Rachel’s Top Five True Crime Texts of 2021

This week, we finish up our top five series with Rachel’s top texts of 2021. Check them out below!

1) When She Was Bad by Patricia Pearson (Penguin Random House, 2021) 

Pearson’s text, as a reprint of the same 1997 edition with a new chapter, is shockingly still relevant. I loved this book’s meditation on the way we as a society and the criminal justice system more specifically treat women who commit crimes. Pearson questions women’s capacity for violence, their statistical punishment, and the degree to which violence in lesbian relationships goes unreported. This book educated and fascinated me. 

2) Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan (Penguin Random House, 2021)

McGarrahan’s text is a fascinating look into a woman’s journey through the complexities of a little-known case. A journalist turned private investigator, McGarrahen’s text recounts her investigation into the murders of two police officers allegedly committed by Jesse Tafero, whose execution McGarrahan witnessed in 1990. The case haunts her, and the reader follows her on a harrowing journey through the investigation she embarks on to find out, once and for all, whether Tafero was really guilty of these crimes. Alongside a discussion of the consequences and dangers of the death penalty in the US, this book was thoughtful and compelling, leaving me guessing until the very end. 

3) Murder, Madness, and Mayhem by Mike Browne (HarperCollins, 2021)

Comprised of short and compelling true crime stories ranging from murder, cults, natural disaster, and disease, Mike Browne’s Murder, Madness, and Mayhem is an engaging and diverse collection. As the host of the Dark PoutineCanadian true crime podcast, Browne’s writing is accessible and fun, with lots of reflection on the way the book interacts with the podcast. 

4) Last Call by Elon Green (Macmillan, 2021) 

Elon Green’s much-anticipated book, Last Call, recounts the story of the Last Call Killer and the gay community in New York City who was terrorized by this individual. Part social history and part true crime, this text is essential reading for queer people looking to engage with important aspects of queer history throughout the second half of the twentieth century. 

5) At Any Cost by Rebecca Rosenberg and Selim Algar (St. Martin’s Press, 2021) 

This book focuses on a dramatic family saga, mental illness, and a financial crime. Written by two investigative journalists, this book has the professional and confident tone of well-written true crime. They managed to make the case, which is relatively mundane, very compelling. 


Don’t forget to follow True Crime Index on Twitter and please visit our Goodreads for updates on what we’re reading! You can find Rachel on her personal @RachelMFriars or on Goodreads @Rachel Friars.

About the Writer:

Rachel M. Friars (she/her) is a PhD student in the Department of English Language and Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She holds a BA and an MA in English Literature with a focus on neo-Victorianism and adaptations of Jane Eyre. Her current work centers on neo-Victorianism and nineteenth-century lesbian literature and history, with secondary research interests in life writing, historical fiction, true crime, popular culture, and the Gothic. Her academic writing has been published with Palgrave Macmillan and in The Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies. She is a reviewer for The Lesbrary, the co-creator of True Crime Index, and an Associate Editor and Social Media Coordinator for PopMeC Research Collective. Rachel is co-editor-in-chief of the international literary journal, The Lamp, and regularly publishes her own short fiction and poetry. Find her on Twitter and Goodreads

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