Anne Bonny #BookReview The Man I Think I know by @mikegayle 5* #Literary @HodderBooks ‘This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle’

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The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.

He likes to know what happens next.

Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.

The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.

But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.

My Review:

I actually got completely and utterly confused in the synopsis of this novel. I thought it was a modern-day version of Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. I wrongly assumed it was a story of romance between James and Danny. It is not!
That’s not to say, it isn’t just as beautiful and emotive in it’s creation.
The novel focuses on the friendship between Danny and James.
Which is a tender, moving and inspiring story.

‘Some people are simply beyond redemption or salvation or whatever, some of us are simply stuck being what we are’ – Danny

The novel opens to Danny getting the upsetting news that his dole is about to be stopped. He lives with his girlfriend Maya, whom he knows will be furious to discover this. Danny is 36yrs old and appears to have simply given up with life. He applies for a position at Four Oaks residential & respite home. He doesn’t do this to improve the lives of others, but simply to find easy and quick employment. He has no idea, how this choice will have a massive impact upon his life.

James is also 36yrs old, he is learning to adapt his lifestyle due to a savage and brutal attack. James was once a wealthy and privileged property develop. He was celebrating being elected as Labour MP for Birmingham South, when he was viciously assaulted. The attack left him with life-changing disabilities. He lives with his parents and enters the respite centre, so that his parents can enjoy a three-week cruise.
It has been three years since the incident that changed his life. Since the incident James has lived a life of ‘playing it safe’ which by my interpretation is surviving not living.

‘Ever since the incident the safe side is all I get to know’ – James

James arrives at Four Oaks and instantly recognises Danny from his past. But James memory is not always to be trusted, due to his acquired brain injury. Danny denies knowing who James is, which leaves James feeling even more confused and convinced that he knows Danny.

The author has written a thoroughly accurate description of a care home. My previous career was not only working in care homes but as management too. I have cared for individuals with acquired brain injuries and their level of needs is extremely complex and individual. Similarly, to dementia, no person is impacted exactly the same and the symptoms vary person to person. The author has done an outstanding level of research and paid attention to the details. I am MASSIVELY impressed.

Danny eventually admits the truth, that he does know how James is. It turns out the two attended the same prestigious boarding school. Danny was attending on scholarship and his intelligence was renowned. Which is why James is confused as to how/why Danny ended up as a carer. But just like James, Danny has a complex backstory too.

‘I just want to be normal’ – James

The two form a friendship based around James’s desire to live as independently as possible and Danny’s attempt at some form of redemption. What flows is a gentle and emotive novel. There are parts that are emotionally charged. One specific part is Martha’s letter, at that precise moment, I just dissolved into tears.

This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle.

Simply beautiful 5*

MG
Mike Gayle
Twitter
Website

Anne Bonny #NonFiction #BookReview Betrayal – The crisis In The Catholic Church 5* #Spotlight #BostonGlobe

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Betrayal – The crisis In The Catholic Church by The investigative staff of the Boston Globe
My own copy
Synopsis:

THE BOOK WHICH INSPIRED SPOTLIGHT, 2016 WINNER OF THE BEST PICTURE OSCAR AND THE BEST SCREENPLAY OSCAR

This is the true story of how a small group of courageous journalists uncovered child abuse on a vast scale – and held the Catholic Church to account. Betrayal is a ground-breaking work of investigative journalism, now brought brilliantly to life on the screen in the major new movie Spotlight.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

On 31 January 2002, the Boston Globe published a report that sent shockwaves around the world. Their findings, based on a six-month campaign by the ‘Spotlight’ investigative team, showed that hundreds of children in Boston had been abused by Catholic priests, and that this horrific pattern of behaviour had been known – and ignored – by the Catholic Church. Instead of protecting the community it was meant to serve, the Church exploited its powerful influence to protect itself from scandal – and innocent children paid the price.

This is the story from beginning to end: the predatory men who exploited the vulnerable, the cabal of senior Church officials who covered up their crimes, the ‘hush money’ used to buy the victims’ silence, the survivors who found the strength to tell their story, and the Catholics across the world who were left shocked, angry, and betrayed. This is the story, too, of how they took power back, confronted their Church and called for sweeping change.

Updated for the release of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, this is a devastating and important exposure of the abuse of power at the highest levels in society.

My Review:

I originally bought this book for myself and my brother. My little brother is a (soon to be) third year journalism student. I was keen to understand, what goes on behind the scenes in investigative journalism. I had also already previously seen the Hollywood movie Spotlight. I was looking for the extra depth that could have been missed in a movie adaption.
What I found within the pages of this book, shook me to the core.

The investigation began at the Boston Globe under editor Walter V Robinson. The primary reporters were Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer and Michael Rezendes. Although many more reporters would later join the cause. The original investigation was to look into the actions of Rev John J Geoghan’s crimes.
Was this a one-off or a pattern of behaviour?

What the team uncovered was multiple claims, some financially settled. They also uncovered records either missing or legally sealed.
They began by attempting to unseal Geogahn’s papers.

‘The documents proved that the Archdiocese had known of Geoghan’s abuse of children for generations’

Yes, It took me a moment to digest that word too, GENERATIONS! Not days, weeks or months which would also be unforgivable, but generations.
The Globe ran a piece, which covered 70 priests that can been accused and had financially settled cases.

‘The abuse was widespread and had gone unchecked for decades’

A further four reporters were added to the team Stephen Kurkjian, Thomas Farragher, Kevin Cullen and regional reporter Michael Paulson. This was due to the huge-scale of the investigation and pattern of systemic abuse.

The book covers various angles of the investigation.
The origins and its causes.
The behaviour of abusive priests.
Impact on victims.
Role of key figures.
How the Catholic church might change as a result.

It is clear to see the Globe intended to get to the bottom of these cases and fully involve victims in the process of the journey. With 176 priests accused across the USA alone in just the first four months of expose in 2002. The team were going to have their work cut out. They also faced opposition from the church and had to bear in mind that of Boston’s 3.8 million population, 2 million identify as catholic. It would be a scandal that would surely rock Boston. Eventually it was a scandal, that rocked the entire Catholic faith across the world.

‘Nowhere else was the impact of the scandal more deeply felt. And nowhere else was the erosion of deference traditionally shown the church more dramatic’

The churches initial reaction of ‘damage limitation’ actively put abusers back into circulation. Allowing them to move freely around prominent positions within the community and allowing them so amass victims on a monumental scale.
Early on, the expose led to resignations in France, Wales, Poland and Ireland.

Geoghan himself at this point was known to have nearly 200 victims. So nonchalant, he would openly describe how he picked his victims. He began by targeting predominantly boys from poverty and single parent homes. He would appear to offer the mother ‘help’ by taking the young boys out for ice-cream or bathing them before bed. This gave him opportunity to abuse. The cover-up would involve politicians, police, prosecutors and judges. With the statute of limitations also being a hinder to the pursuit of justice.

‘If there are any heroes in this squalid tale, they are the victims, who found their voice, who found their courage, after years of suffering in silence and isolation, to step into the light and say, as one did “This happened to me, and this is wrong”‘

The book does detail individual stories from survivors of the abuse. We hear from one of the mother’s who’s four sons were abused. Hearing her repeat their admissions to her, was heart breaking reading. Even through the pages of a novel, reading many years after the scandal broke. The pain is raw and real, every single word of it.

If/when the mother’s found the courage to speak out about the abuse. Whether it be approaching other priests or bishops. The blame was often shifted to them, they were openly reminded that such accusations could ruin the priests career. This enabled the priests to hide behind their roman collars and evade justice.

‘Do you realise what you’re taking from him?’ – Bishop Thomas to Maryetta Dussourd (mother of victims)

The victim blaming, and family shaming continued in multiple cases. Meanwhile, sensing his future maybe bleak, Geoghan began to protect his own assets. Signing over properties worth millions of dollars, for just a few dollars to his sister.
Geoghan would also go one further, and play the victim himself. Insisting his actions made him ill, not a criminal.
Geoghan was beyond shame and accountability.

‘Shame, embarrassment, and sometimes, warnings by their abusers kept many victims from disclosing the abuse. Others confided in family members who found it difficult to believe them’

The house of affirmation in Massachusetts, was a facility for sexually abusive priests. It was ran by Rev Thomas Kane. But priests received little in the form of psychoanalyse and treatment. What the investigation uncovered was that the ‘treatment centres’ enabled priests to just hide in luxury compared to the jail cells they should have faced.

As the book details various decades and multiple cases, it is hard to review and summarise. But in 1984 the catholic church paid out $4.2 million to nine of Father Gauther’s victims. One victim was so viciously raped he was hospitalised. Gauther would eventually face criminal charges, unlike so many others. He was sentenced to 20yrs, served 10yrs and upon release abused another boy.

One thing that is clear throughout the book, is that instead of tackling the root cause of the issue and seeking justice. The church was content to continue to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars as financial settlements. Whilst allowing abusers to continue in posts, with access to more victims.
What struck me about this, wasn’t the victim’s right to financial compensation. That I fully agree with.
But the arrogance of the church to utilise funds intended for charity etc, to cover-up abuse and legally tie the hands/voices of the accuser. As each settlement required a non-disclosure signature.
The priests continued to abuse, the church continued to pay. With zero regard for the mental/emotional impact on the victims and future victims.
The pay-outs would occur before legal suits were filed, meaning no public record. They also contained gag-order’s or the payments must be returned.

In one particular case, Father Porter a serial child abuser of over 100+ victims over 14yrs. Was caught in the physical act by two fellow reverends; as two victims confirmed.
Yet no action was ever taken.

‘In the past 15yrs 1500 American priests faced allegations of sexual abuse’

In the section entitled Predators, the investigation breaks down the various methods established and utilised by different priests. Rev Paul R Shanley was a popular priest that challenged church teachings on homosexuality. He openly embraced ostracised members of the community. He was known as the ‘street priest’ the cool ‘hippie priest’. His ‘therapy’ sessions often involved molestation and rape. When confronted with the victim’s accusations. He would hide behind the tired old excuse that ‘the child is often the seducer’. Shanley would go on to teach teens how to inject drugs, possibly just to enable further abuse. Shanley would go on to evade justice until he was 71yrs old.

I found various chapters difficult to read. Especially the nonchalant attitudes of the priests. Which equally led me to question the severity of the impact upon victims. In the chapter entitled The Victims, you hear their stories of anger, denial, rage, shame, loss of faith, guilt and self-doubt.

‘He took everything. He took my innocence. He took my spirituality, he took my purity’
Thomas J Lambert (victim)

For victim Patricia Dolan the abuse dominated her entire adult life. Patrick McSorley (Geoghan’s victim) fully aware of what made him an easy target for abuse (alcoholic father’s suicide) would go on to be extremely protective of his own children. Armand Landy (86yrs old) can still recall the abuse suffered at just 12yrs old in 1927. One victim would shoot their abuser and there were multiple suicides.
The pain of abuse never left the victims.

The explosion of the scandal would lead to 176 priests over 28 states of the USA to resign or be removed from their post. In just 20yrs the scandal had cost the church $1.3 Billion.

‘What they were protecting was their notion that the church is a perfect society’

The investigation details how the public outrage at the scandal, broke down barriers and centuries of the church’s deference in just mere weeks. Whilst some legal professionals were prepared to give the church the benefit of the doubt. Others were not; and Judge Constance M Sweeney ordered the release of ten thousand pages of documents, declaring them public record.
The public were outraged at the church’s failure to see the children as victims of despicable crimes.

‘We throw this word ‘abuse’ around, and it’s nice, inoffensive word.
They were raping children. Where’s the indignation? Where’s the moral outrage?’
The investigation slowly began to force change in the system. Force the church to face up to its own hypocrisy.

‘Maybe to them, the victims are nameless and faceless. The victims are real to me’
Jeanine Pirro – DA Westchester county

The hypocrisy of the church is further explored, when detailing the case of a 72yr old nun fired and ostracised for performing a baptism. The $50 million over 25yrs spent on ‘treatment’ for abusive priests.
The title of this novel ‘Catholicism in crisis’ couldn’t be more apt.

‘We need more women. The power, and male dominance, and the secrecy are how this whole thing started’

Bonnie Ciambotti – Eucharistic minister.
There is a documents section, at the back of the book. Which enables you to view the previously sealed court papers.
This is a tough read, at times brutal. But unless we read it, digest the information and learn, how do we not continue to make the same mistakes? 5*

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract A Cold Flame by @ConwayRome #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #Rome #DetectiveRossi #Series @KillerReads #AColdFlame

177095-FC50
A Cold Flame by Aidan Conway
Review to follow
Synopsis:

Play with fire and you get burned…

A gripping crime thriller, from a new star in British crime fiction. Perfect for fans of Ian Rankin.

Five men burnt alive.

In the crippling heat of August in Rome, a flat goes up in flames, the doors sealed from the outside. Five illegal immigrants are trapped and burnt alive – their charred bodies barely distinguishable amidst the debris.

One man cut into pieces.

When Detective Inspectors Rossi and Carrara begin to investigate, a terror organisation shakes the city to its foundations. Then a priest is found murdered and mutilated post-mortem – his injuries almost satanic in their ferocity.

One city on the edge of ruin.

Rome is hurtling towards disaster. A horrifying pattern of violence is beginning to emerge, with a ruthless killer overseeing its design. But can Rossi and Carrara stop him before all those in his path are reduced to ashes?

Extract:

One
The few flowers left in the chipped vase had withered to dry brown stalks in the searing August
sun.
“You’re still sure this falls within our brief?” said Carrara as they stared at the cold,
charred remains of the ground floor flat. All the bodies had now been removed but their
presence lingered.
“It’s another fire, isn’t it?” said Rossi. “Probably arson. Why not?”
It was not the first fire in the city to bear the hallmarks of foul play, but it was the first
fatal one since they had been moved off their normal duties.
They were standing in the welcome shade of the elevated section of the tangenziale
flyover, on a side street off the busy, grimy Via Prenestina. It was hot, cripplingly hot. Thin
rivulets of sweat were meandering down Rossi’s neck despite the shade.
“Even if there’s a file on this one already?” said Carrara. “A file that’s as good as closed.”
Rossi shook his head and continued to gaze into the blackened ruins.
“It’s August. You can get away with murder in August. Who was on it again?”
Carrara leafed through the case notes.
“No one I know. A guy called Lallana. Had a racial homicide’s brief. Seconded to us in
June and then transferred out again, at his own request, now buzzing all over the place with
Europol. I got hold of him by phone but he wasn’t keen on talking. Says it’s all in the reports
and he’s got nothing more to add.”
“Giving you the brush-off?”
Carrara shrugged.
“He had it down as a hate crime – seems the victims were all foreigners – but not a single,
solid lead. No witnesses, just the one guy who survived it.”

“A survivor?” said Rossi.
“Was. Dead now. Had 60 per cent burns. Should have been long gone but somehow hung
on for nearly a week.”
“And all while I was on holiday,” said Rossi.
“You can’t be everywhere, Mick,” said Carrara glancing up from the notes. “I mean a
break was merited, after Marini.”
Rossi’s thoughts turned then to the events of the previous winter but as his shoes crunched
on the ash and scorched timbers he was still struggling to comprehend the present horror.
Shooting, strangling, stabbing – that was one thing – but burning to death. They must have
been locked inside when the fire started. Some might have woken but had been unable to get
to a door or a window, the security grilles put there ostensibly to keep them safe from intruders
thus consigning them to their fates.
“But why wasn’t anyone able to get out?” said Rossi. “Because they locked their room
doors every night?”
“Correct,” said Carrara. “Normal practice in bedsits, but no keys for the security grilles
were found, not even after a fingertip search.”
“What about the front door?” said Rossi. “Couldn’t they have got out with their own keys?
They all had one, right?”
Carrara took out a blown-up scene-of-crime photo.
“The lock. Tampered with, the barrel and mechanism all mangled up. Some debris was
found inside. It could have been someone forcing it – an attempted break-in – or it could have
been sabotage. The occupants might have been able to open it from the inside to escape, if they
had managed to reach the door, but the bolts were still in place. Nobody could get in until the
fire guys arrived and then it was too late.”
“And their forensics?” said Rossi.

“Well,” said Carrara, “significant traces of ethanol – one version of the facts is that there
was a moonshine vodka operation – and they did find the remains of a timer switch next to the
burnt-out fridge. Lallana maintained it could have been foul play, or just as easily some home
brew electrical set-up that shorted. He didn’t exactly go all out for the former theory. In the
absence of a clear motive and witnesses the coroner delivered an open verdict. Have a look for
yourself.”
Carrara handed Rossi the relevant report.
“Open?” said Rossi noting now with near contempt the irony. “Someone locked those
poor bastards inside.”
“Like I said, no keys for the window bars were found but no one lived long enough to tell
any tale.”
Among the scorched masonry and fallen timbers, one of the grilles lay across the small
desert of debris, like the ribcage of a once living and breathing being strewn across a bleak
savannah.
“Any names?” said Rossi.
“Just the one,” said Carrara. “The tough nut. Ivan Yovoshenko. He was found in the
communal bathroom and had dog tags from his conscription days. But for them he would have
been a zero like the rest. It seems he had at least tried to get out, got severely burnt in the
process and maybe finally sought refuge in the bathroom. He could have struck his head and
collapsed. Judging from the amount of alcohol they found in his bloodstream, he had to have
been blind drunk and wouldn’t have realized just how hot the flames were. It was enough for
him to survive as long as he did.”
“And nothing on the others?”
“Nothing,” said Carrara.

“Well, they can forget checking dental records,” said Rossi. “These guys could probably
just about afford toothpaste.”
Carrara pulled out another sheet for Rossi.
“Presumed missing persons in Rome and Lazio for the last six months, but no matches
with this address. The word on the street is that they were five single men, probably illegals,
but anymore than that …”
“Sounds familiar,” said Rossi. “But no friends, no workmates?”
Carrara gestured to the desiccated blooms and a brown, dog-eared farewell note or two.
“Paid their respects then made themselves scarce, I suppose,” said Carrara. “If it’s a racial
hate killing they were probably thinking ‘who’s next’?”
“But a landlord?” said Rossi, sensing an opening. “Tell me we have an owner’s name.”
But Carrara was already quashing that hope with another printout from the case folder.
“Flat sold to a consortium two months ago as part of a portfolio of properties, a sort of
going concern with cash-in-hand rents through an established ‘agent’ who hasn’t been seen
since the fire.”
“That’s convenient,” quipped Rossi.
“Says here they always sent an office bod to pick up the cash in a nearby bar and the go
between got his room cheap as well as his cut. No contracts. No paper trail. No nothing.”
“And no name for the agent?”
“Mohammed. Maybe.”
“That narrows it down. And the bar? Anyone there remember him’?”
“Nada.”
“A description?”
“North African. About fifty.”

“Great,” said Rossi. “Well, it looks like the late Ivan’s our only man, doesn’t it? Let’s see
what the hospital can give us.”
“And then a trip to the morgue?”
“You know, Gigi, I was almost beginning to miss going there.”

AC
Aidan Conway
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