The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

True Crime

Unmasked by Paul Holes

I don’t read a lot of “true crime,” and I honestly struggled with this one until I realized that it had completely captured my attention and I was unable to put it down. Paul Holes has lived a life unimaginable to most of us; facing the depths of depravity and the lengths of evil that exist in this world over the course of his lifetime. Clearly it has affected him…he paints himself as a rather unlikable character, single-mindedly focused on his work at the expense of his relationships, his marriage and his family. Imagine obsessing over one single thing (in his case capturing the Golden State Killer) every day of your life for over two decades. It is no wonder his personal life suffered as a result, but so deep was his obsession with this particular cold case, even his professional life was negatively impacted. I almost wonder if he isn’t affected by Autism or some other syndrome that drove his compulsion to pursue this predator for most of his career. This is a fascinating read not just in the steps it takes to catch a killer, but in how it can affect the lives of so many different people in so many different ways. It is disturbing, but compelling and even if it isn’t something you would normally pick up, it was an amazing read.

Unmasked by Paul Holes, (List Price: $28.99, Celadon Books, 9781250622792,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Brent Bunnell from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Riding with Evil by Ken Croke

This glimpse into the brutal world of outlaw bikers is not sugar coated with flowery language. But, despite its “just the facts ma’am” style, it delves into the emotional strain of being an undercover agent in a way that I’ve not really experienced before. So, if you’re a true crime buff and want to read something compelling that isn’t about a serial killer- here it is!

Riding with Evil by Ken Croke (List Price: $28.99, William Morrow, 9780063092402,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Billy McCormick, McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, North Carolina

Catch the Sparrow by Rachel Rear

Catch The Sparrow is a puzzle of a true crime story as Rachel Rear investigates the mysterious disappearance of her stepsister twenty years ago. Through her research, Rear finds that there are more than a couple of people in her sister’s life who could have had a motive in her murder. And as she digs deeper into the police investigation surrounding the case, she also uncovers glaring oversights and corruption within the local police department as well as the legal system in and around Rochester, NY. Every chapter pulls a new fascinating thread and eventually leads the author to the chilling truth, offering her and her family the closure that they’ve always sought.

Catch the Sparrow by Rachel Rear, (List Price: $27.00, 9781635577235, February 2022)

Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, .novel in Memphis, Tennessee

A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess

You probably know the names of John Douglass and Robert Ressler, the mind hunters of the FBI. But it was Ann Burgess who helped develop a more scientific way to interview serial killers and serial rapists in order to catch future criminals. Burgess caught the eye of the FBI because of her groundbreaking research into rape offenders, and she brought her analytical mind to what is now the Behavioral Science Unit. A must read for any true crime buff, and a fascinating look into the early days of profiling.

A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess, (List Price: $28.00, Hachette Books, 9780306924866, December 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean

This is an absolutely fascinating, if sometimes harrowing, look into the history of science. Fans of Mary Roach will appreciate the unflinching look at the sometimes devastating human cost of scientific progress. The author raises several interesting questions about the use or validity of poorly performed scientific experiments. Particularly, Kean questions whether the knowledge gained from unethical experimentation is valid and what we should do with this information moving forward. I particularly enjoyed his focus on how these actions have affected marginalized communities. I also appreciated his repeated entreaties that we cannot simply wag our fingers at the mistakes of the past and pretend we are blameless and more morally pure than those who came before us. We must constantly remain vigilant and ensure that we are mindful of the ethical and long-term consequences of our actions in the present, lest we repeat our sins in the name of scientific progress.

The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean, (List Price: $40, Little, Brown & Company, 9780316496506, August 2021)

Reviewed by Kate Wilder, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb

Jobb captures the hypocrisy, class differences, and gender inequality of the times in an extensively researched non-fiction telling of the forgotten nineteenth century serial killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream. Jobb takes his research of Dr. Cream’s life, court appearances, and death and turns it into an account that reads like a crime novel that is both grim and hard to put down.

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb (List Price: $27.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616206895, June 2021)

Reviewed by Ashley Bohinc, Main Street Reads, in Summerville, South Carolina

We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

Wow. It is easy to understand how Becky Cooper became enthralled with Jane Britton’s story, as this book continues to linger in my mind long after I have finished it. If you are a student, a teacher, a staff member, a mentor, or a parent: this is an absolute must-read. Please read this book in honor of all of the aspiring young women you impact. In her immersive, personal investigation, Cooper gave a voice to the fears I experienced as an undergraduate student and continue to feel and see around me as I enter graduate school. The story of Jane and her murder is fascinating alone, but the ability to relate to Jane, Cooper, and every other woman affected by this story kept me reading late into the night. Women can no longer be silenced in academia when brilliant voices like Becky Cooper’s are rising from the ashes of their broken systems. This is beyond a great true crime. This is the perfect non-fiction book.

We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper (List Price: $29.00, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538746837, November, 2020)

Reviewed by Karyn Cumming, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Diamond Doris by Doris Payne

Doris was a badass and she knew it. You’re a fly on the wall as she cases and steals from the most luxurious jewelry retailers in the world using social cues and expectations to her advantage. Part Pam Grier, part 007, she led an unbelievably brazen life of crime and writes about it very well. A real page-turner. And a great audiobook as well!

Diamond Doris by Doris Payne (List Price: $16.99, Amistad, 9780062918000, 10/6/2020)

Reviewed by Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

“You cannot treat women only for a disease of which men are the main carriers. Nor, I knew, could you punish every man who fell ill.” ~ Emma Copley Eisenberg

The Third Rainbow Girl is part true crime, part memoir, and fully compelling. On the frame of the unsolved Rainbow Murders, Eisenberg hangs a discussion of Appalachian life and the complicated history its people have with one another, their history, and the rest of the nation. Traditional true crime reads may find the structure off-putting at first, but the alternating of past and present day events give a richer picture of a community defined by the murder of outsiders. Content warning for discussions of violence, bigotry, alcohol and drug use, and sexual assault.

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg
(List price: $27.00, Hachette Books)
Recommended by Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

The Perfect Father by John Glatt

I practically grew up on murder stories–from lurid true crime magazines, to the heyday of Court TV, and my ongoing love for Forensic Files. But rarely does a true crime book affect me like The Perfect Father did. Glatt offers a balanced look into the marriage of Chris and Shannan Watts, their strengths, their flaws, and their love. In our Instragram-able world, ever curated to show perfection, it’s no surprise that the murder of such a vibrant pregnant mother and two beautiful little girls would capture the nation’s attention. This story is heartbreaking, and Glatt shows the devastation not just of their families and friends, but on the first responders and the cops who investigated the murder. It’s a tough read. Four beloved souls are forever gone, and countless lives left wrecked, but The Perfect Father is a cautionary tale for our society as it explores the coldness that lurks beneath an online persona.

The Perfect Father: The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder by John Glatt (List price: $28.99, St. Martin’s Press), recommended by Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA.

The Book of Atlantis Black by Betsy Bonner

In 2008, Betsy Bonner’s sister is found dead on the floor of a hotel in Tijuana. Is is suicide, or overdose? Is it even her sister? A talented musician and performer who changed her name to Atlantis Black, her sister had always lived on the edge. Bonner’s love for her sister is apparent as she relays their overlapping stories and tries to unravel the mysteries of her sister’s life.

The Book of Atlantis Black by Betsy Bonner (List price: $26.95, Tin House Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.

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