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True Crime Book Club

Enjoy playing armchair detective? Fascinated by cold cases? This book club is for you! Sessions are on select Tuesdays starting at 6:30 pm. Feel welcome to join us!

Devil's Rooming House

M. William Phelps

The gripping tale of a legendary, century-old murder spree
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A silent, simmering killer terrorized New England in1911. As a terrible heat wave killed more than 2,000 people, another silent killer began her own murderous spree. That year a reporter for the Hartford Courant noticed a sharp rise in the number of obituaries for residents of a rooming house in Windsor, Connecticut, and began to suspect who was responsible: Amy Archer-Gilligan, who'd opened the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids four years earlier. "Sister Amy" would be accused of murdering both of her husbands and up to sixty-six of her patients with cocktails of lemonade and arsenic; her story inspired the Broadway hit Arsenic and Old Lace.

The Devil's Rooming House is the first book about the life, times, and crimes of America's most prolific female serial killer. In telling this fascinating story, M. William Phelps also paints a vivid portrait of early-twentieth-century New England.

Find Devil's Rooming House in the catalog.

Book Group: 
True Crime Book Club
Tuesday, September 24, 2019 • 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

Peter Graham

On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme—better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry—and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline's mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline's mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora's determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson's Academy Award–nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.

A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls' relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time.

Book Group: 
True Crime Book Club
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 • 6:30pm - 8:30pm

The Journalist and the Murderer

Janet Malcolm

A seminal work and examination of the psychopathology of journalism. Using a strange and unprecedented lawsuit as her larger-than-life example — the lawsuit of Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, against Joe McGinniss, the author of Fatal Vision, a book about the crime — she delves into the always uneasy, sometimes tragic relationship that exists between journalist and subject. In Malcolm's view, neither journalist nor subject can avoid the moral impasse that is built into the journalistic situation. When the text first appeared, as a two-part article in The New Yorker, its thesis seemed so radical and its irony so pitiless that journalists across the country reacted as if stung.

Her book is a work of journalism as well as an essay on journalism: it at once exemplifies and dissects its subject. In her interviews with the leading and subsidiary characters in the MacDonald-McGinniss case — the principals, their lawyers, the members of the jury, and the various persons who testified as expert witnesses at the trial — Malcolm is always aware of herself as a player in a game that, as she points out, she cannot lose. The journalist-subject encounter has always troubled journalists, but never before has it been looked at so unflinchingly and so ruefully. Hovering over the narrative — and always on the edge of the reader's consciousness — is the MacDonald murder case itself, which imparts to the book an atmosphere of anxiety and uncanniness. The Journalist and the Murderer derives from and reflects many of the dominant intellectual concerns of our time, and it will have a particular appeal for those who cherish the odd, the off-center, and the unsolved.

Find The Journalist and the Murderer in the catalog.

Book Group: 
True Crime Book Club
Tuesday, November 26, 2019 • 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

David Simon

From the creator of HBO's The Wire, the classic book about homicide investigation that became the basis for the hit television show

The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the center of this hurricane of crime is the city's homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is possible in a deadly world.

David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and this electrifying book tells the true story of a year on the violent streets of an American city. The narrative follows Donald Worden, a veteran investigator; Harry Edgerton, a black detective in a mostly white unit; and Tom Pellegrini, an earnest rookie who takes on the year's most difficult case, the brutal rape and murder of an eleven-year-old girl.

Originally published fifteen years ago, Homicide became the basis for the acclaimed television show of the same name. This new edition—which includes a new introduction, an afterword, and photographs—revives this classic, riveting tale about the men who work on the dark side of the American experience.

Book Group: 
True Crime Book Club
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 • 6:30pm - 8:30pm