What Happened to Paula by Katherine Dykstra

Katherine Dykstra’s What Happened to Paula: On the Death of an American Girl (Norton 2021) is a thoroughly researched and deeply personal account of a woman’s investigation into the death of a midwestern American teenager. It also discusses the through lines that Paula’s victimization has with women’s lives across time, including the author’s own. Late …

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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 Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream by Dean Jobb

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer (Harper Collins, 2021) by Dean Jobb is an excellent and comprehensive historical true crime narrative that integrates the crimes of one man into a social, political, and cultural context. Historically rich and shockingly poignant, Jobb’s text is not one 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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