With "Serial," Making A Murderer and The Jinx , true crime is definitely having a moment. Take a trip back in time with these vintage true crime.
THE DEAD DUKE, HIS SECRET WIFE, AND THE MISSING CORPSE: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue
By Piu Marie Eatwell
4/5 BUST rating
When it comes to British crime, Jack the Ripper and the Victorian era have a monopoly on our imaginations. But the Whitechapel killer wasn’t the only strange man lurking about. In 1898, Anna Maria Druce announced to the British court that her father-in-law was in fact the previously-thought-deceased Fifth Duke of Portland. Fusing an excellent historical eye with an engaging narrative, author Piu Marie Eatwell breaks down not only how the case unfolded, but also the psychology of an eccentric man whose wealth allowed him to maintain his “genteel” status amid rumors of orgies, vampiric habits, and travel via underground tunnels. Eatwell’s history is equal parts bizarre and literary, presenting the evidence without bias so that, until the very end, it’s unclear who’s telling the truth. This true crime story would be perfect fodder if Law & Order ever decides to launch a 19th-century spinoff.
HANNAH MARY TABBS AND THE DISEMBODIED TORSO: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America
By Kali Nicole Gross
(Oxford University Press)
5/5 BUST rating
The titular torso in this suspenseful account was discovered near Philadelphia in 1887. And the subsequent investigation of whom the torso belonged to and what had happened to the victim touched on race, gender, sex, scandal, and a mysterious woman who did not play with-in society’s norms. Author Kali Nicole Gross explains her research process in the book’s prologue and epilogue, and the narrative in between is enriched with her inquisitive energy. In following this speciﬁc, enthralling case from a time after the Civil War and before current tensions between police departments and communities of color, Gross connects the criminal justice system of the Reconstruction era with both its roots and where it ended up. Academic but accessible, this smart story is an absolute page-turner.
THE ICE CREAM BLONDE: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd
By Michelle Morgan
(Chicago Review Press)
5/5 BUST rating
Thelma Todd began her acting career just as silent ﬁlms were evolving to talkies and went on to make 120 pictures in her short life. She was intelligent, funny, kind, beautiful (seriously, she was Miss Massachusetts 1925) and was found dead in a garage near a café she owned at just 29. Todd’s death was ruled an accident, but biographer Michelle Morgan has an alternate theory that supports rumors that have circulated for years that Todd was senselessly murdered. Ice Cream Blonde divides Todd’s life into 23 chapters, and ends with a postscript, plus includes extensive notes and a bibliography. The initial chapters covering Todd’s movies aren’t as juicy as the rest. But this information is important, and helps make the horriﬁc conclusion that much more impacting.
Reviews by Princess Weekes, Christine Femia, and Whitney Dwire
This article originally appeared in the February/March print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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