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Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History
Contributor(s): Telfer, Tori

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ISBN: 0062433733     ISBN-13: 9780062433732
Publisher: Perennial
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Binding Type: Paperback
Published: October 2017

Annotation: Examines female serial killers through a feminist lens, delving into the cruel and cunning minds of such murderers as Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Kate Bender.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Women serial murderers.
Serial murderers.
Women serial murderers; Biography.
BISAC Categories:
- True Crime | Murder | Serial Killers
- Social Science | Criminology
Dewey: 364.152/3209252
LCCN: 2017276324
Academic/Grade Level: General Adult
Book type: Non-Fiction
Physical Information: 8.00" H x 5.00" W x 1.00" (0.55 lbs) 316 pages
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2017 August #1)

In her debut work of nonfiction, Telfer, who writes for the Awl and Vice, exhumes the horrific criminal histories of 14 female serial killers. Each woman receives an individual portrait that outlines her crimes in gruesome detail. Among the women portrayed are Kate Bender, the "beautiful throat cutter" from Kansas who lured unsuspecting travelers to their deaths in the second half of the 19th century, and Nannie Doss, the "giggling grandma" from Alabama in the mid-20th century who was so dissatisfied with her string of husbands that she killed them off one by one. Telfer calls out the misogynistic tropes at play­—the witches, femme fatales, and black widows, to name a few—in fictional depictions of female murderers. She also calls attention to how sexuality and beauty are often written into the popular narratives of these crimes. During the trial of Tillie Klimek for the murder of her husband in the 1920s, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune bluntly wrote that "Tillie Klimek went to the penitentiary because she had never gone to a beauty parlor." The oldest story in the book is that of Hungarian noblewoman Erzsébet Báthory, "the OG female sadomasochist," who tortured and killed hundreds of young women in the 16th century. With a breezy tone and sharp commentary, Telfer draws out the tired stereotypes with just enough wit and humor to make the topic of female murderers enjoyable. (Oct.)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2018 July)

With her debut, Telfer mines Lady Killers, her column for feminist website Jezebel, exploring female serial murderers. Erzsébet Báthory was a wealthy Hungarian noblewoman who between 1590 and 1609 tortured her serfs (did she bathe in their blood?). In the 1970s, Kate Bender helped run a welcoming Kansas inn where wealthy visitors never checked out. Egyptian sisters Raya and Sakina were accused of murdering more than 15 women in the 1920s, and the midwife of a rural Hungarian village was accused of teaching other women to poison the men in their lives who had just returned from the World War II battlefields. No contemporary serial killers are covered—the most recent case is the Giggling Grandma, from the 1950s. The breezy, occasionally humorous prose lightens the serious subject as Telfer offers a feminist analysis that counteracts the sexist and sensational coverage of these women. VERDICT A solid choice for high school research papers and true crime collections.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.
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