Saturday, August 29, 2009

All That Lives: A Novel of The Bell Witch by Melissa Sanders-Self

"All That Lives" tells the story of one of the most famous hauntings and unsolved mysteries in American history from the viewpoint of one of its victims--Betsy Bell, the youngest daughter of John Bell, a prosperous tobacco farmer in Adams, Tennessee, who suffered great abuse at the invisible hands of the entity that became known as "The Bell Witch."

The story begins in 1819 when nine-year-old schoolgirl Betsy Bell ventures out into the woods to collect autumn leaves to decorate the schoolhouse for the upcoming Harvest Pageant. A pall of spine-tingling fear is cast over the day when she steps into a pocket of cold air and feels a pair of invisible hands descend onto her shoulders. This is the calling card of the entity that will come to torment Betsy and her family with a vengeance four years later.

The novel then moves ahead four years to a mild spring night when Betsy is thirteen. A persistent tapping on the glass of her bedroom window draws Betsy from her bed, where she is curled up under the quilt with stomach cramps, as she rises to investigate she feels the first blood of womanhood flow between her legs. The arrival of the spirit at the same time as the menstrual blood is perhaps a significant parallel as some paranormal investigators believe there is a strong connection between puberty and poltergeist activity.

The tapping on the windowpane continues in the nights to come, joined by more baffling and inexplicable phenomena--rapping on the walls, a noise like a rat gnawing on the bedpost, the flapping wings of a flock of invisible birds, smacking lips, gulping, choking, and gasping breaths, the sound of splintering wood as if the furniture is being smashed to kindling, and showers of stones that fall down the stairs. The Bell family put all their faith and trust in God and prayer, but nonetheless meticulously search the house from top to bottom for some rational, earthly explanation. The roof is examined for loose shingles that might flap in the wind and the floorboards are even taken up in search of rodents, but no natural cause can be found. The horrors continue to escalate as the unseen entity begins to yank covers from the beds, and violently jerk and twist Betsy's long yellow braid. It slaps her face with such force that a red handprint lingers, stabs her with invisible pins, and hurls her down onto the floor into fainting fits in which she lies motionless, unable to speak, in a state of oppressive breathlessness. Strange lights are also seen floating over the fields and peculiar "witch creatures" bedevil and perplex the Bells, their slaves, and neighbours.

Betsy Bell endures the worst of the torments, but her father John Bell is also afflicted with an intense discomfort in his throat that feels like a twig stuck sideways, preventing him from swallowing. An undercurrent of incest runs throughout the relationship between John Bell and his "darling daughter," though this is more implied than explicit. No actual sexual encounters are described though there are disturbing hints knotted together with Betsy's feelings for her father: "I feared the absence of his love much more than I feared his unwanted touch," she thinks as she lies passively on her bed after suffering the spirit's attentions, and her father unlaces her stays. Each time John Bell carries his "darling daughter" upstairs after a spectral assault an incestuous encounter is implied in discreetly worded language that draws a curtain over a loathsome sight Betsy would rather not have us see and most readers would rather not witness; the knowledge is disturbing enough.

By this point two men of God, Reverend Johnston and preacher Calvin Justice, have been brought in to try to banish the entity. Word of the phenomena quickly spreads and the curious descend on the Bell homestead. The spirit thrives on their attention and quickly finds its voice and begins to regale the eager audience and the beleaguered Bells with recitations of scriptures, songs, stories, gossip, tidbits of prophecy, and malicious taunts. It even reveals a secret adulterous affair in the community which leads to tragedy. And with malicious glee it sends the family on a wild-goose-chase in search of a tooth knocked from the jawbone of an Indian whose grave was disturbed, and later on an even more onerous search for a buried treasure, before it finally reveals its true, blood-chilling, purpose: "I shall torment John Bell out of his life!"

The entity, now commonly called "The Bell Witch," is also intent on destroying Betsy's burgeoning romantic feelings for her handsome young suitor Joshua Gardner. "Betsy Bell, do not have Josh Gardner!" it thunders repeatedly as it tries to tear the young couple apart. But young love, and first love, is difficult to ignore.

When John Bell takes to his bed, the spirit gleefully takes credit; glorying in the role of murderer and boisterously singing "Row me up some brandy o!" as he expires, then seeing him to his grave, and making a mockery of the solemn funeral procession, with a spirited rendition of "Oh here's success to whiskey, drink it down, drink it down!"

But the spirit also shows a compassionate side and stays to nurse his widow, kind, gentle-natured Lucy Bell, when she comes down with a bad case of pleurisy. To tempt her fragile appetite and aid her recovery it makes the roof rain showers of summer fruit down onto her sickbed even as the trees are bare and the earth frozen and carpeted thick with snow.

Betsy is consumed by fear that the spirit means to murder each member of her family one by one. She begins to live only for the moment and takes advantage of the lax parental supervision brought on by her father's death and her mother's illness to meet Joshua Gardner secretly in the woods. Sometimes they make love, other times they play like little children. But Betsy is angered and frightened by Joshua's desire to discuss their future; he begs her to be his bride and cross over the mountains with him to the fertile lands of Kentucky to start a farm, a family, and a new life together. But Betsy hesitates and procrastinates, in tears and fear, as the seed the spirit's persistent cries of "Betsy Bell do not have Josh Gardner!" has planted takes root inside her mind. And is there perhaps something about Joshua himself that, despite his earnest words, waters that seed and helps give it life?

The book ends with an incendiary confrontation between Betsy and her demon, giving full vent to the battle royal raging inside this tormented young girl's soul, and showing that good and evil are not always white and black, sometimes they bleed and blend together to create shades of grey.

Though some may find "All That Lives," to be, at times, a slow read, I think the pace well suited to the mode of life it depicts--a routine and hardworking existence in early, rural 19th century Tennessee interspersed with simple pleasures and Sunday church services--shattered by supernatural events. It also serves to capture the mounting frustration the Bell family suffered day by day as they endured this otherworldly onslaught that turned their quiet, respectable home into a carnival atmosphere and made them the subject of gossip and rumours. Some liberties, in the form of omissions and elaborations, are taken with the actual events, at least as they have come down to us in the historical record, but, in a novel this is to be expected and does nothing to detract from the fascinating history/legend of The Bell Witch. Of the fictional treatments of the story currently available, this one stands the highest in my estimation.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg

"You be good. I love you," these were the last words Alex, the brainy, famous, and beloved African Grey parrot spoke to his owner and trainer, Irene Pepperberg, when she bid him goodnight. The next morning, September 6, 2007, Alex was found dead in his cage. His unexpected, premature demise at age 31 (African Grey parrots have an average lifespan of 50 years) made headlines all over the world.

This was a book I read with either tears in my eyes or a smile on my lips, sometimes both. I remember seeing Alex on television and being charmed and captivated by this clever little fellow. This one pound ball of grey, white, and scarlet feathers, endowed with a brain no bigger than a shelled walnut, had the intelligence of a five-year-old child, and had yet to achieve his full potential when he died.

Alex was an ambassador for the often controversial science of animal behavior. He proved the falsity of such condescending expressions as "bird brain" and "dumb animals," and overturned the traditionally held belief that parrots' speech is only mimicry; mere repetition of words they hear, devoid of actual thought or comprehension. Alex knew over 100 words, he could say, and make it undoubtedly clear that he meant, "No!", "Come here!", and "Pay attention!". He learned to say "I'm sorry!" when faced with tense or angry situations. He would, like a little avian prince, imperiously command "You tickle!" when he wanted to be tickled, and majestically demand the treats he desired: "Want nut!," "Want grape!", "Want corn!" etc. When he asked for a grape and was given a banana instead he made it absolutely clear that he knew the difference and that was not what he had asked for. When he was bored or frightened he would say, "Wanna go back!" to indicate he wished to return to his cage. And almost everyday he said "I love you," to Irene Pepperberg. He could correctly identify objects, shapes, and colors (he learned the color grey after asking "What color?" when he saw his reflection in a bathroom mirror), count up to seven, and understood the concepts of bigger, smaller, same, different, and none. He sometimes put words together comprehensively without being taught to, for instance, he knew the words "yummy" and "bread" individually, but when presented with a birthday cake he put them together entirely on his own as "yummy bread!" after having a taste.

Dr. Pepperberg's book is a fast and fascinating read--I read it in a single night--that often touches and tugs at the heart. I was surprised to find out how much her lonely and socially isolated childhood resembled my own, excluding her aptitude for science and the magical changes wrought by the gift of a green budgie (parakeet)--the first of many parakeets--for her fourth birthday. And I was deeply moved by the outpouring of sympathy offered in response to Alex's demise expressed in emails and letters from all over the world, including sympathy cards from schoolchildren. I was particularly struck by one message from a woman who was diagnosed with a serious and, at the time, barely manageable heart condition that ended her formerly full, active, and happy life, she lost all hope, and was consumed by loneliness and despair. She was often alone as her husband traveled a great deal because of his work, and she had no children, and her condition put an end to her hopes of having them. Often she would stare at the bottles of pills that kept her alive and contemplate not taking them. Then one day she happened to read an article about Alex. It changed her life. Now, over twenty years later, after experimental surgery, she is still here, still an ardent supporter of The Alex Foundation, with parrots of her own to keep her company, including an African Grey. Such stories show that animals really can and do make a difference in human lives. I recommend this book to all animal lovers as well as anyone interested in the study of animal behavior, intelligence, and cognitive abilities, and the training and care of parrots.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

They Never Came Back by Allen Churchill

Despite it's age (it was published in 1960) "They Never Came Back," is a fascinating book that explores eight missing persons cases, all of which remain unsolved to this day. The majority of these cases have not been granted a book of their own, and Mr. Churchill devotes a detailed chapter to each.

The book begins in 1874 with cherubic Charlie Ross. Long before the Lindbergh Baby, this darling little blue-eyed, blonde, curly-haired tot became the victim of the first kidnapping for ransom in America. He was taken by strangers offering kind words, candy, and fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July celebration, and was never seen again. The two men who abducted him were later shot in the act of burglarizing a wealthy judge's New Island estate, but died without revealing the whereabouts of little Charlie.

Next in this parade of the vanished comes heiress Dorothy Arnold who disappeared from one of the busiest streets in the world, New York's Fifth Avenue, in 1910, and was never seen again. Though born to wealth, Dorothy was discontent and unhappy, she had aspirations to be a writer, which led her family to mock and tease her without mercy, and was in love with a man she could not marry. Did Dorothy simply walk away from a life that had become unbearable in search of something better? Or did her oh so proper scandal-shy parents banish her to Switzerland when she became pregnant out of wedlock or did her life's blood bleed out on a backstreet abortionist's table? Was she abducted, drugged, and sold into white slavery? Or did a despondent Dorothy take her own life? Theories abound, but there are more questions than answers.

Three years later, a morose man whose literary aspirations led to fame followed Dorothy Arnold into the limbo of the lost--bitter Ambrose Bierce, a writer acclaimed for his scathing, caustic wit that always contained a kernel of humour. Seventy-one years old in 1913, with thousands of admirers but no friends, a failure at both matrimony and fatherhood, with both of his sons dead, the victims of alcoholism and a barroom brawl, despising any woman willing to be with him, and suffering from acute asthma after sleeping off a night's drunkenness in a damp, cold cemetery stretched out on top of a tomb, Ambrose Bierce was, despite his talent, and the fame and money it brought him, a failure as a human being. Always nostalgic about his Civil War days, he set off to get a firsthand view of the Mexican Revolution and maybe teach Pancho Villa a thing or two about military strategy, but somewhere along the way, he vanished. Maybe that was the way he wanted it? Did "Bitter" Bierce cheat the undertaker and his enemies of a grave to dance on and for his admirers to festoon with laurels?

In 1931 New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater made headlines when he vanished after stepping into a taxi to attend a Broadway show. That afternoon he had behaved most mysteriously, withdrawing most of his money from his bank account and purging his personal files of so many papers he required two briefcases and four portfolios bundled together to transport them to his apartment. Did Tammany Hall, the sleazy underbelly of New York politics, a world of bribe, graft, and pay-offs have a hand in his disappearance, or did virtue triumph over vice and "Good Old Joe" renounce the world for the solitude of a secluded monastery in Mexico as his longtime mistress later implied? But in another theory vice trumps virtue when, according to a notorious Manhattan madame, Judge Crater died of a fatal heart attack while crossing the finish line to ecstasy mounted on top one of her girls. This salacious story ends with "Good Old Joe" being entombed in a cement coffin and consigned to rest in peace amongst the fishes in the Hudson River. But, yet again, theories are all we have, not hard evidence or answers.

An idealistic young woman, bored with her humdrum life as a housewife and mother, is the focus of the next story. Ruth Boerger Braman became enthralled with Communist philosophy at an early age. In 1934, after she met the dashing Adolph Arnold Rubens, a Russian spy masquerading as an author/editor and member of a prestigious Oyster Bay yacht club, she rushed to Reno to procure a quickie divorce so she could become Mrs. Rubens. Though she would afterwards paint herself as a naive young woman who knew next to nothing about Communism and became mixed up in something beyond the realm of her understanding, evidence overwhelmingly proves Ruth was a knowing accomplice who assisted her husband in running his illegal passport operation. When the couple paid a visit to Russia using false passports of Mr. Ruben's manufacture, they ended up in prison. Ruth was set free after eighteen months of imprisonment and diplomatic hassles, during which she was tried in absentia in New York, along with other accomplices in her husband's illegal passport ring, and sentenced to five years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. Rather than return to New York and be sent immediately to prison, Ruth Rubens rejected her American citizenship and chose to remain in Russia where she vanished from the pages of history.

Pretty Paula Welden looked like the girl next door, petite, blonde, and blue-eyed, but her personality was one of highs and lows. But were the lows low enough to push her over the edge? In 1946, Paula was a sophomore at Bennington College in Vermont, an exclusively female establishment whose students came from good homes. But all was not happy in Paula's home, she had become convinced that her two younger sisters enjoyed the lion's share of her parents' love, so great was her resentment that she refused to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. She had also had more than one battle with her stern industrial engineer father who believed she was wasting her time and his money at Bennington College. On a gloomy Sunday afternoon in December 1946 Paula impulsively decided to take a hike, though this was not unusual; botany was her favourite subject and provided an excellent excuse for long solitary walks during which she could observe plants and trees. Wearing blue jeans, a bright red parka, and white sneakers, she hitched a ride from Mr. Louis Knapp, 58, a contractor who lived fifteen miles from the college, near the start of Vermont's picturesque and popular Long Trail, an approximately eight mile trail, leading up to Glastonbury Mountain, lined by tourists' cottages, usually deserted in the dead of winter. On that December day, the Long Trail presented a soggy, desolate sight; certainly not an ideal site for a hike on such a drizzly, muddy day. Another resident of the area saw Paula around 5:00 p.m., she spoke briefly with the elderly nightwatchman who worked for the local newspaper, the Bennington Banner, then continued her trek towards the Long Trail...and oblivion. Despite extensive searches of the area, including the tourists' cottages, with dogs, experienced woodsmen, and even planes and helicopters up above, no trace of Paula Welden was ever found.

Marking the midpoint of the 20th century is one of the most perplexing disappearances of all time--West Point Cadet Richard Colvin Cox who, in January 1950, went out to dine with a mysterious visitor known only as "George," and never returned. Finding Richard Cox was a matter of honor and pride to the United States government and army, the massive manhunt covered the whole of the United States and even fanned out into Germany, where the young man had served in an intelligence unit in Occupied Germany during World War II, inquiries were even made in Korea after the outbreak of the Vietnam War, but all efforts to find Cox failed to bear fruit. Even the FBI failed to make a dent in the mystery. To this day, Cadet Cox remains A.W.O.L. (Absent Without Leave).

The book ends with a Halloween tragedy. On October 31, 1955 little Stevie Damman, just three months shy of his third birthday, was abducted from outside the supermarket where his mother had gone to buy a loaf of bread. What cruel trick of fate deprived Marilyn Damman of her little boy? Was another woman driven mad by maternal longings and unable to conceive a child of her own compelled to steal one, or did Stevie fall victim to some perverted monster? If he is still alive, Steven Damman would be in his late fifties now, but, dead or alive, he remains still among the missing, shrouded in the mists of oblivion.

This book is an old friend, packed with several of the cases that haunt me, ones that I've never forgotten since that first intriguing introduction, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in mysterious disappearances and real-life unsolved mysteries. The only glaring fault is a lack of photographs and illustrations, it would be nice to be able to see a gallery of the missing, and the places associated with them, but this is still the best and most thorough book on historical missing persons cases that I have thus far encountered.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Now available for Pre-Order THE BOLEYN WIFE by Brandy Purdy

My novel THE BOLEYN WIFE (previously published as VENGEANCE IS MINE) is now available for pre-order at, the release date is January 26, 2010.

The novel tells the story of Lady Jane Rochford, the wife of George Boleyn, the treacherous sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn, and the confidante of Katherine Howard, and spans the reigns of five of the six wives of Henry VIII.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson

"The Last Wife of Henry VIII" is a highly fanciful, fictionalized, recreation of the life of Catherine Parr (Katherine Parr), the sixth wife of Henry VIII. As usual with her novels, which she classifies as "historical entertainments," rather than historical reconstructions, Carolly Erickson lets the filly named "Fiction" beat "Fact" to the finish line and win the race.

This fast-paced and dramatic novel charts the stormy course of Catherine Parr's life from her earliest memory, attending the star-studded Tudor propaganda event known as The Field of Cloth-of-Gold, where the kings of England and France met for a splendid display of one-upmanship, and shrewd, practical Maud Parr sought to arrange a betrothal for her daughter that would keep the floundering family fortune afloat.
Catherine goes on to marry four times before her death at age thirty-six. First to join young Ned Burgh in a gloriously happy love match that ends tragically, then to kindly Lord Latimer who is old enough to be her grandfather.

And shining through it all there is the golden and pompous monarch, Henry VIII, who will make her his sixth wife and Queen of England. He is drawn to Catherine from the start because her honesty, compassion, intelligence, and loyalty make her a trustworthy friend in a court filled with ambitious and avaricious flatterers and place-seekers, and her beauty stirs the embers of his lust. Through his ill-treatment of Catherine of Aragon, his turbulent and tempestuous union with Anne Boleyn, the brief idyll of Jane Seymour, who bore the King's only legitimate son, the debacle of the unsightly pock-marked German spinster Anne of Cleves, and heedless hoyden Katherine Howard who cuckolds her royal husband all the way to the scaffold, Catherine Parr is always in the right place at the right time, to listen to the increasingly paranoid and cantankerous King bemoan his fate and blame others for his misdeeds, and to soothe his sore and putrid leg and supply him with licorice pastilles, olive oil suppositories, and Valerian tea, and also to give a dose of much needed compassion to his wives. And, beginning during her marriage to Lord Latimer, there is also a red-hot romance with Thomas Seymour, Catherine's future fourth husband. Like lovers in a Hollywood screenplay, they "meet cute" and blithely agree that there is no need for surnames, rank, or titles, they will just be "Tom" and "Cat" to each other, and so they are, until the day Tom just up and leaves without a word of warning or farewell. But when he writes her a letter, several months later--months Catherine has spent mourning his loss, enduring the miseries of insomnia and lost appetite, and nursing a broken heart--Catherine's heart soars like a hawk, she dances round the orchard and shouts out her joy, as she instantly forgives everything. She is deaf to the wise words of her shrewd and experienced sister-in-law: "He won your love under false pretenses. Nothing can excuse or explain that."

The book ends with a wildly fictitious and highly dramatic finale that exposes Tom Seymour for the rash, fickle fool he really is, and leaves Catherine, betrayed and abandoned to give birth amidst the boom of cannons, the smoke and stench of gunpowder, the clash of steel, and the screams of dying and wounded men, as her foolish husband wages war against his brother, Edward Seymour, Lord Protector of the Realm, out of jealousy over his preeminent position, then runs away when he realizes he can't win.

Despite the great liberties it takes with the life of Catherine Parr, those associated with her, and events from the vibrant, fascinating era that was Tudor England, "The Last Wife of Henry VIII" is a fun, fast read, though it will probably make historical fiction purists, who deplore an overabundance of fiction overwhelming and altering the known facts, want to echo Henry VIII and cry "Off with her head!" in response to Ms. Erickson's version of the sixth wife's tale.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Disappeared: The Stories of 35 Historical Disappearances from the Mary Celeste to Jimmy Hoffa by Ian Crofton

This was a fun book to fill a sleepless night and feed my fascination with mysterious disappearances. It is comprised of a series of 35 articles, most about three pages in length, about missing persons from ancient times to the 1980s. It includes a bevy of well known cases as well as some more obscure ones. It begins with the story of the lost army of Cambyses, supposedly 50,000 strong, that vanished during a sandstorm in the Egyptian desert in 523 B.C. and ends with the victims of Argentina's Dirty War.

There are tales of disappearing royals and noblemen, such as an incident from the reign of wicked King John who not only tried to usurp his brother Richard the Lionheart's throne, but made his inconvenient nephew, Arthur of Brittany disappear. Shakespeare immortalized the incident in his play "King John" when, in a completely fictitious scene, Arthur attempts to flee by jumping from a castle wall, only to perish declaring: "Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!" And, of course, what would a book about disappearances be without the famous medieval mystery of the Princes in the Tower; who murdered them remains one of the great conundrums of British history. And, a favorite of mine, the romantic tale of Count Philip Konigsmark, the dashing Swedish soldier, who cuckolded King George I, and vanished the night he and his beloved Sophia Dorothea planned to run away to start a new life together. And Lord Lucan, who still provides fodder for the British tabloids, who did a vanishing act one night in 1974 after mistakenly bludgeoning the children's nanny to death when he actually intended to murder his wife.

There are also some literary disappearances in which authors achieved immortality not only in the pages of their own books but in volumes such as this one about unsolved mysteries. The roguish French poet Francois Villon for instance, who vanished from the pages of history after being banished from Paris, the colorful stagecoach robber "Black Bart" a.k.a. Charles E. Boles, who often left those he robbed with a sample of his poetry, and Agatha Christie who vanished for ten days, perhaps in a plot to boost her book sales or avenge her husband's adultery. And sardonic, misanthropic Ambrose Bierce, often called "Bitter Bierce," author of "The Devil's Dictionary" and some wonderful tales of terror, who, sick of the ways of the world and men, left it all behind to get a firsthand glimpse of Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution and was never seen again. And Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of the still beloved story of "The Little Prince," whose plane may have been shot down by the Germans.

There are disappearances at sea, such as the vanishing crew of the "Mary Celeste," the lighthouse keepers of Eilean Mor, and the intriguing tale of Rudolph Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, who boarded an ocean liner in Antwerp to travel to London to attend a conference, and, after bidding his traveling companions good night, was never seen again. Nothing was found out of place in his cabin the next morning, his bed was turned back but had not been slept in, his nightshirt was laid out, his watch was on the nightstand, and his belongings and luggage were all in place, exactly as they should be.

Explorers are also accounted for, at least in the pages of this book, Mallory and Irvine who attempted to scale Mount Everest but disappeared somewhere between earth and heaven, Colonel Percy Fawcett who vanished into the green hell of the Amazon in search of a mysterious lost city he cryptically referred to as "Z", and the doomed, icebound Franklin Expedition with its ships "The Erebus" and "The Terror."

Aviators also abound. Amelia Earhart, possibly the most famous missing person of all, aviatrix Amy Johnson, the already mentioned Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and big band leader Glen Miller whose plane may have been shot down over the English Channel.

And there are politicians and diplomats, such as Benjamin Bathurst, the British diplomat who vanished in 1809 just outside the door of an inn after walking round the front of his coach, courageous Swede Raoul Wallenberg who saved thousands of Jews during World War II but may have ended his life in a Russian prison after being mistaken for a spy, and Harold Holt, a Prime Minister of Australia who went for a Sunday afternoon swim and never came back.

And, of course, those staples of missing persons books, rough and tough Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, former navy frogman Lionel "Buster' Crabb, and The Lost Colony of Roanoke.

Besides its entertainment value, another good point about this book I would like to mention is that it is quite up to date; if you are like me and mostly know these stories from older books, this one does bring many of the mysteries up to date, such as the discovery of an engraved bracelet and possible wreckage from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's plane, and George Mallory's remains on Mt. Everest, conspicuously without Andrew Irvine and the photograph of his beloved wife, Ruth, which Mallory had vowed to place atop the summit, leaving us to wonder whether he died while ascending or descending the mountain? And the latest sightings of Lord Lucan. Though, curiously the author, either deliberately or unintentionally, does not include some intriguing evidence that has emerged about the Glenn Miller disappearance that strongly suggests a cover-up. There are also some notable and curious omissions which disappointed me and made the book feel incomplete. It would have been nice if the author had included heiress Dorothy Arnold, who vanished from a busy New York street in 1910, Judge Crater, West Point Cadet Richard Colvin Cox, Michael Rockefeller, who may have fallen victim to the headhunting tribes he was studying on an anthropological expedition, and Labour M.P. Victor Grayson. Their inclusion would have made this chronicle of those who vanished without a trace feel much more complete, but one can't have everything and it's impossible to please everyone. That said, it's still an enjoyable and interesting read. The chapters are brief, but serve to prick the reader's curiosity and, hopefully, inspire further investigation of whatever cases intrigue the most.