Jessica Speart: Winged Obsession

“Butterflies are sensitive indicators as to the overall health of the environment. They’re the above ground equivalent of canaries in the coal mine.”

Technically, this isn’t a true crime book, as the crimes perpetrated are against butterflies, but the point Speart makes clear in her compulsively readable book is that crimes against wildlife are indeed a serious matter. A well researched, very inside look at the world of butterfly collecting and smuggling, Speart even supplies the reader with both a hero, Fish & Wildlife newbie Ed Newcomer, and a villain, Japanese butterfly smuggler Yoshi Kojima. Her threads are obsession; the virtual futility facing Wildlife enforcement officers, who are understaffed and whose punishments have little teeth; and the point that even the extinction of a butterfly causes an environmental ripple that affects us all. While the interactions between Ed and Yoshi take on the structure of an elaborate game, the stakes are high. read more

Steve Miller: Girl, Wanted: The Chase For Sarah Pender

The femme fatale is a stock figure in our culture, enough of a cliche that a culture luminary like Britney Spears pasted the phrase on her latest piece of product. Some feminist scholars maintain that the concept itself is nothing but a social construct, the result of fin de siecle anxieties about the emancipation of women. I invite any savant who thinks that femme fatales are imaginary bogeywomen to make the acquaintance of Sarah Pender, the central figure of Steve Miller’s riveting new true crime book Girl, Wanted: The Chase For Sarah Pender – it’s a lot easier than learning the truth at the wrong end of a shot gun. read more