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You Want “Murder, She Wrote” in Space
It’s Twisted T.V. Week
Hi friends,, the newsletter from Exhibit B.’s owner, Sarah Bunting.)
I’m doing something a little different with this issue — it’s the second annual-ish Twisted TV Week. As I wrote in the first Twisted TV edition:
“As a kid, I always loved “fractured fairy tales,” such as John Scieszka’s The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. It’s a reimagining of the three little pigs fable from the wolf’s perspective — I loved the way changing the wolf’s personality illuminated aspects from the original tale.
In that spirit, I’m celebrating Twisted TV Week. This week’s recs reminded me of popular TV shows, but with a new spin. Whether you like the shows or not, you might still enjoy the books.”
And, now, what to read if…
You Wish Jessica Fletcher Visited Space in “Murder, She Wrote”
Mallory Viridian has an unfortunate tendency to stumble upon dead bodies — and solve murders. But, unlike the police in Jessica Fletcher’s hometown of Cabot Cove, authorities assume Mallory, who fictionalized her experience in a mystery series, is a nuisance at best and a serial killer at worse. Feeling cursed to bring harm to those she loves, she exiles herself to a sentient space station, where she’ll be one of three humans living among aliens.
Her excursion goes well — none of the ETs turn up dead — until a group of humans arrives at the station, and both the aliens and earthlings begin to die. Mallory teams up with Xan, another human hiding a big secret, and sympathetic aliens to dismantle the murderous plot and attempt to finally understand why she’s some sort of murder magnet.
I loved the way Mur Lafferty delivers a well-plotted mystery while also mocking the genre convention that has murders occurring at absurd rates (a phenomenon appropriately called “Cabot Cove syndrome”). As someone who doesn’t read a lot of sci-fi, I found the beginning a bit slow because of all the necessary world-building, but I’m so glad I stuck with it and am looking forward to reading the sequel in November.
Bingo boxes this book checks: Book you wouldn’t normally choose (if you, like me, aren’t a huge sci-fi reader)
You Want the First Season of “Grey’s Anatomy” but in a Winery
On the off-chance you’re looking for more proof I’m a stereotypical millennial, I consider the first season of “Grey’s Anatomy” pitch-perfect television. I haven’t watched the show in years but have rewatched the first season at least a half-dozen times. If you’re looking for a book with a similar plot, consider Jasmine Guillory’s Drunk on Love.
In the book’s opening chapters, stressed-out winery co-owner Margot has a one-night stand with a man she meets at a bar, Luke, assuming he’s not part of Napa’s super-small wine community and can give her a break from the competitive industry. The catch? At work the next day, Margo learns Luke is the new employee her brother hired for the tasting room. As I excitedly proclaimed to my book club, “It’s a gender-flipped “Grey’s Anatomy.” (But don’t worry — no one dies in this love story.)
I enjoyed Drunk on Love while sitting outside with a friend sharing a bottle of wine. It was the perfect setting for a lush romance that will leave you craving a refreshing glass of rosé and a charcuterie board.
You’d Like a Real “CSI”
It’s become a bit of a trope in mystery shows and novels for someone to grumble “real life isn’t like the TV shows,” complaining that people’s expectation of what forensic evidence, such as DNA testing, can prove isn’t aligned with reality. (recently ran a fascinating analysis from a pollster who explored the “CSI effect” and determined it’s more complicated than we think.)
Unlike on TV, tests can’t be run immediately, fingerprints are hard to find, and analysts spend a lot of time doing paperwork. Moreover, we’re learning more and more that certain types of forensic evidence are deeply flawed and leading to wrongful convictions. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist carefully documents a horrific case of junk forensic science that sent two innocent men to jail for a combined 30 years.
For nearly two decades, Steven Hayne served as the “de facto” medical examiner for the state of Mississippi, even though he wasn’t certified to do so. His work was sloppy — he once reported removing the ovaries and uterus from a man — and he conducted 1700 autopsies a year, five times as many as the National Association of Medical Examiners says is possible. Hayne would often claim to “find” bite marks on a corpse, so he could bring in his friend Michael West, a self-proclaimed forensic dentist. Over the years, West also claimed to be an expert in arson investigations, cigarette burns, gunshot reconstruction and more. Together the two men drew on their shoddy science to send innocent people to jail, while the guilty remained free and the state looked the other way.
Investigate journalistand Tucker Carrington, the director of the George C. Cochran Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi carefully show how the state’s death investigation system — a vestige of Jim Crow — let two men get rich instead of getting justice.
Bingo boxes this book checks: Book published before 2020, debut
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