My 2020 Reads #TuesdayBookshare

Hey, everyone. Wrapping up the last Tuesday book share with my 2020 reads. I’ve seen a few posts out there with people naming their top ten reads, but I decided to share my entire list.

As in previous years, I took part in the Goodreads Challenge. Because I don’t have a lot of time to read, I usually set my goal low. This year, I set it for twenty-five books. I’m happy to report I surpassed that number by ten.

My favorite genre is mystery and suspense, but this year I branched out into some other areas. For instance, I’ve never been much of a Sci-fi reader, but D L Cross (Staci Troilo) changed my mind. Her Astral Conspiracy series is among my favorite reads of the year.

I read some new to me authors, several short stories, found a few books that had been on my TBR for several years, and purchased older publications by a couple of my all-time favorite authors. I even threw in a couple of non-fiction stories.

Here’s the list in the order I read them. Amazon links are included except for one that is no longer in publication. (Yes, it’s been on my Kindle that long!)

Some books I loved, others not so much, and a couple I stuck with to the end. I had a few books on my Kindle that I began reading but weren’t worthy of finishing. All in all, it’s been a good year for me reading-wise.

I haven’t set my 2021 goals. I thought of increasing it to fifty books (roughly one per week) but that wouldn’t leave me much time to write.

How about you? What are some of your favorite reads for this year? What are your reading goals for 2021?

Book Review ~ Pretty Evil New England

Hey, everyone. Hope this first Tuesday in November finds you well. This week I’m reviewing Pretty Evil New England, a true crime story by author Sue Coletta.


For four centuries, New England has been a cradle of crime and murder—from the Salem witch trials to the modern-day mafia. Nineteenth century New England was the hunting ground of five female serial killers: Jane Toppan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson.

Female killers are often portrayed as caricatures: Black Widows, Angels of Death, or Femme Fatales. But the real stories of these women are much more complex. In Pretty Evil New England, true crime author Sue Coletta tells the story of these five women, from broken childhoods, to first brushes with death, and she examines the overwhelming urges that propelled these women to take the lives of a combined total of more than one-hundred innocent victims. The murders, investigations, trials, and ultimate verdicts will stun and surprise readers as they live vicariously through the killers and the would-be victims that lived to tell their stories.

My Review:

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. No matter how interested I might be in the subject, I usually grow weary after a few chapters and leave the book unfinished.

Not so with Pretty Evil New England. I was intrigued from the moment I learned Sue Coletta was writing this book. And once I began reading, it was hard to put down.

Pretty Evil New England is the story of five nineteenth century female serial killers, Jane Toppan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson. The author’s research into each of these killers is phenomenal. After finishing the book, I’ve concluded female serial killers are colder and more calculating than their male counterparts.

The book reads more like thriller fiction instead of a boring account of the crimes. Ms. Coletta writes about the victims, gives details of the crime, provides stories from witnesses, and covers the trials of each woman.

I hope the author will write more true crime books. If she does, you can bet I’ll be reading them.

Five stars!

Lizzie Borden #MysteryMonday

Hey everyone! Ready for another mystery? Today’s post is one of an unresolved murder.

Just about everyone has heard of Lizzie Borden, the New England woman accused of the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Lizzie’s story has been the subject of movies, literary works, theater productions, even folk rhymes.

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Although they occurred well over a hundred years ago, speculation about Lizzie Borden remains in the twenty-first century.

The publicity surrounding Lizzie’s trial has been compared to those of Bruno Hauptmann, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and in more recent years, O. J. Simpson. Who was Lizzie Borden, and what would cause her to become a prime suspect for murder?

Lizzie Borden (Public Domain Photo)

Lizzie was born on July 19, 1860, the second daughter of Andrew Borden and Sarah Morse. Andrew Borden was a wealthy businessman. At the time of his death, his estate was worth $300,000—the equivalent of 8.5 million in 2019.

Sarah Borden passed away in 1863. Three years later, Andrew married Abby Gray. Lizzie referred to her stepmother as “Mrs. Borden” and believed Abby had married Andrew for his money.

Despite his wealth, Andrew Borden was a frugal person. The Fall River home didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity, even though it was commonplace in the homes of wealthy people at that time.

In the months before the murders, tension had been brewing within the family due to Andrew’s gifts of real estate to members of Abby’s family. The Borden sisters demanded they receive the home they lived in until their mother’s death. They purchased the property from their father for $1.00. Just weeks before the murders, they sold the property back to him for $5,000.00—a tidy profit.

The night before the murders, John Morse, uncle to Lizzie and Emma and brother to their deceased mother, visited. He was invited to stay for a few days to discuss business matters with Andrew. Some have speculated their conversation may have escalated an already tense situation.

The Borden home in Fall River, Massachusetts (Public Domain)

For several days prior, members of the Borden household had been violently ill. A friend suggested the illness was caused by mutton left on the stove. Abby Borden feared someone attempted to poison the family.

On the morning of August 4, John Morse, Andrew, Abby, Lizzie, and the maid, Bridget (Maggie) Sullivan were all present in the house. After breakfast, John and Andrew went into the sitting room to chat. Morse left around nine to take care of some business and planned to return for lunch at noon. Andrew left for his morning walk.

Abby went upstairs between 9:00 and 10:30 to make the bed in the guest room. According to the forensic investigation, Abby was facing her killer at the time of the attack. She was first struck on the side of the head with a hatchet that cut her just above the ear, causing her to turn and fall face down on the floor. Her killer then delivered seventeen more blows to the back of her head.

When Andrew returned around 10:30 am, his key failed to open the door, so he knocked. Sullivan tried to unlock the door and found it jammed. She later testified she heard Lizzie laughing at the time. She stated she didn’t see Lizzie, but the laughter came from the top of the stairs.

By this time, Abby was already dead, and her body would have been visible to anyone on the second floor. Lizzie later denied being upstairs. She testified her father had asked where Abby was, and she replied a messenger had delivered Abby a summons to visit a sick friend. Lizzie also stated she helped remove her father’s boots and helped him into his slippers before he lay down on the sofa for a nap. (Crime scene photos show Andrew wearing boots.)

Sullivan felt unwell and went to take a nap in her bedroom. She later testified she heard Lizzie call from downstairs, “Maggie, come quick! Father’s dead. Somebody came in and killed him.” This was shortly after 11:00 a.m. His wounds were still bleeding, suggesting the attack was very recent. Detectives estimated his death had occurred at approximately 11:00.

Lizzie’s initial answers to the police officers’ questions were at times strange and contradictory. Most of the officers who interviewed Borden said they disliked her attitude. Some claimed she was too calm and poised. Despite her “attitude” and changing alibis, nobody bothered to check her for bloodstains. Police did a cursory inspection of her room. At the trial, they admitted to not doing a proper search.

In the basement, police found two hatchets, two axes, and a hatchet-head with a broken handle. They suspected the hatchet-head was the murder weapon as the break in the handle appeared fresh. The ash and dust on the head, unlike that on the other bladed tools, seemed to have been deliberately applied to make it look as if it had been in the basement for some time. However, they didn’t remove any of the tools from the house.

On August 6, police conducted a more thorough search of the house, inspecting the sisters’ clothing and confiscating the broken-handled hatchet-head. That evening a police officer and the mayor visited and informed Lizzie she was a suspect in the murders.

The next morning, a family friend entered the kitchen and saw Borden tearing up a dress. Lizzie explained she was planning to burn it because it was covered with paint. It’s unclear if this was the dress she wore the day of the murders.

Borden appeared at an inquest hearing on August 8. On August 11, Lizzie arrested and jailed. A grand jury began hearing evidence on November 7, and she was indicted on December 2.

Her trial began on June 5, 1893, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The case went to the jury on June 20. After only 1.5 hours of deliberation, they acquitted her of all charges. Upon exiting the courthouse, Lizzie told reporters she was “the happiest woman in the world.” Although found not guilty, Borden remains the prime suspect. No one else was ever charged in the crimes.

Lizzie Borden remained in Fall River and moved into a larger house. She died of pneumonia on June 1, 1927. Nine days later, her sister Emma passed away. The sisters were buried side by side in the family plot in Oak Grove Cemetery.

D B Cooper #MysteryMonday

Hey, y’all. Welcome to Mystery Monday. Each week, I share a mystery, a legend, or folklore. This week’s post isn’t about folklore or lengends, but is about one of the most notorious (and mysterious) hijackers in US history. This story, like many unsolved mysteries, has always intrigued me. Let’s get to it.

On November 24, 1971, a middle-aged man walked up to the ticket counter of Northwest Orient Airlines at Portland International Airport. He used cash to purchase a one-way ticket on Flight 305 to Seattle, Washington. The man identified himself as Dan Cooper, wore a dark suit, white shirt, black tie, and raincoat. He carried a briefcase.

After boarding, he handed a note to the flight attendant and asked that she sit beside him. Thinking it contained his phone number, she didn’t look at it. Cooper stated, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.”

FBI composite of Dan Cooper, AKA D B Cooper

He demanded $200,000, four parachutes, and that a fuel truck to be standing by in Seattle. Cooper then showed the attendant what appeared to be a bomb inside the briefcase. She informed the flight crew, they contacted air traffic control, which in turn notified the FBI.

The airline stated they wished to pay the ransom. FBI assisted the airline in obtaining the money. The 200K was in twenty-dollar bills. Each one was photographed and the serial numbers recorded.

In the meantime, the flight took off from Portland with thirty-five passengers and five crew members aboard. When it landed in Seattle, the money and parachutes were delivered, and Cooper allowed the passengers to go free. The flight crew and one flight attendant remained on board.

After refueling, the plane took off on a course set for Mexico City. After becoming airborne, Cooper ordered the flight attendant to join the flight crew. Shortly after that, an alarm indicated the back-stairwell door had been opened, followed by a rapid changed in the air pressure.

Somewhere over the southern part of Washington state, Cooper jumped. No one has seen him since. Many believe he died in the Washington forest, while others believe he survived.

In 1980, a young boy found $5800 buried along the banks of the Columbia River. Serial numbers matched those of the ransom money given to Cooper. The remaining money has never been located, and not a single bill has been in circulation.

Who was D B Cooper? No one knows for sure, but many believe he was a former US Army paratrooper named Robert Rackstraw. Rackstraw died of natural causes in his San Diego home in July. At one time, he claimed to be Cooper but later recanted his story.

The FBI suspended the official investigation into the hijacking in 2016. If you’d like to read more about the FBI’s investigation, click this link.

What do you think? Did Cooper survive? Will we ever learn his real identity? Share your thoughts in the comments.