The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream by Dean Jobb

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream:

This Cream has gone bad. (I’ll see myself out.)

Quick synopsis:

The story of Victorian era serial killer, Dr. Thomas Neil Cream.

Fact for Non-History People:

Crime was so bad in one area of London during this time that instead of Waterloo Station people called it “Whoreterloo.” Do not come at me. I merely am reporting what they said back then. Your beef is with Victorian Age Londoners.

Fact for History Nerds:

Reporters found children as young as five out on the streets and stealing to survive.

My Take on The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream:

I have a confession to make. I had this book on my shelf for too long. Admittedly, I bought it because it looked amazing, but when you have a severe book addiction, books can get lost in the shuffle. When I finally pulled it off the shelf, I loved it. The real lesson here? I am an idiot, but we already knew that.

It’s one of the better historical true crime books I have read and that is not a short list. What Dean Jobb has done here is written an extremely interesting book which highlights how a terrible and not very bright man could become a doctor and kill a few people with impunity. Jobb sets the stage for the world Cream lived in exquisitely. The back and forth and downright bizarre twists and turns would be hilariously farcical if it wasn’t for the fact that real people died at the hands of Cream, and it really should not have been all that hard to throw him in jail or hang him. I especially like that Jobb consistently points out themes (e.g., women being ignored, bad policing, Cream being a doctor meaning he could get away with a lot more), but never gets heavy handed. I enjoy it when I don’t feel preached to and just let the story tell itself.


So damn good. Read it. Buy it here!

If You Liked This Try:

The Pirate’s Wife by Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Pirate’s Wife:

She’d rather have been a pirate.

Quick synopsis:

The story of Sarah Kidd, the wife of famous pirate Captain Kidd.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

William Kidd was Sarah’s third husband, but she was still only in her early 20s when they got married.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Sarah was also arrested along with William but would not be executed like him.

My Take on The Pirate’s Wife:

There are lots of problems with pirates. However, the biggest problem for an author is that they tend to leave no records and anything they do leave behind is probably a lie.

Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos’s The Pirate’s Wife runs into this issue and more. It is a biography of William Kidd’s wife Sarah. Kidd is famous for being a doomed pirate who may have been railroaded but also probably had it coming. Kidd is Sarah’s third husband, and she definitely seems like an interesting person to write a book about.

However, Sarah left little to no actual correspondence in her life. Much of the story needs to come from secondary sources or the author is forced to take her best guess. Geanacopoulos does her best with what she has but it’s just too little to work with. I can see that Geanacopoulos is a good writer in how she adeptly tries to tell a complete story, but this subject just leaves way too many holes to write a full-length non-fiction book.

(This book was provided to me as an advance copy by Netgalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing.)


If this is a subject you are interested in, it’s worth a read. Buy it here!

If You Liked This Try:

The Red Planet by Simon Morden

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Red Planet:

I won’t be volunteering for a Mars visit.

Quick synopsis:

A biography of Mars.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

You would weigh a third of what you do on Mars as compared to here on Earth. Man, that would be nice.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Jupiter accounts for 70% of the planetary mass of the solar system. That’s big.

My Take on The Red Planet:

Simon Morden has convinced me that I do not want to colonize Mars. Someone else can take my ticket, thank you.

The Red Planet is a biography of sorts for Mars. It traces its beginning from the literal creation of everything to the present day. We find out why it looks the way it does, what it was like at various stages of development, and what we might need to anticipate as we continue to explore Mars.

I was skeptical about how much I would enjoy this book. I am much more of a narrative history buff, but Morden converted me. He keeps the flow light, puts the reader in some specific scientific situations on a theoretical Mars mission, and never takes himself seriously. If you don’t like science at all, maybe this book isn’t for you. But if you have even the smallest curiosity about other worlds then this book is a great introduction to the science of Mars.

Final disclaimer: yes, there were times I had no idea what Morden was talking about. But hey, there was very little math so yay!

(This book was provided to me as an advance read copy by Netgalley and Elliott & Thompson books.)


Science in readable form! Buy it here!

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Hitler’s Boy Soldiers by Helene Munson

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Hitler’s Boy Soldiers:

Just when you thought the Nazis couldn’t get any worse.

Quick synopsis:

The story of how Hitler and the Nazis indoctrinated young men even before World War II.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

What was a good exercise for these young men? Manning anti-aircraft guns! Yes, really!

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Nazi math included figuring out how much it cost to help the old, invalid, and those with special needs. Yes, to make it easier to have them executed later.

My Take on Hitler’s Boy Soldiers:

Helene Munson’s Hitler’s Boy Soldiers is a deeply moving story of a little studied portion of World War II. Cobbling together the life of her father as a child in the German army, Munson takes the reader through his journey while doing some soul searching herself. The result is a book that, while very small in scope, tackles some much bigger questions about responsibility, generational guilt, and mental health.

Make no mistake, this book will make you feel sick to your stomach. The indoctrination is diabolical and mostly effective. It certainly made me look at Nazis in a slightly different way. When you are told from a very early age how to look at the world, do you have a chance of breaking away from that?

Munson’s book is on the shorter side and does not give an in depth look at the greater events of World War II. However, it does not suffer for it as the story she tells is focused more on family and understanding than anything else.


A brutal but well-written book. A must read for World War II nerds. Buy it here!

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Episode 7 is live! Kevin Birmingham joins the podcast!

This episode is with PEN New England and Truman Capote award winner Kevin Birmingham to talk about his newest book, The Sinner and the Saint. We also talk with Kevin about his previous book, The Most Dangerous Book and we even get into his thoughts on how colleges run their graduate programs.

Check out his website:
Buy The Sinner and the Saint and The Most Dangerous Book

Timely History: Cats and the Catholic Church

Do you own a cat? Are you Catholic? You are a heretic! Burn at the stake!

Just kidding. It’s not like cats were excommunicated by the Catholic Church. I mean there’s even a “cat” in the name for God’s sake (see what I did there?)!

Except, cats were officially excommunicated by the Catholic Church at one point.

Pope Gregory IX (yes, that Pope Gregory) came to the papacy in 1227. We could probably call him the ultimate “not a cat person.” You see, he thought cats housed Satan. Yes, he actually decreed that Satan was half-cat. Cats were used in Satanic masses and that is how Satan would show up. As a Catholic, I’d like to tell you I am making any of this up. I am not. It gets dumber from here!

Guess when people killed lots of cats? During the Great Plague! See, since cats were evil then obviously they brought the plague around. Of course, now we know that rats brought them. And now of course you just made the connection that less cats meant more rats. Welcome to historical irony!

Oh, want to know why there are so few black cats? They were deemed the evilest. So, a lot more them were killed leading to a smaller population today, probably.

Ever hear the saying, “never let a black cat cross your path?” Well, that’s because there is a crazy Catholic behind them attempting to kill them and you may get hurt.

Okay, I made the last one up but everything else is true.

For Further Reading: