the school in the 1960s and 1970s. Ruth was one of Howard Shane’s students.