book reviews

Repost: Marjorie Orbin… former stripper, now wears stripes

I am reposting another book review. This one was originally written for in 2011. It was reposted on my original blog in 2014. I am reposting it as is in 2020, mainly because this was a very popular post when I still had the old blog open. Enjoy!

I don’t know what it is about the winter months, but there’s something about cold weather that makes me want to read true crime.  And while I can always find books about evil men who commit gruesome crimes, I’m always intrigued when I run across a true crime book that focuses on a female perpetrator.  That’s why I was eager to read Camille Kimball’s 2010 book, What She Always Wanted: A True Story of Marriage, Greed, and Murder.  This book is about a woman who committed a grisly act and traded her comfortable lifestyle for prison stripes.

The story

Marjorie Orbin grew up in Florida, the second child of a mixed up and oft married mother.  Marjorie’s father, William Kroh, was his wife’s second of several husbands.  He and Marjorie’s mother divorced when Marjorie was very young; not long after the split, he accidentally killed himself when he was cleaning a gun.  Though Marjorie’s mother went on to have two more sons with one of her later husbands, Marjorie only acknowledged her older sister, Allison, as a sibling.  She grew up in an unstable home and as she came of age, found an escape through music and dance.

Besides being very talented, Marjorie was also very pretty.  She easily found work in the entertainment industry in Florida and was able to make a good living as a dancer and choreographer.  She had a lot of boyfriends and married young.  But Marjorie’s marriages never seemed to work out.  By the time she was in her early 30s, she had married and divorced six times.  Moreover, doctors had told her that because she had severe endometriosis, it was highly unlikely that she would ever be a mother.

With the news that she would probably never conceive, Marjorie decided to just live her life for herself.  She eventually hooked up with Michael J. Peter, a pioneer in the strip club business.  Peter founded Thee Dollhouse, a very successful chain of “gentlemen’s clubs” where high class strippers performed for big bucks.  Marjorie was a big success in the industry and soon found herself performing all over the world.  She eventually landed in Las Vegas, where she became a showgirl and eventually met Jay Orbin, a successful businessman who lived in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Orbin had been a fan of Marjorie’s and eventually asked for her hand in marriage. 

Having married and divorced half a dozen times, Marjorie wasn’t too keen on another walk down the aisle; besides, she wasn’t particularly attracted to Orbin.  But she finally relented when Jay Orbin offered to pay for infertility treatments.  She had always wanted to be a mother, even if she hadn’t been very successful as a wife.  The two got married and had a son named Noah.  Marjorie traded her exciting lifestyle as a dancer and stripper for a more conventional one as a Scottsdale housewife and mother. 

Apparently, Marjorie found her new lot in life comfortable, but very boring.  She was unfaithful to her husband.  And when married life grew to be as stifling as the Arizona heat, Marjorie decided she needed to do something to get out of it.  But now that she was a mother and too old to be a stripper, Marjorie had to make sure she didn’t lose the lush lifestyle to which she was accustomed. 

September 8, 2004 was Jay Orbin’s birthday.  It was also the day that he died.  His remains were eventually found in two blue Rubbermaid containers.  He had been shot, frozen, and dismembered.  Once Orbin’s remains were found, Marjorie was free to make a claim on his life insurance policy.  Not long after that, Marjorie Orbin came under suspicion for the murder of her husband, Jay Orbin.

My thoughts

I think Camille Kimball did a great job covering this sensational story out of Phoenix, Arizona.  I had not heard of Marjorie Orbin before I read What She Always Wanted,but I think her case is very intriguing and certainly worthy of a true crime book. 

Kimball really did a lot of research for this book and interviewed many people from Marjorie Orbin’s past, including her sister, Allison, old boyfriends and husbands, investigators, fellow inmates in jail, and of course, Jay Orbin’s family.  She gives a complete overview of Marjorie Orbin’s court case.  Aside from that, Kimball also presents a very complete overview of the events that put Marjorie Orbin in the position she’s in today.  The only thing that’s missing is photographs.  Despite the lack of photos, I found What She Always Wanted to be both a fast and fascinating read.   

There was one thing I didn’t like about this book.  Kimball is so thorough that she includes a lot of endnotes.  I read this book on a Kindle, so looking at the notes was not as easy as flipping pages.  Even so, I found the endnotes a bit distracting.  By the time I’d gotten to them I had forgotten a lot of what they were in reference to.  However, I’m sure Kimball included them in the interest of being very thorough and for those who prize thoroughness, the endnotes will be very welcome.  Sometimes Kimball’s writing is just a little melodramatic.  She sort of reminds me a bit of Nancy Grace, only with a word processor instead of a TV camera. 

Marjorie Orbin’s story is definitely titillating and a touch gruesome, though Kimball keeps her writing fairly tasteful.  While I hate to say I’m entertained by stories about murder, I will say that I always find well written true crime very interesting.  And What She Always Wanted is, in my opinion, well written true crime.  I recommend it to those who enjoy the genre as much as I do.

Camille Kimball’s Web site: