Cover Image: The Real-Life Murder Clubs

The Real-Life Murder Clubs

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Member Reviews

As a true crime girl I was looking forward to this one. I thought this was an interesting take on the true crime community, but it wasn’t my favorite.

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A very good true crime read.

Nicola Stow is a journalist, and here she presents an interesting and fascinating book.

I like reading true crime books, but I wasn't sure about this one at first, and I have read and enjoyed a couple of books before which Nicola Stow has collaborated on ('Cabin Fever', and 'Above and Beyond: Secrets of a Private Flight Attendant').

This book comprises different cases, and is told in an interview style. It was interesting, but perhaps not among the best true crime books I've ever read. I was thinking it was a book you could pick up and read a case, then come back to it later-not needing to read it all in one go; not like a story unfolding. I later changed my mind on this as I really started to get into the style, and was gripped reading it. I seemed to just whizz through it easily then. Some interesting and fascinating things in here-about the different ways in which people volunteer their help in cracking cases, and help identify remains etc.

There are 12 chapters, and each case is given sufficient detail, without being too long. Yet there aren't too many mentioned, or squeezed in.

The book's style is more like a magazine interview article, or a true crime documentary-but it's something different, and I ended up really enjoying it.

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A story based on citizen sleuths, who, unlike actual detectives and investigators are involving themselves into solving real-life crimes. By obtaining any information which is already readily available to the public, these citizen sleuths tackle crimes with success.

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2.5 stars. As a fan of True Crime documentaries and podcasts, this book really appealed to me. It sounded similar to 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark', which I really enjoyed and I thought it might shine a light upon why amateur sleuths end up being drawn to particular cases.

And whilst the book does indeed do that, it wasn't a wholly successful read for me and I ended up DNF'ing it. Partly this was because, as the book went on, I found that several of the cases covered were already familiar to me from other podcasts and documentaries, making the content somewhat repetitive. I also didn't gel with the style of the book. Because it covers several cases, I felt certain sections were lacking in the level of depth and sensitivity that I wanted. I was also expecting a little more focus upon the amateur sleuths looking into the crimes rather than the crimes themselves, as well as a little more consideration of the ethics of so-called 'citizen sleuthing' and the 'true crime' genre more widely.

These are very personal quibbles and I'm sure many other readers would find The Real-Life Murder Clubs fascinating. For anyone new to the True Crime genre, this is a perfect gateway book to finding out more and it makes several important points about the role of 'citizen sleuths'. E-book probably wasn't the best format to read this in either as there were several times when I wanted to flick backwards to check a detail or clarify a point. Given the 'podcast' style narrative, I think an audiobook of this might work best.

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I’ve always been intrigued by true crime and couldn’t resist picking this up, and while it does contain some interesting tidbits here and there it was a little hard going and mostly featured popular cases.

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A truly interesting read ! I was astounded by the depth & dedication of some ordinary people wanting to solve true crime.

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A truly fascinating book, one of that goes through so much detail and a must for true crime lovers to add to their TBR straight away

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In this book, each chapter highlights a different civilian and group, and how they have helped work towards solving various cold cases. I enjoyed reading about how they worked, and the techniques used to help find out who these people were or what happened to them. It was quite emotional reading about some of these cases too, as it really brought home that they were all someone's much loved family, partner, friend, colleague - we are so used to seeing them in isolation, and it was so important to see how a murder or disappearance can affect those left behind.

A must read for anyone who enjoys true crime.

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Being a great fan of police procedural books this book appealed to me. I thought it would be interesting to see how amateur sleuths attempted to solve crimes. I found this book quite hard going as the style jarred quite a bit. I have always been of the opinion that, "Everyone should have a hobby!" but thought some of them needed to step back a bit for their own mental health! It was an interesting read but not a particularly enjoyable one!

Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.

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So I would say if you are a true crime junkie and consume your true crime information via podcasts, documentaries, and books then all of this would probably be repetitive as Nicole referenced the more popular cases. If you are looking for extra information or feel like you want to jump in and help, this is a pretty good resource but do yourself a favor and pick up a physical copy. There are resources in the back of the book and a glossary in the front and on the eBook it was hard to flip back to those as I was going through the book. I do think the information was a little dry but I also think that's the nature of true crime. A few things I got out of the book: Police don't take these citizens seriously, miss-information is detrimental to these cases, and people working together for a common good is really impactful. I was surprised at the number of resources (like Doe Network and Project EDAN) real people have built in hopes of helping bring answers to the families of the unnamed. And to everyone who have devoted their time and energy in any way to solving true crimes, I so appreciate what you've done and what you continue to do!

Thank you to NetGalley and Ad Lib Publishers for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I enjoy true crime stories. This book was an interesting read. My only issue is the difference between US and UK dialect.

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I realized while reading this, my dreams of being a detective are ruined because I am way too sensitive for real life murder. Fiction? Sign me up I’ve got this? A family member crying over a murder? I’m crying with you, I’ll bring a casserole.

Kudos to the people in this book (and the author) for lending a helping hand. Their constitution is much stronger than mine.

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A collection of true crime stories featuring in depth accounts of the citizen sleuths who helped solve them.

This read was engaging, well-researched, and cohesive. An enjoyable read for any true crime fan.
However, there are two reasons I decided to dock a star from my rating.

1. These are all infamous cases including the Golden State Killer, Tent Girl, and others. Anyone who has watched shows like forensic files or listened to true crime podcasts has likely encountered all of these cases already and will not learn much (if anything) new about them.

2. While the cases covered took place in the US, Stow is from the UK. While that isn't inherently an issue, there were several instances throughout where measurements were given in imperial or British slag was used to embellish the stories as they were being told. Which threw me for a loop on more than one occasion.

This would be an excellent read for a newly-minted crime junkie or connoisseur who wants to hear several infamous cases told retrospectively by the common everyday sleuths who helped crack them.

I will continue to follow Stow's crime writing endeavors, though this one is not one I will be adding to my personal collection.

[Thank you to NetGalley and Ad Lib Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]

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Intriguing, interesting and a club every true crime fan would want to be part of.

From serial killers, to cat killers to unidentified bodies it seems we all want to be the person who solves the puzzle. These stories are about individuals and groups who have done just that. Investing hours of their own time and money into giving victims of unsolved crimes their justice.

Fascinating details of DNA, forensics, genealogy and facial reconstruction - it’s a must read for true crime fans.

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an armchair detective? I am always curious about the process that internet sleuths and the regular people that help investigate while working with the law. Each chapter in this book covers a different case or person who dedicates countless time to justice for strangers. They include artists, retired scientists and everyone in between. You hear about real people helping the police when they are out of hours and resources. It was fascinating to read about and I recommend you read it as well.

I received an arc via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

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“Have you ever come home from work and thought, Tonight I’ll scour the internet, see if I can identify that decayed head found in a bucket of cement? or worked through the night drawing digital pictures from autopsy photographs of an unidentified teenager found murdered in a field thirty years ago? Has it ever occurred to you to compare lists of unidentified corpses with those of missing people? If not, then welcome to the surprising world of citizen sleuths.”

The Real-Life Murder Clubs by Nicola Stow is an interesting examination of the ordinary individuals who devote their spare time to solving cases involving missing and murdered people.

Drawing from information in the public domain, including databases such as NamUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), the DoE Network, and Project EDAN (Everyone Deserves a Name), thousands of volunteer citizens from housewives to retirees to artists to genealogists, spend countless hours combing through social media accounts, maps, newspaper articles and government records, sometimes collaborating in online groups such as, or Facebook.

Their motivation is sometimes personal, as it was for Belinda Lane who was determined to solve her daughter’s murder and bring her killer to justice, and Tricia Griffith, the founder of who had a close encounter with the notorious Ted Bundy. For others it’s simply a sense of empathy, outrage, curiosity or the satisfaction of solving a puzzle. Todd Matthews was a factory worker but nursed an obsession of over 20 years to identity the remains of a woman known only as ‘Tent Girl’, Deanna Thompson was one of the online group members determined to expose the identity of the man who posted two horrific video’s of kittens being suffocated in a vacuum bag, which was the subject of the Netflix documentary Don’t F*ck With Cats. Stow highlights twelve citizens in all and draws on personal interviews, and other sources.

There is some discussion about the pitfalls of citizen involvement in crime solving, including a look at the Boston Bomber case and the Westminster Bridge terror attack, which both led to the false identification of suspects, as well as the personal risks to the amateur sleuth, such as possibly attracting the attention of a killer, and the emotional toll of repeated exposure to trauma.

I found The Real-Life Murder Clubs to be an interesting read, though, as most of the cases have been explored in the media, it doesn’t offer any particularly unique information about the subject. I was slightly disappointed by the exclusive focus on North American cases, persons and communities, especially as the author resides in the UK, and could have explored citizen sleuths as a global phenomenon. Even the list of ‘Useful Resources’ Stow includes are US centric.

I’d recommend The Real-Life Murder Clubs to readers unfamiliar with, and curious about, the activities of citizen sleuths. True crime junkies aren’t likely to learn anything new.

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This was well written, and based on a popular topic at the moment. It wasn't my personal favorite, but I think it will do well in the true-crime section of our library.

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Received as a free ARC from NetGalley.

I love True Crime! This book focuses on arm chair detectives who spend hours scouring the internet and researching paper trails. They follow only the facts and hope to unlock the next clue and find a nugget to share with law enforcement to help solve the case. The book is divided into cases and the people who researched the cases. An interesting quick read.

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Wanna be scared of being watched? Wanna be scared that someone is watching you? This book is such a good companion to the hit Netflix docu-series. Definitely creepy and immersive.

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This is a book about every day people who spend their free time working as "sleuths". With true crime obsession on the rise, this is a fantastic book to read. The author goes into detail on several cases, looking at how the crimes were solved by these everyday sleuths. It made me think of Charlene Harris' book, Real Murder, where there is a "murder club". Anyway, this is an interesting look at regular people who help solve crimes.

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