5 Mystery Beach Reads
It is August, which means it’s time for the Olympics, my birthday, and if you’re lucky, some vacation at the beach. No beach vacation is complete without some beach reading. And there is no genre more suited to the beach than crime mysteries.
Luckily for you, I’ve been collecting a fantastic collection of true crime mysteries over the past year. I have five dynamite selections to share from Wired, Vanity Fair, Matter, Damn Interesting, and California Sunday Magazine.
Read widely. Read wisely.
1. Washed Ashore
“By the time anyone noticed that he hadn’t moved in at least five hours, the man on Somerton Beach must have started giving off fumes. It was about 6:30 a.m. on December 1, 1948, at the beginning of the Australian summer, and he did not look like the kind of man to sleep in the sand.
“He was in his mid-40s. He wore a nice suit, with a necktie whose stripes slanted down from right to left…
Tucked in one of the man’s pockets was a piece of paper printed with the words Tamám Shud, which mean The End.”
The identity of the Somerton Man has remained a unknown for more than half a century. It has become part of Australia’s national folklore. “It is still a mystery, like the identity of Jack the Ripper in England or the fate of Jimmy Hoffa in the U.S.” This is the story of one man whose own life changed forever in his quest to solve the case.
“The Lost Man”
by Graeme Wood in The California Sunday Magazine
(24 minute read)
2. Dread Pirate Roberts
Ross Ulbricht was in a dead-end job selling used books online when he discovered bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency that could be used to buy things anonymously online.
Within three years he had build Silk Road. It was the largest and illicit drug marketplace in the world — generating $1 billion in just two years. Ulbricht was known to his customers only by his username: “Dread Pirate Roberts.”
This is the story of how he created Silk Road and how the FBI eventually took him down.
This is probably the best read of the week. Fascinating story.
“The Untold Story of Silk Road”
by Joshua Bearman in Wired
(47 minute read, but worth it, especially if you are on the beach!)
3. What did she see?
“Despite the press conference, the case was fairly low profile. It received more attention back in Canada than it did in Los Angeles, where the suspicious disappearance of a young woman — though not exactly common — wasn’t a rarity either. And with no news to report as the days went on, coverage of her disappearance basically ceased.
“That was, until February 13, when the LAPD summoned the public’s help again. This time, the department released a video. They wouldn’t confirm it at the time, but the video was taken by the Cecil Hotel’s elevator security camera in the early hours of February 1. It was, it turns out, the last known footage of Lam. And it was so strange, so creepy, so inexplicable that the release turned the case inside out.”
This story is creepy and so is the video. You can watch it here.
This is long, but if you are interested, it’s the best piece of the week.
“American Horror Story: The Cecil Hotel”
by Josh Dean in Matter (34 minute read)
4. Suicide or Homicide?
We all know that Vincent Van Gogh, the beloved Dutch painter cut off his own ear also cut off his own life in a tragic suicide.
Or did he?
Two art historians are convinced that this suicide yarn “was based on bad history, bad psychology, and, as a definitive new expert analysis makes clear, bad forensics.” After all why would he have shot himself in the stomach instead of the head? And once shot, why wouldn’t he finish the job with a second shot instead of letting himself bleed out for more than 19 hours?
No, Van Gogh was murdered, these experts claim. But then, if he was murdered, who killed him?
“NCIS Provence: The Van Gogh Mystery”
by Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh in Vanity Fair
(20 minute read)
5. Bomb squad
On August 26, 1980, the graveyard shift supervisor of Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Casino in Lake Tahoe found a large metal object in an employees-only storage room under the casino. Attached to the object was a note that read, in part:
“Do not move or tilt this bomb, because the mechanism controlling the detonators in it will set it off at a movement of less than .01 of the open end Ricter [sic] scale.Don’t try to flood or gas the bomb. There is a float switch and an atmospheric pressure switch set at 26.00–33.00. Both are attached to detonators. Do not try to take it apart. The flathead screws are also attached to triggers and as much as 1/4 to 3/4 of a turn will cause an explosion. In other words this bomb is so sensitive that the slightest movement either inside or outside will cause it to explode.”
What follows is one of the most entertaining stories you’ll read this week, about some high-tech, low-intelligence blackmailers who tried to bring down a casino. This made several people’s “Best reads of 2015 lists.”
“The Zero-Armed Bandit”
by Alan Bellows in Damn Interesting (42 minute read)
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