New, and, True Crime

It’s summer time and there’s an explosion of new crime books. Check out these new titles:

Angel Makers: Arsenic, a Midwife, and Modern History’s Most Astonishing Murder Ring by Patti McCracken

They called her Auntie Suzy: a pleasant, friendly woman who acted as a midwife in a village in Hungary a century ago. Most readers, even devoted fans of true crime, have probably never heard of her. And yet she was the leader of a ring of women who committed dozens, maybe hundreds, of murders over a period of perhaps 15 years. This is journalist McCracken’s first book, and it is simply excellent. The storytelling is dramatic and compassionate; unlike works of crime nonfiction that relate facts at a journalistic remove, this book feels like it was written by someone who cares deeply about the victims of the crimes. There are a lot of mysteries surrounding this story: for example, there are conflicting accounts of how the “murder ring” was uncovered, and the total number of victims remains uncertain. Historical accounts conflict with one another. As much as it is possible to do so a century later, McCracken separates the wheat from the chaff and arrives at a representation of events that seems to tell the real story of the crimes—both who committed them, how they did it (distilling arsenic from flypaper), and how Auntie Suzy and her gang were finally apprehended.   From Booklist Online

Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders by John Glatt

The horrific double homicide may have thrown the South Carolina low country into an unflattering national spotlight, but the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh are but two in a series of tragedies. At the center is Maggie’s husband and Paul’s father, Alex, a former lawyer descended from a long line of South Carolina prosecutors. Investigative journalist and veteran true-crime author Glatt (The Doomsday Mother, 2022) tells the story, from the first Murdaugh solicitors to hold office through Alex’s 2023 trial, including the several deaths in Alex’s orbit: Stephen Smith, his son Buster’s classmate, who was found dead under suspicious circumstances in 2015; longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died after allegedly tripping and falling on the Murdaugh’s property in 2018; Mallory Beach, Paul’s 19-year-old friend, who was killed in a 2019 boating accident while Paul was driving drunk. And of course, the 2021 shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul on the family hunting property. Adding to the horror, Alex all the while was stealing millions from his clients’ settlements, including from the sons of his deceased housekeeper. With the flurry of recent coverage, including Netflix and Dateline documentaries, readers will be swept up in this account of the circumstances that enabled such tragedies.  From Booklist Online

Devil’s Coin: My Battle to Take Down the Notorious Onecoin CryptoQueen  by  Jennifer McAdam

McAdam, with journalist coauthor Thompson, tells the incredible journey of how she, a Scottish grandmother and the daughter of a coal miner, went from cryptocurrency fraud victim to a champion for herself and the millions of others who were deceived by OneCoin, losing their savings for a total of $27 billion worldwide. Her memoir is both a cautionary tale and a story of endurance in the pursuit of justice. Readers will come to understand McAdam’s health conditions as well as her fascination with OneCoin’s founder, Ruja Plamenova Ignatova, who would later be convicted for fraud. McAdam relates how she worked with law enforcement to uncover the scandal, weathered death threats, and continued to tell her own story and push for awareness in the media. Readers interested in true-crime tales of deception and scams, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology will find this book fascinating as it unfolds McAdam’s point of view on the personal and worldwide impact of the OneCoin scandal. From Booklist Online

What the Dead Know: Learning about Life as a New York City Death Investigator by Barbara Butcher

Butcher’s life is right out of a novel, and a best-seller at that. She was one of the first women to be hired as a medicolegal investigator in New York City, spending over two decades in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She battled alcoholism and depression before and during her career as well as the fraught interpersonal dynamics that come from being a gay woman in an overwhelmingly male profession and still managed to rise in the ranks and become one of the most trusted voices in her field. There’s even her mystery-series, protagonist-ready name. And, after reading What the Dead Know, readers will wish that Butcher would turn to mystery writing. The book is part memoir, part crime—or more specifically death—procedural. She shares specific cases from her long career, chronicling the range of death scenes she encountered, from the many suicides to front-page-ready double murders. The chapters that follow the complicated nature of her job following the 9/11 attacks are especially harrowing and emotionally resonant. Butcher’s relaxed writing style allows her to show off her engaging personality, which often lends moments of humor despite the heavy topic, making this a recommended addition to any public-library collection.  From Booklist Online

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