Trying To Stay Sexy & Not Get Murdered
I recently finished reading, err listening (Audible), to “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.”
While I am a Gen X’er with a black-belt in Dr. Michael Baden’s Autopsy, have childhood memories of watching countless episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, and have a penchant for anything on the Investigation Discovery (ID) and A&E channels, I am not a devout follower of the co-authors’, Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, “My Favorite Murder” podcast.
I know, right? What is wrong with me? I tried to listen to MFM a few times but found they deviate from the true-crime topic far too often for my liking to discuss the day-to-day filler of their lives. To be fair, this was my assessment after listening to only a few early episodes.
I am fascinated with forensics and am a true crime enthusiast. Until recently, I would go to bed, easing myself into dreamland while listening to things indicative to City Confidential’s “It was a lovely day in May when they found Steve’s body along the river’s edge.”
But I had to limit my true-crime listening to daytime hours after my significant other complained he was too horrified to fall asleep most nights — laying there, wide awake at 3 am as I dozed, listening to the grisly details of a murder unfold and how they went about solving it. This was after 20 straight nights of listening to, Gregg Olsen’s Dangerous Dozen, a 20+ hour true crime anthology detailing some of the most gruesome true crimes ever investigated. Now we just fall asleep to “fake” horror (No Sleep Podcast or fictional mystery audiobooks).
Technically I am a Murderino, in the sense that I am right there in MFM’s key demographic of listeners/readers and share many of the same macabre interests. Sometimes I joke, implying with my 30+ years of true crime knowledge and my degree in biotechnology, “I could make the Easter Bunny look like he did it.” That, and I’m the inappropriate weirdo who talks about this stuff (crime-solving and odd medical or forensic factoids about human remains) at dinner parties, putting people off their meal. Hey, this is what happens when you invite a true crime fan/introvert to your dinner and expect her to make idle chit-chat with strangers.
Also, don’t invite me to watch anything with you and expect me to keep quiet when I see something glaringly (medically or forensically) inaccurate. I’m also going to throw out a couple of guesses as to how the person died before the “CSI” team figures it out 20 minutes later and dance about in my seat when I’m right.
Anyway, I gave SS&DGM book a shot. I expected it to be a more edited, concise version of their podcast, focusing more on the true crime than their own lives. It wasn’t. Apparently, I neglected to focus on the fine print of the cover just below the authors' names. It specifically states, again in very tiny text, ‘a dual memoir.’ My mistake.
Yes, they drop a few wonderful, informative gems on how the narrative surrounding victimhood needs to change. But most of the book is a memoir about their respective childhoods as latchkey kids, with eating disorders, kleptomania, drug use, alcoholism, the red flags to look out for when you first start dating a guy, being branded the crazy ex-girlfriend, the crappy jobs they’ve worked, therapy, therapy, therapy, self-care, and therapy.
After a while, I thought they should have reconsidered and titled it, Stay Sexy and Get A Therapist.
It was as though they took a short book on true crime insights and a more detailed two-person memoir and crammed them together like ill-fitting puzzle pieces. This isn’t a definitive how-to guide as the title suggests, it is a dual-person memoir told in alternating chapters. I simply had different expectations of where I assumed the book would go after the first chapter “F*ck Politeness.”
I did enjoy the read. I just wasn’t satisfied with the minuscule amount of true crime they covered and felt a hint misled by the larger than life title. I know. Mine is not the popular opinion.
Nevertheless, I love listening to strong women share their opinions on how the system should be revamped to consider the victims' needs, and had hoped for more of that in this book.
For example, they cited how the Canadian authorities poorly handled its approach towards women, warning them how to comport themselves in public during the Bernardo/Homolka murdering spree in the late 80’s early 90's. The implied narrative, putting the onus on the potential victims. I can’t do the section justice, it is fantastic. You’ll have to read/listen to, “Karen’s Lessons from Listeners and Canadian Aldermen.”
If you are purely in it for the true-crime and forensics, like me, I have a few book suggestions for you:
- I Will Find You: Solving Killer Cases from My Life-Fighting Crime (Homicide Hunter) by Joe Kenda
I bought this book on the first day of its release and was not disappointed in the slightest. Do yourself a favor and get the audio version. Kenda narrates. You will get Homicide Hunter chills as you listen to Kenda’s unique, no-nonsense, deadpan style as he recounts his 23-year career with the Colorado Springs Police Department. Joe Kenda investigated 387 murder cases; nearly solving all of them years before DNA forensics was a thing. Kenda provides graphic details about some of the more gruesome, macabre, and complex cases of his career.
Overall the book is entertaining IF you are into the life and times of a homicide detective. It is not light, carefree listening/reading. It IS a bluntly told outline of many cases Kenda was involved in with some sprinkles of dark humor.
Kenda is pragmatic and unforgiving when it comes to criminals, negligent parents, as well as temperamental children. The man was a school bus driver for a while after he retired from law enforcement.
Trigger warning: if you are not into hearing about the detailed gore of a crime scene in real life, no the Hollywood glamourized version, don’t read a book written by a seasoned homicide detective.
2. Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murder, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson.
A pioneer in forensic anthropology, Dr. Bill Bass set out to create the world’s first laboratory dedicated to the study of human decomposition in a variety of settings, known as the Body Farm. Bass’ Body Farm was established in the 1980s at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. This research, while distasteful and disgusting to some, has revolutionized forensic science, helping crack cold cases.
Some of the cases detailed in this book rely on the simplest of tools and techniques, while others hinge on sophisticated techniques Dr. Bass could not have imagined when he began his career: using computer data and video image processing to help identify murder victims; harnessing scanning electron microscopy to detect trace elements in knife wounds; and extracting DNA from a long-buried corpse, only to find that the female murder victim may have been mistakenly identified a quarter-century before.
3. No Stone Unturned: The True Story of the World’s Premier Forensic Investigators by Steve Jackson.
No Stone Unturned details the origins of NecroSearch International (aka “the pig people”), a small, diverse group comprised of scientists and law enforcement personnel, active and retired, who volunteer their services to help locate the clandestine graves of murder victims. The goal is to recover any remains along with evidence in order to assist with the apprehension and conviction of the perpetrators.
NecroSearch has evolved into one of the most respected forensic investigation teams in the world. No Stone Unturned, vividly tells the story of this incredible group and recounts some of their most memorable cases.
Honorable Mentions for those more interested in the medical side:
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris
Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz