Book review: Well-Mannered Crooks

Mitzi Szereto Well-Mannered Crooks, Rogues, & Criminals

The next book in Mitzi Szereto‘s series of ‘Best New True Crime Stories‘ centers on those criminals whom you might secretly like.

You know that they are violating the law but you also know that some do well for their community. Or, they keep all their profits but do treat their victims well. Some even go so far as to execute their own should they assault a victim. In other words, Mitzi‘s latest book is not just a fantastic collection of short true crime stories of gentle men and women criminals. It is a test.

These short stories force you to check your own value system. That these people violated the law is obvious. However, are there any mitigating factors in each of them? Is there anything that redeems them? And, if given the situation, what would you do?

Each criminal discussed in this book has a unique starting point, career, and ending. We have fourteen short stories. These stories take you around the world and introduces you to variety of criminal activity. I am not going to discuss all fourteen stories here in this post. You need to read them for yourself, it is a treat. I am just going to list my three favourites.

1: ‘Ching Shih: The Woman Who Dominated The South China Sea‘ by Morgan Barbour.

Ching Shih’s name is Zheng Yi Sao. She ruled the South China Sea in the 1800s. Just like Sophie Lyons, she held her own in a man’s world. You can read her biography online as her character inspired many a book and a movie. What is noteworthy here are her negotiating skills, her ability to instill loyalty, and to create a not-so-pirate-like protocol. She understood that a strict code of ethics would increase her power. If you check pages 62 and 63 you will find some of her rules. Pilfer public funds or rape a female captive, and you face execution. That is very progressive for her time period and profession. She also changed how the bounty was split up. Ching Shih passed away in 1844. She was 69 years old.

2: ‘A One-Way Ticket to Poyais’ by Janel Comeau

This story made me laugh out loud for who would believe it. In 1821, ‘His Serene Highness Gregor I, Sovereign Prince of the State of Poyais and all its Dependencies’ appeared in London. The Prince spoke so highly of Poyais, everyone was hanging on his lips to hear more. The beautiful scenery, the natural richness, the climate, the crops that never failed, and my favourite, the precious gems that littered the ground like pebbles. The Prince said that his country could use new immigrants, business people, and he handed out a manual explaining the country’s laws and customs. People raced to fill in their application to buy land and of course, a ticket to sail to Poyais. Read how it ends yourself!

3: ‘The American Dream‘ by Mitzi Szereto.

Mitzi’s short story hits on many fronts. It explains how many people feel. They did everything right, they did it all by the book, and yet, they are drowning. They didn’t get the promotion, they didn’t have savings, they were living paycheck to paycheck without a financial buffer in case something happens. And then, it does. They try to get help, do not qualify, and at a certain point, the only way out was to be a crook for just a short time. Just long enough to get past this low, just to get financially even, just to breathe again and then repay everything, because they knew that they could turn things around if they were just given a chance.

Meet Lon Perry, the Gentleman Bandit, from Texas. This man robbed a series of hotels but when the authorities arrested the wrong man, he gave himself up.

**

Mitzi Szereto did it again. Her series of true crime stories are a joy to read. All authors are so talented, check them out. Their short bios are in the back of the book. I look forward to reading the next installment in this book series. Highly recommended reading!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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