Inspired by author Tori Telfer's Jezebel column “Lady Killers,” this thrilling and entertaining compendium investigates female serial killers and their crimes through the ages.
When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”
Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.
Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject, and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.
“Telfer proves that you can stab, poison, and suffocate the predictable tropes about female killers and still write something salacious and entertaining.”
— Caitlin Doughty, New York Times bestselling author of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity
“Each tale a mini-thriller, Lady Killers recounts disturbing stories of real anti-heroines with wit and ease. Telfer’s insightful commentary reminds us that history isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes it’s worse.”
— Rebecca Romney, coauthor of Printer’s Error
“A wonderfully executed—no pun intended—historical account of female killers. Lady Killers is a thrilling character study of the most diabolically complex, fascinating female psychopaths in history.”
— M. William Phelps, author of the New York Times bestselling Dangerous Ground: My Friendship with a Serial Killer
“A fascinating, creepy and insightful read that will make you question everything you think you know about the supposedly fairer sex.”
— Mara Altman, author of Thanks For Coming and Gross Anatomy
“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.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Here’s an interesting survey of female serial killers... given its dark subject matter, it’s surprisingly lively. A welcome addition to serial-killer literature.”
“The book is well-researched and informative, but squeamish readers beware: Telfer doesn’t hide the grisly and gruesome details about what these women did to the people they murdered... Heavily researched and filled with gory details, a rare look at women who killed for pleasure.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“The chapters are well researched, and even when they start out reciting myth and legend (e.g., “The Blood Countess: Erzsébet Báthory”), Telfer goes on to deconstruct the legend and look for realism and fact behind the rumors, which is refreshing.... [Telfer] seriously interrogates the treatment these women received at the time of their crimes as well as afterward, shining light on how each case was handled. For true crime fans and those interested in feminist history.”
— Library Journal
“Think serial killers are always male? This creepy, darkly humorous compendium of real-life tales will sho you otherwise—and keep you up at night”