I held off on posting this here because I thought my new book blog was going to be ready to go, and this would be the inaugural deal, but. It hasn’t happened yet. So. here you go.
I got this book for Christmas from the Mister and I was super excited about it because if there are two things in this world I love, they’re true crime and Michigan. Don’t judge. I love other shit too.
This book started out fun and quickly grew annoying. For an author who allegedly spent 25 years in Traverse City, he certainly seems fixated on Detroit. Like everybody else in the world. Guess what, America! There are, in fact, a whole bunch of other cities in Michigan. And somebody’s been murdered in all of them. I guarantee it.
OK, I’m being a little harsh. This book is a fun, quick read – each murder is presented as a brief summary – like a book full of murder blurbs. (Although I could easily fall into an argument over the difference between killing and murder, and some of the cases presented here don’t seem particularly murdery to me.) Each murder is also accompanied by the “murder map,” which gives you the location, or approximate location that it took place, and whether or not the house/hotel/school/whatevah is still standing. It also gives you a little bit of loosely related history of the era and or area. So obviously it’s not an in depth true crime masterpiece.
But dear God. If you’re going to call your book “Blood on the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders 1700s to Present,” shouldn’t all of the murders in the book actually have taken place IN THE MITTEN?? Just because a murderer hails from the Water Winter Wonderland, doesn’t mean it’s a “Michigan Murder.” St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Didn’t happen here. And frankly, you present only tenuous evidence at best that it was even related to criminals from – you guessed it – Detroit. The killing of peaceful Cheyenne at Washita River? Nowhere near this pleasant peninsula, my friend. Who gives a bag of Better Made if Custer grew up here? His famous Last Stand was over a thousand miles away from here. And while Fort Custer may be about 5 minutes from my house, I’m not convinced the man ever actually even set foot on that land. (I suppose it’s possible, I’ve done no actual research. But he was from the east side of the state. What else is on the east side of the state? Hmmmm, let me think. Oh yeah! DETROIT.) The Oklahoma City bombing? Last time I checked, Oklahoma City was in Oklahoma. And while McVeigh and Nichols, vile and loathsome murderers, indeed, may have hailed from eastern Michigan, they didn’t commit their horrific act of terrorism here. McKinley’s assassination? Guess what? Went down in Buffalo. New York that is. Decidedly not Michigan. I mean. If you wanted to write a book about famous murderers who hailed from Michigan, you probably should have done that.
Also, dude. WHYYYYYYYYYYY so much Detroit? (I’m 100% including the few suburbs of the Motor City when I say Detroit. As far as we on the West Side are concerned, it’s all the same.) What about the Marshall murder of local television news anchor Diane King by her husband, former police officer and WMU adjunct instructor, Bradford King? (I read a book about that one.) Or the 1999 murder of Kalamazoo College student Maggie Wardle by her ex boyfriend? (I read a book about this one too – The Events of October, which is a good, though incredibly tragic read.) The only Kalamazoo murder mentioned is the Uber driver who terrorized the city in early 2016 and gave what was ultimately the final shove to centralizing our county-wide 911 dispatch system, for good or ill, we shall see.
OK, again, I’m being harsh. And slightly exaggerating. There are other cities listed. Mostly the U.P. and northern lower Michigan. Very very little from West Michigan or South Central Michigan. (We’re a much bigger state than you think, my chickens.) Still, Detroit isn’t literally the only region represented. It’s just over-represented. And frankly, West Michigan is tired of that shit. The second largest city in Michigan is Grand Rapids. Which is in West Michigan. (Granted, I don’t spend a lot of time there either. Me+Big Cities = claustrophobia.) Pay attention to us!!
Despite my trash talk, and the presence of a handful of editing misses (always annoying), the book is indeed full of interesting things I had not known before. For instance, I’m going to have to make a trip back to Mackinac Island – I haven’t visited since I was a kid anyway – to see the “Drowning Pool” where the Brits shoved women weighted with rocks off a 20 foot drop into a pool of water. Like all accused in the 1700s, if they could swim and save themselves they were witches. If they drowned, they were innocent. The pool is said to be haunted. (If you’re in the Mitten and want to find out for yourself, it’s near Mission Point Resort.)
I also learned that The Lone Ranger began as a radio show in bloody Detroit, along with The Green Hornet.
I really am not a fan of Detroit. (Don’t tell my sister in law, she’s a native. I’m pretty sure she has an old English D tattooed somewhere on her person.)
2.5 out of 5. If we’re handing out stars. Fun for true crime buffs, but not the best ever. Definitely a must for MI true crime connoisseurs. Sorry, Tom Carr. Please don’t show up at my door to punch me. This is all meant in good (honest) fun.