The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic “Fingerprinting”

by Joseph Wambaugh

The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh

If you know me, or read this website, you know I like true crime. Maybe that is wrong. No one should like crime. Let us just say that I am always interested to read about true crime, or watch a documentary, listen to a podcast, etc. I am familiar with the case in The Blooding as it was groundbreaking for the use of DNA and (at the time) state of the art genetics science. It is also famous for the false confession of one of the accused. So, I knew the general story of this case before the book came into my life.

On the surface, this is the story of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashforth, two teenagers who were raped and murdered three years apart near the village of Narborough and how police used the state of the art “genetic fingerprinting” to identify the killer, a man who had been overlooked in the original investigations. On closer inspection, this books discusses the murders as they unfold. The book is chronological, so we begin with an aside about village life from the perspective of the author who is american. Wambaugh makes it his duty to force the reader into the ‘feel’ of English village living. I think it was an unnecessary aside, but not as unnecessary as the next aside where he discusses the relationship between a 13 yr old girl whose CB handle was Green Demon and the boy (CB handle Spirit) with whom she begins a dangerous relationship. Spirit has unusual sexual demands for a teenaged boy and uses violence and emotional abuse to get his way. The book then transitions to how Lynda Mann’s family came to live in the village. That is just one example of the transitions in this book being very terrible. More on that later. Lynda was a nice girl whose babysitting gig was cancelled so she went to meet with some friends. When she couldn’t find them, she headed home, but never arrived. Her mom and step dad went out to look for her, then reported her missing, but the police treated the news very casually. The next morning a hospital worker found Lynda’s body lying in a short cut, dead. One of the many tragedies of the case is that Lynda’s stepfather had searched that particular path the night before in the dark and had passed by Lynda’s body but could not see her. Initially, detectives look at the mental hospital close by to find subjects. They also follow up leads and even spend time looking at Lynda’s stepfather. Eventually, they can’t find anyone to match the semen found on Lynda. And when I say match semen, I mean blood type was all they could get in the early 80s. The semen found at the scene showed a Group A secretor PGM 1 +. Roughly, ten percent of the male population. Her case goes cold and three years later Dawn Ashforth goes missing. Her body is discovered two days later and similarities to the Mann case bother detectives. The semen at the scene had the same blood type as Mann’s murderer. During this time the police arrest a teenager and charge him with the crime. The teenager confessed, but doubts about the credibility of that confession bother the police and they ask Dr. Alec Jeffrys to compare the suspect’s semen to the semen found on both girls. DNA technology had BARELY begun to be used in civil cases to prove paternity and the like, but it had never been used on a criminal investigation. The semen didn’t match the suspect. The police force then asked all the men in a three village radius to voluntarily submit blood samples to be tested against the killer’s DNA. I won’t spoil it for you, but they eventually get their guy. And lest you get too sorry for the teenager who confessed to the crime, well, he raped children so I don’t think he deserves that much sympathy.

What I liked about the book were the tiny details. Wambaugh was able to interview the families involved and share some personal insights into their struggles and the days and years after their children were taken from them. This personal touch is especially good when talking about forensics which can be a bit boring. The scientific community were still in the process of establishing protocols of how to collect and test for DNA and some of the early methodology if fascinating. What I think Wambaugh didn’t do well was display a certain smugness. At times he delivers the narrative like a tabloid journalist and stylistically, I hate that. The transitions, as mentioned before, weren’t all that good. That goes into the idea of leaving certain chapters like cliff hangers. The story itself was compelling enough that those tired little devises are unnecessary and distracting. I do feel like he gave the murderer (who was not Spirit from the beginning of the book, lest you assume that should logically follow, as any logical person would) and the victims and their families equal time which is refreshing. In true crime, we tend to focus on the murderer, and that is a disservice to the lives taken. True crime junkies will like this book. Also, a few of my science minded friends will appreciate the history of how DNA came to be widely respected and the rule in criminal cases today.

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Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings

by Margarita Engle

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle

Being of mixed cultural heritage has made me curious about other’s experiences growing up. Did they feel too much one thing, not enough another? How does a person reconcile two very distinct sides? To that end I picked up Margarita Engle’s poetry book. Poetry is a VERY tricky thing as a reader, particularly this kind of poetry that also doubles as a memoir. Read More »

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms

by Amy Stewart

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart

At this point, I’d read anything Amy Stewart published. I love her non fiction. I love her fiction. I’d even read this book about worms. Read More »

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I tend to read a lot of non fiction, so I am inevitably behind on good fiction reads. This was recommended to me via a social media request by several of my trusted reader friends and it did not disappoint. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. I hated everyone and loved them all at the same time. Read More »

Running for Women: Ditch the Excuses and Start Loving Your Run

by Danica Newon

Running For Women: Ditching the Excuses and Start Loving Your Run by Danica Newton

This is an internet age, and from what I can tell all of the information in this book is very basic, and very much on the internet. In short, it doesn’t need to be in book format. The information isn’t horrible or false, it just is surface level stuff that if you aren’t a beginning runner, you already know. Read More »

Alexander Hamilton

by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

As I write this, of course I am assailed with the soothing sounds of Lin Manuel Miranda singing, “Alexander Hamilton, my name is Alexander Hamilton.” I read this book previous to the musical being the hit that it turned out to be, and was skeptical about it because a reader friend of mine had read it and not loved it, but what can one do? It looked big and bulky, and hey, I like history as much as the next gal, so I knew I’d give it a try. Read More »

Wonder

by R. J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My friend/neighbor both a book reader and elementary teacher highly recommended this one. She teaches 5th grade and swears by this book so I felt I had to read it. It is a sweet story that involved lots of tears and can see why she requires her class to read it together. Read More »

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer

by Kate Summerscale

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

Another book that I wanted to love, but just didn’t. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher , written by Summerscale, is one of my favorite true crime books, and a book by which I judge other books a lot of the time. This one was a disappointment. Read More »

Girl Waits with Gun

by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

For regular readers of this website (hi, Mom), you are aware I have a thing for Amy Stewart books.  I’ve read about worms, how to make alcohol from plants, killer bugs, etc… So when I saw she had a fiction book coming out that wasn’t about natural earth science, I was intrigued. I honestly did not expect to like it. Read More »

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

by Douglas Preston

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Full disclosure, I struggled to read this one. I kept picking it up and putting it down, though the subject matter is something I typically enjoy. Searching for lost civilisations in the jungle? Yes, please? A potential curse involved? Even better! But no, Preston managed to make it more boring than it needed to be, or perhaps I was expecting something other than the book that I read. Read More »

Confessions of an Unlikely Runner

by Dana L. Ayers

Confessions of an Unlikely Runner by Dana L. Ayers

Back to my task of reading one running book a month until I am running again. Good news on that front, I have started shuffling (it would not be fair to call it running) again, but I’ve been doing this weekly and while my mileage and speed are nothing to brag about, well, I am doing it, and perhaps one day I will brag again. Confessions of an Unlikely Runner was a great addition to my running library. I feel like Ayers and I could be friends if we met in real life because we are both unlikely runners. In Ayers case, the very first sentence of the very first chapter I’m not naturally athletic is basically my rallying cry, and when she continues that she was more of a book nerd growing up… well, lets let this website speak to that, shall we? Read More »

Of Time and Memory: A Mother’s Story

by Don J. Snyder

Of Time and Memory by Don. J. Snyder

Folks, this is a sad one. A truly sad one. This book first came to my consciousness when I was watching a film that used a quotation from the text “Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story”. I furiously tried to copy the reference because it sounded like a book I needed to have in my life. I was right. Of Time and Memory (I’ve also found the same book with A Parents’ Love Story) tells the story of a man trying to piece together the story of his mother’s life. Read More »

Jim Henson: The Biography

by Brian Jay Jones

Jim Henson the Autobiography by Brian Jay Jones

I was not, like so many of my peers, brought up on the muppets. Sure, I remember Kermit singing, Rainbow Connection, and quite liked it, but I never watched the movies or the tv show. I also didn’t enjoy Sesame Street. I didn’t like Fraggle Rock. My biggest exposure to Jim Henson was through the puppets on Star Wars or The Dark Crystal, which I genuinely thought was one of the most amazing things ever. My seven year old self spent a long time playing the Dark Crystal, and I’ve been tempted to re-watch it as an adult, but I fear that I’ll dislike it and have no desire to destroy the nostalgia. Read More »

Best Boy

by Eli Gottlieb

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb

This is another audiobook, so I’ll review the content as well as how I enjoyed the audio narration. I’d seen little blurbs for this book on my internets and had wanted to read it for a while before it was on sale on my audible account (speaking of which, I am reminded of credits that I need to spend…). I am particularly interested in books of this nature as they deal with a subject that I am interested in. What does life look like for mentally disabled adults once their parents have passed away? Read More »

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

We all have eras of history that we find more fascinating than others. While I find US history interesting, it doesn’t usually captivate me in the same way that Latin American history does, but Nathaniel Philbrick is changing that. I read In the Heart of the Sea and quite enjoyed it. Read More »

The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic “Fingerprinting”

by Joseph Wambaugh

The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh

If you know me, or read this website, you know I like true crime. Maybe that is wrong. No one should like crime. Let us just say that I am always interested to read about true crime, or watch a documentary, listen to a podcast, etc. Read More »

The Zodiac Legacy: The Dragon’s Return

by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore

The Zodiac Legacy: The Dragon Returns by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore

In my quest to find engaging books for my own kids to read as they get older… I keep reading middle grade or YA books, even though they aren’t my favorite genres. I just want to let you know up front that if you like the aforementioned genres, you’d probably give this book a higher grade than I did.  Read More »

Assisted: An Autobiography

by John Stockton with Kerry L. Pickett

Assisted an autobiography by John Stockton

Full disclosure. I care less than not at all about professional sports. Well, perhaps that isn’t entirely accurate. I am an only girl, raised with boys who LOVE sports. Though football is the big one in my family, all other sports are also welcomed. And local teams… well, mostly they love the local teams. I am from Utah and was a teenager in the glory days of the Utah Jazz when Stockton and Malone were making playoffs left and right and losing championships to the Chicago Bulls. Read More »

Midwinterblood

by Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Sometimes it is hard to know if I’ve judged a book harshly or not… Midwinterblood falls into that category. Read More »

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride

by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Unlike most of my peers, I didn’t grow up watching The Princess Bride as a kid. I vaguely remember my 4th grade best friend, Katy, raving about it and arranging for me to watch it at her house. I have no idea why that never happened but it didn’t. Instead, I watched it for the first time as a freshman in college, and I LOVED it! I am glad I came to it later than a lot of my friends because some of the subtle humor is really best observed by older teens or adults.  Read More »

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Warning, I listened to this one via audiobook, and it may have tainted my perception of the book in its entirety. I typically enjoy Neil Gaiman, so I went into this book prepared to really enjoy it, which also might color my view. Do not misunderstand, I didn’t hate this book, I just found it disappointing. Read More »

The Rosie Project

by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Fiction books are tricky things, sometimes. For example… sometimes I hover on the grade should it be A- or should it be B+? I enjoyed it. The characters were engaging and well rounded… but does it answer those big questions, or does it have big ideas like I feel an A book should have. The Rosie Project encouraged me to think of larger concepts without trying to hit me over the head with them, which I loved. Read More »

David Spade is Almost Interesting

by David Spade

David Spade is Almost Interesting by David Spade

Let us take a moment to talk audiobooks. This is not the first audiobook I listened to… no that honor goes to a horrible Star Wars audiobook which I will be reviewing shortly (and when I say shortly, I actually have no idea when I will get to it… I used to do these things in order, but I’ve given that up). Read More »

The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich

by Robert K Wittman and David Kinney

The Devil's Diary by Robert K Wittman and David Kinney

Back to reading WWII books, I see. Yes, I am. I genuinely can’t help myself no matter how hard I try. I feel as though I am not entirely to blame because of each book published every year, I’d wager a high percentage are about WWII. Like how I kept it vague without any real statistics? Read More »

Mudbound

by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

I honestly don’t remember how this one came into my consciousness. I don’t believe anyone recommended it and I think vaguely I read the synopsis of the movie version and thought that it sounded like an interesting book? Either way, I got it from my old friend Amazon and the rest is history. I really enjoyed this book and it isn’t the sort of fiction that I tend to like. So often I read books about race relations in the deep south pre civil rights movement and I have to roll my eyes so often (I’m looking at you, The Help). Read More »

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and The University of Colorado Men’s Cross Country Team

by Chris Lear

Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear

If you read this website regularly (and there is no guarantee that you do… I’ve seen my web page analytics), you know that I like to read running books as I consider myself a runner on sabbatical just waiting for that magical day when I am no longer birthing or breastfeeding humans and can devote time back to running. Read More »

It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)

by Nora McInerny Purmort

It's Ok to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmont

Sigh… where to begin? Reviewing a book like this is a bit of a challenge. Purmort’s biggest claim to fame, and her reason for writing a memoir in the first place, is that her husband died of cancer. So, if you criticize a book like this, you come across as a jerk… So with that understanding, I am going into this immediately letting you know that I DISLIKED this book. Read More »

The Trespasser

by Tana French

The Trespasser by Tana French

French and I have had a pretty serious thing going on since I read one of her books while I was in the hospital delivering my first child in 2010. Then I read another in 2012 while I was in the hospital with my second child. And again in 2014 with my third child. Well, her new book came out and I was nowhere near having a kid, so I had to break our streak and read The Trespasser. I was initially pretty thrilled because I knew this book would follow Antionette Conway who I enjoyed in the last book and wanted to delve more into what a partnership between her and Stephen Moran would look like. Read More »

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

by Amy Chua

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

I’d heard a lot about this book and had always wanted to read it. I’d read excerpts of a few of her other books and it looked like Battle Hymn was a bit of a departure, but exciting none the less. Then I had the opportunity to hear Chua speak at my brother’s law school graduation and enjoyed what she had to say. She spoke a lot about the backlash she received after writing the book and the controversy surrounding it. Which goes to show you, people who don’t read books shouldn’t get to make talking points on morning shows. Read More »

Unfamiliar Fishes

by Sarah Vowell

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

This is another book I picked up for research for our family trip to Hawaii in 2016. I’m already a fan of Vowell, and at this point I’d already done a fair amount of research so I was excited to add Vowell’s perspective. I knew there were certain things I could count on in a Vowell history. 1- She was going to be cutting. 2- She was going to find the ridiculous. 3-She might eviscerate the colonists. I was right on all counts. Read More »

The Song of the Quarkbeast: the Chronicles of Kazam Book Two

by Jasper Fforde

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde loses no steam with his followup to The Last Dragonslayer. In the last book we discovered a few things. The Mighty Shandar is kind of not a nice person. Jennifer is a berserker. Big Magic is back. Read More »