Category Archives: True Crime

Book Review – Funeral Hotdish – A True Fiction Novel


funeral hotdishFuneral Hotdish

By Jana Bommersbach

240 page

Joya Bonner shook the dust off her boots from her hometown of Northville, North Dakota for a job writing job she loves in Phoenix. Life as a journalist is not the easiest, there are more writers than hot stories and everyone is looking for the big story that will bring them fame, fortune or best case scenario, both. Joya is no different from the rest of them, but she appears to be a bit luckier.

Happenstance puts her in the right place at the right time to see a mob boss that had turned federal witness at a coffee shop. At first she told herself the mobster wannabe couldn’t be the hitman that sent John Gotti to prison, but her instincts let her outside to copy down his license plate number. Her boyfriend, Rob is a cop and just might be interested in the man she saw.

While this is going on, something bad happens in Joya’s hometown. Tragedy strikes the little town in the most inconceivable way. The close knit community cannot shake off the demons of that fateful night leading some of the men to consider taking matters into their own hands if the authorities don’t find the person or persons responsible.

Joya returns home after finding a possible connection with the mob snitch and the life altering events. She finds more questions than answers but knows one thing for sure; life has changes and may never be the same again for her family or the town.

Funeral Hotdish is based upon actual events. Those facts are wrapped in a work of fiction, but it is interesting to read the Endnotes to see which parts of the story are based on real-life people, news articles and places. And of course the recipe for Funeral Hotdish – from St Phillip’s Church in Hankinson, North Dakota is included as well.

If you are not familiar with small town funerals, invariably there is a casserole type dish that is prepared by the ladies of the congregation, referred to as “Funeral Hotdish”. It is comfort food for people beyond comfort at a a time they need it most. If they don’t enjoy the actual food, they feel the love and caring that was put into the preparation.

I enjoyed the plot lines intertwining in a way that seemed unlikely at first, but ended up tied up tidily in the end. The situations and story were true to life in ways that we might not want to admit. Too many people were trying to take the law into their own hands; then didn’t know what to do when the situation became too hot to handle.

This is the first book I’ve read by Bommersbach. Her previous novels include true crime, a historical novel and a children’s book. To say she is diverse is an understatement. Funeral Hotdish is her first true fiction novel.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.



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Filed under Book Review, books, Mobsters, Mystery, True Crime

Book Review Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story – A Gripping True Crime Book

Anatomy of a Kidnapping,  Anatomy of a KidnappingA Doctor’s Story

By Steven L. Berk M.D.

248 pages

Berk begins the fascinating account of his own kidnapping with the theory of why the agitated gun toting kidnapper did not kill him. He feels his medical history and time he spent with patients and in hospitals may have given him some tools to fall back on when he faced death at the hands of an unstable, drug addicted man. He mentions this in an almost casual way, not in arrogance, but more puzzlement. He is thankful for living through his ordeal, but doesn’t have any doubts that it could have gone bad in an instant.

The story is told in four intertwined parts. Berg gives the reader an insight to a young doctor’s life by sharing true events and encounters he had with great patients and odd patients. He doesn’t pull any punches or expound as to his greatness. He is frank and honest when telling of mistakes he made when treating some of the cases throughout his career. Everyone makes mistakes, but when doctors do, it can mean someone dies.

We follow his life through the hospitals he’s worked in up to his current assignment in Texas. From Arizona to Boston then to Amarillo, TX Berk keeps learning and growing as a doctor. He always wanted to become a missionary doctor, but during his residency at Boston City Hospital he began to realize he really wanted to focus on academic medicine. He also became interested in infectious disease and clinical research.

When a  medical school classmate asked him to serve as the chairman of the advisory board of an Amarillo medical school, Berk agreed. He loved the challenge and the goals of Texas Tech, and felt the he could help. With his leadership, the campus grew and improved. Berk did the same. He moved his family to Amarillo and settled in to a rewarding career.

The fateful morning in March 2005 was like any other. Like any other incident of this magnitude, he could look back and say he should have done something differently and it never would have happened. Life is like that, one little pebble can begin a landslide. Seeing it from the doctor’s perspective is haunting, knowing his fear for his family and his life on that Sunday morning puts the reader in the passenger seat of the car with him.

he third part of the story we hear along the way is that of the kidnapper. Jack Lindsey Jordan was born to a wealthy TX family, but had a frightful temper as he grew older. He had spent 10 years in prison on a felony charge just before the kidnapping. We see the series of events that led up to kidnapping unfold as the book progresses.

The last part to weave throughout the chapters is the actual court proceedings as documented from the trial. So you know in the beginning that Berk has been kidnapped, Jordan is caught and goes to trial. It is fascinating to read the account from the victim’s perspective.

Berk acknowledges that in the end, life is just not fair sometimes. He questions why he was not harmed during his ordeal and other people are shot. There are no answers, only speculations and luck.

This memoir reads like a fast paced fiction novel by a New York Times best-selling author. Berk’s ability to bring all four parts of this story – his history, the kidnapping, the kidnapper’s history as well as the court documents together in a page-turning novel makes this book a must-read.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Filed under Book Review, books, family, memoir, True Crime