Bookworm: ‘Girls in Queens’ – Sexual assault, who’s believed, who’s blamed

True crime books for the mystery lover

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“The Girls in Queens”

  • By Christine Kandic Torres
  • c. 2022, HarperVia
  • $26.99, 304 pages

You don’t know what he’s thinking. The words out of his mouth are one thing; his shoulders and hands say another, as he waves them around, trying to make a point. He says he’s telling you what he means, but it’s muddy. His sentences are nonsense and you don’t know what he’s thinking. As in the new novel, “The Girls in Queens” by Christine Kandic Torres, it may be years before you fully do.

“The Girls in Queens” by Christine Kandic Torres.

For most of their eleven years, Kelly had shared everything with her best friend, Brisma. And sometimes, those were things that Brisma wished she didn’t know.

Like, for instance, that the college-age boy who rented a room in Kelly’s mother’s basement had been playing “practice” kissing games with Kelly. Or that Kelly had talked to Brian, the weird boy who’d moved to the neighborhood from Bolivia. Or that Kelly had decided to make Nicky Gargiullo her first boyfriend in sixth grade.

Brisma was sure there was more she’d never learn.

Sometimes, as a child, she wished she was more like Kelly: self-confident, comfortable in her own skin, more knowing. As she grew up, though, she began to see Kelly’s behavior as a little self-destructive; it didn’t help that Kelly was basically alone by then, with her Colombian father gone and her mother in jail.

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By the time they graduated, Brisma often felt that she didn’t really know her best friend at all. She went out to the bar too much, drank too much, and she went home with any boy who asked her – including, Brisma was sure, Brian, who was Brisma’s boyfriend. Brisma had almost caught them together once and they both swore that nothing had happened.

“The Girls in Queens” author Christine Kandic Torres.

Thing was, she trusted Brian more than she trusted Kelly. She knew for sure that Kelly lied a lot; Brian, on the other hand, had never broken Brisma’s trust. He’d never told her anything that wasn’t true – had he?

Judging by the childhood and adolescent memories and the boyfriend-girlfriend-best-friend drama in “The Girls in Queens,” you may think that this is a more of a novel for your high schooler than for you. That’s okay; she can read it, but there are absolutely some big-girl themes inside this book.

Right from the start, know that this book is about sexual assault, who’s believed, who is blamed, and which accusations go ignored. In leading up to this, author Christine Kandic Torres makes a big but subtle distinction between Brisma and Kelly, their home lives, their educations, and the role models they have (or don’t) – which turns out to be the biggest gulf of all for the characters. Still, the relationship between them plays a very major part in this story, also making it a book on young women’s friendships.

Beware, too, before you Mother-Daughter Tag Team it, that there’s profanity in “The Girls in Queens” and some not-too-graphic bedroom scenes that fit the theme of the story. Keep that in mind when you start it, and you’ll think it’s a pretty good book.

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“The True Crime File”

  • Compiled by Kim Daly
  • c.2022, Workman
  • $15.95 400 pages

“Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases”

  • By Paul Holes and Robin Gaby Fisher
  • c. 2022, Celadon Books
  • $28.99 288 pages

So far this summer, you’ve read at least a dozen murder mysteries.

You love a good whodunit more than anything, and that’s great: summertime is when you’ll find tons of detective novels and thriller-mysteries for your vacationing pleasure. But aren’t you ready for something different? Check out these great real-life true-crime books, full of actual crimes and criminals...

For something light and lively and perfect for airport or car-ride, “The True Crime File,” compiled by Kim Daly (Workman, $15.95) absolutely fits.

“The True Crime File,” compiled by Kim Daly and. “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases” by Paul Holes and Robin Gaby Fisher.

Let’s say you’ll be waiting for the kids to finish their ball game at the park. Excellent: the entries inside this book are of various lengths and they’re made to dive in and step out. Even better, you can easily finish one or two chapters if you want or go on a longer journey with a killer beside you.

Learn how America searches for its missing kids and how Amber Alerts came to your phone and television. See how much you know about real crime around the country by taking a quiz. Read about cold cases, hot arson, dead bodies, and Mr. Rogers’ car, which was stolen by a couple of fans, obviously. Then read about survivors of crime, up-to-date-as-possible statistics and get a few good recommendations for your next great read.

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This book is small enough to tuck into a pocket or backpack – and hang onto that thought. Get “The True Crime File” for yourself, and then remember it for stocking-stuffer time.

When you read mysteries, you automatically become a crime-solver, don’t you? Because that’s something you love, you need to read “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases” by Paul Holes with Robin Gaby Fisher (Celadon Books, $28.99). It’s by a guy who’s a real-life detective.

But it didn’t come quickly for Holes.

In 1994, Holes was a cold-case investigator and he promised himself that he’d find the Golden State Killer, who murdered at least 13 people. It took twenty-four years, but Holes did it, ultimately having a hand in capturing the until-then-elusive man who murdered. It wasn’t the beginning of Holes’ career but the solving happened at just the right time: he became a wanted man in a good way, appearing on TV and in interviews.

This is Holes’ story, from his early life to his amazing career solving the iciest of cold cases. Along the way, readers will learn about some of the crimes he’s solved (including the Jaycee Dugard case), how he does what he does, what a real-life detective must know, and how he ensures that the awful things he sees don’t follow him home and keep him up at night.

This is a mystery lover’s treat, catnip to a true crime reader, and fascinating for anyone who wants a thrilling memoir from a real-life crime solver.

If these true crime books don’t strike your fancy, be sure to ask your favorite bookseller or librarian for help finding more or finding some good mystery novels to fill your time. They’ll know exactly what you need, books by the dozens.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.