True Crime: Women
All titles on this booklist are found on hoopla.
Diamond Doris by Doris Payne - audiobook also available.
Growing up during the Depression, Doris Payne was told her dreams were unattainable for poor black girls like her. She vowed to turn the tables after the owner of a jewelry store threw her out when a white customer arrived. Payne began shoplifting small pieces of jewelry. Becoming an expert world-class jewel thief, she daringly pulled off numerous diamond robberies and her Jewish boyfriend fenced the stolen gems to Hollywood celebrities. Eventually realizing Doris was using him, her boyfriend turned her in. But even prison couldn't contain this larger-than-life personality who cleverly used nuns as well as various ruses to help her break out. With her arrest in 2013 in San Diego, Doris's fame skyrocketed when media coverage of her astonishing escapades exploded. Today, at eighty-seven, Doris, as bold and vibrant as ever, lives in Atlanta, and is celebrated for her glamorous legacy.
Lady Killers by Tori Telfer - audiobook also available.
Lady Killers disputes the claim that "there are no female serial killers" and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction. Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject, and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations and tired tropes, delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. It is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold - audiobook also available.
Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met: the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women. For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that "the Ripper" preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, but it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness, and misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but their greatest misfortune was to be born women.
18 Tiny Deaths by Bruce Goldfarb
Frances Glessner Lee, born a socialite in the 1870s, was never meant to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity. Yet she developed a fascination with the investigation of violent crimes and made it her life's work. Best known for creating the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of dollhouses that appear charming until you notice the macabre little details: an overturned chair, or a blood-spattered comforter. 18 Tiny Deaths delves into Lee's journey from grandmother without a college degree to leading the scientific investigation of unexpected death into the light of the modern day. Lee developed a system that used the Nutshells dioramas to train law enforcement officers to investigate violent crimes, and her methods are still used today. 18 Tiny Deaths transports the reader back in time and tells the story of how one woman changed the face of science forever.
All That Remains by Sue Black
For fans of Caitlin Doughty, Mary Roach, and CSI shows, a renowned forensic scientist on death and mortality. Dame Sue Black is an internationally renowned forensic anthropologist and human anatomist. She has lived her life eye to eye with the Grim Reaper, and she writes vividly about it in this book, which is part primer on the basics of identifying human remains, part frank memoir of a woman whose first paying job was to apprentice in a butcher shop, and part no-nonsense but deeply humane introduction to the reality of death in our lives. It is a treat for CSI junkies, murder mystery and thriller readers, and anyone seeking a clear-eyed guide to a subject that touches us all. Cutting through hype, romanticism, and cliché, she uses key cases to reveal how forensic science has developed and what her work has taught her about human nature.
The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall
Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers in American history and one of the most publicized to this day. However, very rarely do we hear from the women he left behind, the ones forgotten as mere footnotes in this tragedy. This updated and expanded reissue of Elizabeth Kendall's 1981 book The Phantom Prince chronicles her intense, six-year relationship with Ted Bundy and its eventual unraveling. Featuring a new introduction and a new afterword by the author, never-before-seen photos, and a new chapter from the author's daughter, Molly, this gripping account presents a remarkable examination of obsession, intrigue, and the darkness that love can mask. Elizabeth Kendall's memoir, The Phantom Prince, was originally published in 1981. Molly Kendall, her daughter, considered Bundy a father figure between the ages of three and ten.
Three Sisters in Black by Norman Zierold - audiobook also available.
On November 29, 1909, police were called to a ramshackle home in East Orange, NJ, where they found the emaciated body of twenty-four-year-old Oceana "Ocey" Snead facedown in the bathtub-dead of an apparent suicide by drowning. There was even a note left behind. But it would not take authorities long to discover that Ocey's death was no suicide. And Ocey's own mother and two aunts were far from the sorrowful caretakers they appeared to be. In fact, behind the veils of their strange black mourning clothes, they were monsters, having tormented Ocey almost since birth in a sick pattern of both physical and mental abuse, after a lifetime of which the women planned to cash in on poor Ocey's sad and inevitable death. An Edgar Award finalist, Three Sisters in Black is the true story of a gothic, gaslight nightmare that fascinated, shocked, and baffled the nation, and the disturbed women who almost got away with murder.
Woman at the Devil's Door by Sara Beth Hopton - audiobook also available.
On October 24, 1890, a woman was discovered on a pile of rubbish in Hampstead, North London. Her arms were lacerated and her face bloodied; her head was severed from her body save a few sinews. Later that day, a blood-soaked stroller was found leaning against a residential gate, and the following morning the dead body of a baby was found hidden underneath a nettle bush. So began the chilling story of the Hampstead Tragedy. Eventually, Scotland Yard knocked on the door of No. 2 Priory Street, home to Mary Eleanor Pearcey, the pretty 24-year-old mistress whose dying request was as bizarre and mysterious as her life. Woman at the Devil's Door is a thrilling look at this notorious murderer and the webs she wove.