Not-So-Modern Murder

Staff Picks

Not-So-Modern Murder

Less well known historical True Crime

Fans of true crime and history have all heard of Jack the Ripper, Leopold & Loeb, the Black Dahlia, and H.H. Holmes thanks to the many famous articles, books and films about their horrors. But what if you’re looking for a story just as fascinating, troubling and rich with historical detail that may be more unknown to you? Be transported to depression-era Ohio, Victorian London, 1900s New York City and more with these lesser-known historical True Crime stories.
The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder that Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott
This may be the first time I’ve read a true crime book where I didn’t know one of two things going into it, or at the very least early in the story: who the killer was or who the victim would be. And I still didn’t know for the first 200 pages. And when I guessed, it turned out I was wrong! Abbott’s great pacing and interspersed use of trial testimony makes for a fascinating story that is equal parts suspenseful and rich with historic detail.

The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth
It’s always been interesting to me how stories that are huge, huge news in their time can be forgotten within a few generations. Or if not forgotten, they are only overshadowed by more salacious and tragic stories. Such is the case with the Servant Girl Annihilator, also known as the Austin Axe Murderer, who not only equals the horror of the more infamous Jack the Ripper, but predates him by 3 years.

The Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London by Kate Summerscale
Victorians were no stranger to murder by 1895, but they could still be shocked when a seemingly normal child was the perpetrator. Summerscale dives into why and how a child could reach the point of killing their parent, also examining how such a person can find redemption in later years.

The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History by Stephan Talty
In unwinding a story previously unknown to me, Talty combines the politics of the immigrant experience in 1900s New York City with the terror of a pre-Mafia secret society controlling its streets. Perhaps most interesting is the lead detective on the case: Joseph Petrosino, who not only broke cultural barriers in the NYPD and became known as the “Italian Sherlock Holmes,” but whose techniques for dealing with organized crime were influential for decades.

Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer
What this list lacks in more volumes about women is made up for in Telfer’s 2017 compendium of many lesser-known female serial killers. No less horrible than their male counterparts, Telfer dives into their motivations and how they’ve been portrayed in media and the public opinion throughout history. And for a book about brutal criminals, it manages to