Book Review: The Coed Call Girl Murder by Fannie Weinstein and Melinda Wilson

The Coed Call Girl Murder
by Fannie Weinstein & Melinda Wilson
Publisher – St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Copyright 1997
296 pages

Rating – 7/10

Summary – A college student moonlights as a call girl and ends up a murder victim. It sounds like a TV show, but – sadly – it really happened in the Detroit suburbs in 1995. The seemingly-declasse paperback The Coed Call Girl Killer is actually a compelling read.

Review – St. Martin’s wallows at the low end of publishing, issuing many paperback originals that recount true crimes. While the books are of varying quality, some of them are well written. The Coed Call Girl Murder is one of the better St. Martin’s books that I have read.

The Story

In the early 1990s, Tina Biggar was a student at suburban Detroit’s Oakland University. A psychology major, she became interested in studying AIDS awareness among prostitutes. Then, in an unfathomable turn, Tina began working as a call girl. After Tina had been working a few months, a loser named Ken Tranchida became obsessed with Tina and eventually murdered her.

The above paragraph hints at the main frustration that I experienced after reading the book – Tina Biggar’s motives remain unfathomable. While she hinted that she became a prostitute as a way of “paying back” her boyfriend for an affair that he had, I never found her explanation sufficient. I don’t fault the authors for this frustration, but the reader wants to know why Tina followed her self-destructive path.

A Solid Effort

While there is nothing outstanding about Fannie Weinstein and Melinda Wilson’s account of this bizarre case, they can be proud of The Coed Call Girl Killer. It is obvious that they did their “legwork” and spoke with many of the case’s principals. The book offers readers some “eye candy” – eight pages of black-and-white photos on glossy paper. While the photos are well done, I would have liked to have had more of them.

The story is compelling and the pages easily turn from start to finish. Many true crime books lose their momentum when they recount legal proceedings. Weinstein and Wilson solve this problem by focusing on the crime, the backgrounds of Tina Biggar and Ken Tranchida, and the manhunt for Ken. Interestingly the authors do not spare law enforcement; they recount in detail the incompetent police work that allowed Tranchida to stay at large for some time.

Drawbacks

While I recommend this book, the authors have a tendency to get in the way of their story with their sometimes-clunky prose. For example, the authors spend many pages recounting conversations. Rather than just writing “Ken said” or “Tina said” they will add their own “spin” to the accounts. They might write “Ken snivelingly whined” or “Tina confidently exclaimed.” This unsubtle editorializing wore on my nerves over 300 pages.

Another quibble is the way that the authors portray the owners of the “escort service” that Tina worked for at the time of her murder. These two women claim that they closed their “business” and spent all of their looking for Tina after she disappeared due their great concern for her welfare. The authors accept this statement at face value. Perhaps the two women were telling the truth, but I have hard time believing in hookers with hearts of gold and I suspect that extends to their madams as well.

Summary

I ordered a remaindered copy of this book from Edward R. Hamilton. For some reason, I never got around to reading even though my wife had recommended it to me. I wanted a low-rent book for the holidays and this one fit the bill. The Coed Call Girl Murder won’t change your life, but it’s a solid true-crime story.

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About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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