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Guilty Creatures

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Member Reviews

I saw this story on Dateline because I was familiar with the premises, but this is much more in-depth than an hour-long TV show. In this book, we have Denise and Mike, seemingly in love and making things work. Mike goes hunting and never returns. He is presumed to have had an accident and has died. Denise keeps living. She and their daughter use the life insurance money and things are good. Denise marries Brian, Mike's best friend, and things change.

What you don't know by what I have written is that police thought almost from the get-go that Denise and Brian were involved.

This book takes you along both journeys of this story, the Brian and Denise love story and the cops figuring it all out. The ride is pretty bumpy and in the end......well, you need to read this and see how it ends.

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An excellent book that delves deep into the psychology of murder. As fascinating as the "what" behind the crime is, the "why" is the most fascinating of all. I highly recommend!

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I'm not 100% sold on true crime, but I've spent some time in Tallahassee so I picked this one up. I'm so glad I did! It was both fascinating and heartbreaking in the best possible way. I appreciated the attention to local detail, and the fact that the author understands evangelical Christians and portrays her subjects with sympathy and honesty.

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WOW! This was an insane story of two people consumed with greed, love, deception, and evil. They go after an innocent man and cover up his death for many years to come.

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Having gone to FSU in the early 2000s I was familiar with this story and excited to read this book thinking it would dive way deeper into it than what I may have known before. But it was very disappointing… The book was filled with distracting grammatical errors, conflicting information between the pages, and several tangents that the author went on for pages and pages. It read to me like a mix between a clickbait article and someone writing a college paper that they’d procrastinated on and were struggling to meet the minimum word count on. I received this as an advanced reader copy in exchange for my review so who knows… maybe the editors will give it another look through? I wanted so badly to like this book…

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"After no body was found, everyone assumed that Mike had drowned in a tragic accident, his body eaten by alligators" Only in Florida was this be a possibility. Brottman covers a horrible and riveting case.

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Such an incredibly sad story. Investigative journalist Mikita Brottman does a great job delving in to this horrific true crime. Thank you for the opportunity to read this e-galley.

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As much as I love true crime, I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard about this story until this book. However, I love how this book explains the story. I loved Brian's mom and how the book portrays her as a mom. Great writing.

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An intriguing true crime story about a couple wearing a mask of two good Christians. This story took some crazy turns, proving truth is stranger than fiction.

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First, thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an ARC copy of Guilty Creatures in exchange for my unbiased review. I've seen plenty of episodes of Dateline, etc... but had somehow had never heard of this case before reading this book. The two couples, the Williams and the Winchesters all grew up together, were high school sweethearts and the group were best friends during their marriages. All grew up Baptist and deeply religious. Without spoiling the details for those that like me had never heard of this case, sometimes real life really is stranger than fiction. Mike Williams dies in 2000 in what at the time was believed to be a duck hunting accident and when no body is found, everyone presumes that it was eaten by alligators that lived in the waters he was hunting in. As time goes by and his widow Denise marries Brian Winchester, people start feeling like this wasn't just a tragic accident. This book goes into details over the almost 20 years between Mike's death and Brian admitting to his murder and how the secret was kept for so long. This was a quick read and while you know from the beginning where the ending is going, it's all the craziness in between that keeps your attention and makes you want to keep reading.

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Guilty Creatures
Mikita Brottman

I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about the reasons people may be drawn to the “true crime” genre of entertainment. Some of the popular media in the genre handle their subjects so indelicately, even gleefully, that it just feels like weird voyeurism to me. Others head so far in the opposite direction in the attempt to avoid such disrespect that you may as well stick to the newspaper reporting. The best in the arena present the facts and treat their subjects respectfully but also lead you to think about the wider factors at play, about how even “monsters” do not just spring into fully formed being but are multifaceted creations of the people and world around them. I think that’s the redeeming quality of “true crime,” the parts where it guides you toward being critical not just of criminals but of the pressures that formed them, and toward thinking about the psychology of crime in a non-judgmental way.

The world around all the people involved in the short life and 2000 death of Mike Williams is the picture that Mikita Brottman wants to paint in “Guilty Creatures.” The details of the crime, of exactly what happened to Mike Williams on the day he was killed, are not laid out explicitly until practically the very end of the book. They’re almost not important, really. By the time we read “Guilty Creatures” in 2024, the “what” of what happened is fairly cut and dried, done and dusted, and a matter of public record, an especially public record given Florida’s transparency laws. More worth thinking (and reading) about are all the things that, to varying extents, influence every one of us every day - religious background, socioeconomic background, family and community dynamics, and so much more - and which led to murder, and concealing that murder for nearly two decades, seeming like a viable option for Brian Winchester and Denise Williams.

Brottman does a good job in depicting how all of those pressures made Winchester and Williams who they were - from their conservative Baptist religious beliefs to financial stresses to public image to their family lives - and how their behavior continued to be influenced by those pressures both before and in the years after the murder. Having personally witnessed advice given to pray more rather than divorce a physically abusive spouse, the emphasis on religious pressures motivating terrible acts resonated with me in a way that it might not for those without similar experiences. In the same way, people who grew up in a small, conservative town will recognize the special kind of pressure that that places on the people who live there; people who have grown up poor or otherwise experienced anxiety around making more money and climbing higher than what you grew up with; people who have been taught that it is only acceptable to desire a certain kind of life, etc., etc. My point being that what this book shows you is, ultimately, a facet of yourself; you are meant to come away realizing that you have more in common than not with people who turned out to be capable of murder and coverup.

For readers who are most interested in the psychological aspects of the case, the book was well researched and thorough but flowed more like a very long article than a book. If you have already consumed significant news media about the case, you may not feel that there is very much new here, apart from the invitations to empathize with all of the principals involved (granted, an important invitation that we all ought to accept, in all cases). If this is the first you’ve heard of the Mike Williams case, you may really find this an interesting narrative! Readers who are most interested in the details of the crime and in law enforcement & investigation aspects of the case will be disappointed; this story is primarily about people living with the psychic aftermath of having destroyed a human life, not the crime itself.

I give “Guilty Creatures” a 3.75, rounded up to 4 for GoodReads.

NetGalley and Simon & Schuster/1SP/Atria provided an eARC in exchange for review.

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"Adulterous Baptist lovers beat a murder rap, collect on the insurance, but can't escape each other." In this quote, Brottman does a great job in summarizing "Guilty Creatures", a true crime novel filled with many surprising twists and turns. Over a course of 15 long years, a murder for love becomes a "sordid drama with a long history and multiple layers of lies and secrets". In the end, Brian Winchester, becomes similar to the protagonist in the 1943 movie "Double Indemnity", as he, "killed a man, for money and a woman, I didn't have the money and I didn't have the woman." Throughout this ever-enticing true crime novel by Brottman, readers relearn that things aren't always what they seem on the surface, that what may look like an ordinary "good Christian" couple may just be a couple of murderers.

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Guilty Creatures is a page-turning read about how misguided belief in the words of the Bible can enable people to justify extreme behavior and murder. Author Mikita Brottman ties Southern Baptist Christian beliefs of two young couples into the 17 year missing person's and murder case of Mike Williams. Brian and Kathy and Mike and Denise were best friends at a private Christian high school. Once they graduated and moved on the Florida State University and then marriage, they explored strip clubs and sexual adventures. Eventually, Brian and Denise become a couple who justified their clandestine fling as the will of God. What follows is Brian and Denise's plot to kill Mike, Kathy's role as a police informant, and the court proceedings to send Brian and Denise to prison. Guilty Creatures is a fascinating story of how convoluted Christianity is used to justify criminal behavior.

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Thank you Net Galley for an advance copy of this book. Interesting investigation into true crime and what guilt does to a person - or the effect it doesn't have.

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Guilty Creatures is easily 10 stars! It is a true crime book that illustrates truth is definitely stranger than fiction! Author Mikita Brottman reveals the horror of the crime-and the failures of human nature-in a compelling way that makes the book impossible to put down. I was swept away from the first page! Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This is a story of a love triangle gone wrong!

The research that went into this book was impressive!!! Overall, the book was well written, and very interesting!

I love true crime and this didn't disappoint!

Thanks NetGalley for letting me read and review

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Utterly fascinating examination of a murder. A man goes duck hunting and disappears in a small southern town. His young widow is devastated … or is she … it isn’t too long before she starts dating her missing husbands best friends. It’s a wild story - tawdry - religious and so good - like we are peaking behind the curtains of a life.

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Wonderful true crime. Nicely done.
Thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

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Guilty Creatures is the classic tale of a love triangle gone wrong. The writing was engrossing and the research was impressive. As the reader delves deeper into the book, a slight bias and reliance on sexist tropes is revealed in the writing. Overall, still and interesting read for true crime fans. Recommend pairing it with Season 4 of the podcast Over My Dead Body (not without its own bias), combining these two pieces of media will give readers a balanced idea of this tragedy.

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Not gonna lie: I, like many, learned about the Mike Williams case thanks to Investigation Discovery’s Disappeared. From watching that episode, I gained basic knowledge of the case, but also became a major fangirl when it came to Cheryl Williams, Mike’s mother. No matter how many people told her to drop it, she did everything in her power to keep pushing for justice in her son’s case, even though it cost her access to her granddaughter. And you better believe that when I heard the case had finally been solved, she was the first person I thought about. I am so glad Cheryl Williams lived to see her son get the justice he deserved.

I am a bit disappointed that the book was more about Mike’s killers than her, but I suppose such is life.

Still, if you enjoy true crime and a good potboiler, this book is definitely worth reading.

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