A Descending Spiral by Marc Bookman

Marc Bookman’s essay collection A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays (The New Press, 2021) is a brutal and illuminating look at the death penalty in the United States. Bookman is the executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, an organization dedicated to reducing the number of death sentences in Pennsylvania. Prior to …

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The Lady of Sing Sing by Idanna Pucci

In her recently re-released book The Lady of Sing Sing: An American Countess, An Italian Immigrant, and their Epic Battle for Justice in New York’s Gilded Age (Simon & Schuster 2020), previously published as The Trials of Maria Barbella (1996), Idanna Pucci recounts the harrowing story of young Italian immigrant Maria Barbella. After being convicted of murdering her lover, …

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The Murders that Made us by Bob Calhoun

As someone who is currently writing a dissertation on California literature, I couldn’t wait to pick up Bob Calhoun’s The Murders that Made Us: How Vigilantes, Hoodlums, Mob Bosses, Serial Killers, and Cult Leaders Built the San Francisco Bay Area (ECW Press, 2021). My work focuses mostly on Southern California, so I was eager to see what Calhoun …

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Death on Ocean Boulevard by Caitlin Rother

Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case (Kensington Books 2021) by Caitlin Rother is a deep dive into the infamous Rebecca Zahau case. Rebecca was found hanging nude from a balcony at San Diego’s Spreckels Mansion with her wrists and ankles bound. Her hands were behind her back, and she was gagged with a …

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Autopsy of a Crime Lab by Brandon L. Garrett

Brandon L. Garrett’s monograph Autopsy of a Crime Lab: Exposing the Flaws in Forensics (University of California Press, 2021) is a brutally honest look at the inadequacies of forensic science, its practitioners, and a legal system that legitimizes aspects of the field that seemingly have no genuine scientific basis. In this carefully and expertly researched book, Garrett, …

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We Own This City by Justin Fenton

Pulitzer-Prize nominated reporter Justin Fenton seriously delivers with his organized crime thriller We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption (Penguin Random House Canada, 2021), to be published this month. Fenton’s book tells the story of Baltimore Police Department and the 2015 scandal that led to eight of their officers being charged with …

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The Babysitter by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

Liza Rodman’s and Jennifer Jordan’s book The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer (Atria Books, 2021) chronicles Rodman’s 1960s childhood in Provincetown, MA. The book also chronicles Rodman’s interactions with Tony Costa, otherwise known as the “Cape Cod Ripper”. Costa killed at least three women in the 1960s; he buried their bodies in the woods after …

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