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True Crime Books

 
 

From my early passion for Sherlock Holmes I developed an interest in real-life crime. My crime library now includes many books on famous murderers, forensic techniques, crime through the ages, criminal profiling and psychology, etc. I've included links to Amazon where available for those that would like to buy a book or read reviews.

Famous Murderers | Forensics | Psychology | Collections | Unsolved Murders


Famous Murderers

Jack the Ripper's Black Magic Rituals
by Ivor Edwards

You can't get much more famous than Jack the Ripper! The blurb for this book reads:

"For more than a century, the horrific story of Jack the Ripper has endured. The ghastly crimes of the world's most notorious serial killer have become legend, and since they were committed, contemporary sleuths have spent many lifetimes attempting to identify their perpetrator. Jack the Ripper's Black Magic Rituals takes the reader step-by-step through the precise events at the center of the Ripper's reign of terror, uncovering a twisted mélange of murder and black magic. More importantly, author Ivor J. Edwards makes a convincing case as to Jack the Ripper's true identity. That man is Dr. Robert Donston Stephenson, an army surgeon, occultist, and magician, who may have also murdered and dismembered his own wife before his terrible spree in Whitechapel began."

I've read several Ripper books over the years, but this is the latest one to earn a place in my library. Ivor Edwards certainly makes a compelling case for Robert Donston Stephenson (also known as Dr. Roslyn D'Onston) but I've always felt that the real Jack the Ripper was much more likely to be a completely unknown person. Almost all of the authors speculating on the real Jack tend to pick well known people; I guess they have to as it would be difficult to write 200 pages about some poor sod that lived and died in Victorian London's slums and didn't leave a trace of his brief time spent in this world! Much easier to pick a well known person for which there remains a wealth of documentation about their life.

For lots more information on Jack the Ripper have a look at Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Casebook has enough material to keep the most ardent Ripper student busy for months.

Murder & Madness: The Secret Life of Jack the Ripper
by Dr. David Abrahamsen

This book claims that it is "based on heretofore unrevealed information from Scotland Yard." Abrahamsen asserts that Jack the Ripper was actually two men, Prince Albert Victor Edward (Prince Eddy) and James Kenneth Stephen, Prince Eddy's tutor. The author's theory centers on misogyny, which he claims motivated their killings of five East End prostitutes.

There is no real evidence presented by the author, questionable postulations about homosexuality and transvestitism weaken this book, and details of a police cover-up of important evidence are also likely to stir debate.

 

The Newgate Calendar 3
by George Theodore Wilkinson

The Newgate Calendar Improved; Being interesting memoirs of notorious characters who have been convicted of Offence against the laws of England, During the seventeenth century; and continued to the present time, chronologically arranged; comprising Traitors, Murderers, Incendiaries, Ravishers, Pirates, Mutineers, Coiners, Highwaymen, Footpads, Housebreakers, Rioters, Extortioners, Sharpers, Forgers, Pickpockets, Fraudulent Bankrupts, Money droppers, Impostors, and Thieves of every Description. And Containing a number of interesting cases never before published: with Occasional remarks on Crimes and Punishments, Original Anecdotes, Moral reflections and Observations on particular Cases; Explanations of the Criminal Laws, the Speeches, Confessions and Last Exclamations of Sufferers. To which is added a Correct Account of the Various Modes of Punishment of criminals in Different Parts of the World by George Theodore Wilkinson, esq. (1822)

 

Hunting The Devil: The Pursuit, Capture and Confession of the Most Savage Serial Killer in History
by Richard Lourie

This is the story of Andrei Chikatilo, a sadistic sexual serial killer convicted in Rostov of 53 murders of women and children (although he undoubtedly committed more). Lourie focuses on detective Issa Kostoev, who led the years-long investigation that finally caught Chikatilo, but not before an innocent man was executed for his first murder.

This book provides an interesting insight into the Russian legal system as it struggled to capture Russia's very own "Jack the Ripper."

 

Brady & Hindley : Genesis of the Moors Murders
by Fred Harrison

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley; two of the most hated names in British history. Brady was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two children and a sixteen year old boy. Hindley, convicted on two counts of murder, was also sent to prison for life.

"Brady & Hindley : Genesis of the Moors Murders" draws heavily on a unique series of interviews with Brady, the first such interviews ever given to an author by a mass murderer in his cell.

Brady's claim that Myra Hindley assisted in the killing of sixteen-year-old Pauline Reade and that David Smith, the youth who led the police to the killers, was also involved, led the author into a thorough new investigation of the Moors Murders and their background.

Originally published in 1986, before Brady and Hindley confessed to killing Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, this specially updated edition (published in 1987) includes extra material regarding these two murders.

Victorian Murderesses
by Mary S Hartman

Subtitled "A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes".

A fascinating insight into Victorian life for English and French women. As well as details on the crimes these ladies perpetrated, the author gives details on what society thought of these women and what drove them to commit their dastardly crimes (although a few of these women were undoubtedly innocent).

Most of the crimes these women committed were due to one thing: sex. And society's views on sex and women.

The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder: A Chilling Collection of Mass Murder Cases
by Brian Lane (Editor), Wilfred Gregg (Editor)

The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder is a striking exploration of the world's worst cases of mass murder. This exhaustive guide has been recently revised and updated with many recent cases. From this chilling collection a consistent pattern emerges of the person who commits mass murder: almost always male, a loner lacking in social skills, unable to form stable relationships. Bearing a grudge against society in general, or blaming certain individuals in particular, he seeks revenge in the most extreme way. Among the 200 notorious cases profiled are Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the deaths of 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two heavily armed students who opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 13 students, and Brenda Spencer, a rare instance of a female mass murderer, who shot dead eleven junior high classmates "because," she said, "I don't like Mondays." Eight pages of black-and-white photographs are included.

Who Killed John Lennon?
by Fenton Bresler

We all know who killed John Lennon, but this book explores the possibility that while Mark Chapman may have pulled the trigger, Chapman was recruited by the CIA and brainwashed into committing the assassination (shades of the Manchurian Candidate).

Possible? Most of the evidence seems very circumstantial (i.e. the CIA are known to have recruited people out of the YMCA, and Chapman was heavily involved with the YMCA). I don't think that Bresler has proven his case.

In Search of the Lindbergh Baby
by Theon Wright

Probably one of the most famous kidnapping cases in American history, the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the infant son of Charles Lindbergh fascinated and outraged the world. This book, written by a journalist that covered the case originally, discusses all the evidence and comes to the conclusion that Bruno Hauptmann, the man convicted of the kidnapping and murder, was in all probability innocent of these crimes. This is a view shared by many modern criminologists.

The twist to this story is a new startling development: a man has been found who may be the supposedly murdered Charles Lindbergh, Jr! Impossible? The author presents some fairly convincing arguments.


Forensics

Urge to Kill: How Police Take Homicide from Case to Court
by Martin Edwards

A really fascinating look into the world of murder and how police investigate a homicide and take it from the scene of the crime right through to the court case.

Urge To Kill is a complete homicide reference for the reader. You'll find out:

  • What happens at the scene of a crime
  • How police compile an evidence file
  • The role of the coroner / medical examiner
  • Key questions in witness interview

Also included is 30 real-life case studies and hints and tips aimed at the crime writer so they can get all the details correct in their own books.

Hidden Evidence: Forty true crimes and how forensic science helped to solve them
by David Owen

This is an easy read for those wanting an introduction to forensics. All the basics are covered: scene investigation, identification, poisons, weapons, fingerprints, ballistics, blood, DNA, etc. Accompanying each subject are a couple of case studies that explain how that particular subject was used to solve a crime. Many of the crimes are well-known and the well-read student of crime will already have a knowledge of them, but there's also lesser-known crimes covered.

What makes this book really stand out is the presentation: the layout is suburb with hundreds of photos and illustrations. For a crash course in forensics this book is ideal.

Police Lab: How Forensic Science Tracks Down and Convicts Criminals
by David Owen

Another good introduction to forensics. Like Hidden Evidence (above), this book has great presentation: the layout is suburb with hundreds of photos and illustrations. Thirteen chapters, 128 pages, 20 real-life case studies such as the World Trade Center bombing, the O.J. Simpson trial and serial killer Ted Bundy.

Murder 'Whatdunit'
by J.H.H Gaute and Robin Odell

Instead of concentrating on the criminals, this book looks at the various techniques that people have employed to knock off unloved ones. Starting with "acid" and working through "bacterial poisoning", "cannibalism", "gassing", "lividity", "quicklime", "strangulation" and ending on "XYY chromosomes"; altogether 142 subjects are covered.

With plenty of photographs and illustrations to drool over, this book is an absolute mine of information.

Autopsy: The Memoirs of Milton Helpern, the World's Greatest Medical Detective
by Milton Helpern M.D., Bernard Knight M.D.

Acknowledged by his peers as the greatest criminal pathologist of our time, Milton Helpern's long and successful career makes riveting reading. Much of his working life was spent dissecting the tragic remains and analysing the ghoulish outcome of violent death. In court hi brilliantly presented forensic evidence could sway many an undecided juror. The tiniest detail, whether extracted from a blood-spattered pillow or taken from a decomposed corpse, proved the innocence or some - and sent many more to their own untimely death.


Psychology

Mindhunter
by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

For those that don't already know, John Douglas is a former chief profiler at the FBI's behavioral sciences unit. During his twenty-five year career Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers of our time: the man who hunted prostitutes for sport in the woods of Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer, and Seattle's Green River killer, the case that nearly cost Douglas his life.

As the model for Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, Douglas has confronted, interviewed, and studied scores of serial killers and assassins, including Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Ed Gein, who dressed himself in his victims' peeled skin. Using his uncanny ability to become both predator and prey, Douglas examines each crime scene, reliving both the killer's and the victim's actions in his mind, creating their profiles, describing their habits, and predicting their next moves.

Mindhunter is a gripping and somewhat disturbing read.

The Anatomy Of Motive
by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

In this book John Douglas pieces together motives behind violent sociopathic behavior. He not only takes us into the darkest recesses of the minds of arsonists, hijackers, bombers, poisoners, assassins, serial killers, and mass murderers, but also the seemingly ordinary people who suddenly kill their families or go on a rampage in the workplace.

Douglas identifies the antisocial personality, showing surprising similarities and differences among various types of deadly offenders. He also tracks the progressive escalation of those criminals' sociopathic behavior. His analysis of such diverse killers as Lee Harvey Oswald, Theodore Kaczynski, and Timothy McVeigh is gripping, but more importantly, helps us learn how to anticipate potential violent behavior before it's too late.

The Cases That Haunt Us
by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

John Douglas is back and this time he casts his eye over some legendary murders. The cases examined include: Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, The Lindbergh Kidnapping, The Zodiac, JonBenet Ramsey.

This is an intriguing and well thought out book. What makes The Cases That Haunt Us so interesting is that the author offers his professional opinions and uses his profiling techniques to predict who the perpetrator was (or in some cases, was not).

I enjoyed all of the cases reviewed here except the JonBenet Ramsey murder. I feel that Douglas is too close to this case to be truly objective (he was brought in by the Ramseys' attorneys to give his opinion as to whether or not he thought either one of them could have killed JonBenet; he does not think that either is guilty). This chapter reads too much like a justification of Douglas's controversial defence of the Ramseys, and less like an objective examination.

Serial Murder
by Ronald M. Holmes and James De Burger

This slim volume (150 odd pages) is one of the first books to provide a systematic examination of serial murder. It takes an historical and theoretical approach to provide a thorough and practical guide to this phenomenon. The authors provide an overview of the cultural background, the social context and the characteristics of serial murder and its perpetrators.

This comprehensive volume discusses such issues as why serial murder occurs and how the murderers select their victims. It assesses the impact of serial murder on the families of victims and on the communities where it occurs. The authors also emphasize practical issues such as the ability of police to identify serial murder cases and the determination of jurisdiction.


Collections

An Almanac of Murder
by Fenton Bresler

A collection of 366 murders, one for each day of the year. Find out who murdered whom on your birthday! A great book to dip into with small, bite-sized stories.

The Encyclopedia of Women Killers
by Brian Lane

In The Encyclopedia of Women Killers, true life historian Brian Lane has compiled a comprehensive collection of cases illustrating the phenomenon of the female killer.

The comparative rarity of women killers makes this collection fascinating reading for any true crime enthusiast. From over 200 individual murder cases a pattern emerges of two main categories of deadly females: those who kill for the classic motives of greed, jealousy, lust and revenge; and those for whom murder is a last resort after years of male suppression and violence.

The Assassination File
by Brian Bailey

The flash of a dagger - the crack of a pistol or rifle - the blast of a bomb: the impact of political and religious assassinations has reverberated through the centuries. Julius Caesar, Tomas Becket, Abraham Lincoln, Rasputin, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and John F. Kennedy - all have died by an assassin's hand.

Unfortunately the author of this book has decided to go for breadth rather than depth. The 160 odd pages cover more than 200 assassinations, resulting in most of the assassinations getting only one or two paragraphs. This is a great shame because when Bailey does go into detail about some of the really famous assassinations the details prove to be riveting reading. The Assassination File would have been better if only 30 or so assassinations were covered in more detail.


Unsolved Murders

Jack of Jumps
by David Seabrook

Jack the Stripper was the name given to a serial murderer that, between 1964 and 1965, murdered six (possibly eight) prostitutes. Known as the "nude murders" because the bodies were found naked and dumped around London and in one case in the Thames river.

The police had few forensic clues to go on; the main one being flecks of paint found on four of the bodies which suggested the bodies had been stored in or near a paint shop, possibly a car painting workshop.

The police instigated a massive man-hunt, interviewing almost 7,000 people and setting up a The killer was never bought to justice and the killings just stopped after police announced they had narrowed their suspect list down to twenty men.

The author has meticulously interviewed a large number of people in order to piece together the last few days and weeks of the victims. Every squalid little detail of their sordid lives is laid bare for our review: divorces, pimps, broken families, alcohol abuse, STD's. We are taken on a tour of sleazy night clubs, dirty hovels that the victims called "home", seedy alleys and backways. Finally a prime suspect becomes clear, although he is never named and only described as an ex-police officer.

I found this an engrossing book about a part of London life that I knew little about.

Unsolved Murders & Mysteries
by John Canning

A collection of unsolved murders and mysteries:

  • Did a hungry dingo really kill Azaria Chamberlain at Ayers Rock?
  • Was the Axeman of New Orleans brought to summary justice?
  • Will the identity of Jack the Ripper ever be known?
  • Was Caryl Chessman, executed after 12 years on death row, innocent after all?
  • Was the man in Spandau really Rudolf Hess?

These and other unsolved cases, 28 in all, are examined in some detail. There are many photographs sprinkled throughout.

 

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