True Crime: The State of Serial Killers, New York
Liberty Hardy | October 17, 2019
It would be safe to say that right now in 2019, we are in the middle of a true-crime phase.
True-crime shows, podcasts, documentaries, books, and audiobooks are dominating our media. An arrest was made in the Golden State Killer case. Charles Manson died, though his story is currently on the big screen. The O.J. Simpson case turned 25. Ted Bundy had yet another film revival. Everywhere you look, people are discussing crime. Probably because everywhere you look, people are committing crimes. Take New York, for instance. It's interesting to think that while New York is home to the largest city in the United States, it doesn't have as many serial killers as several other states. If you were to ask a stranger to list famous serial killers from New York, they might be able to name David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam. That's probably the only New York case brought up when people discuss American serial killers. But that doesn't mean New York doesn't have a lot of them.
01. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
There have been three serial killers working on Long Island alone—one of whom has never been identified. In the gripping audiobook Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery , award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker reports on a Long Island killer who murdered at least 10 women and still hasn't been caught. While so many true-crime accounts give more attention to the monsters behind the murders, the focus of Kolker's audiobook is on the victims. Sean Pratt does a masterful job with the narration, his solemn voice relaying the humanity of the victims. (Pratt has narrated more than 800 audiobooks and now teaches narration—so you know he's good.)
02. Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling
Getting back to David Berkowitz, the killer who claimed his neighbor's dog told him to kill people… Few people have held a large city in such a grip of terror as Berkowitz once did in New York City. Over one summer in 1976, he was responsible for eight shooting attacks on random strangers, claiming six lives. People were terrified to leave their houses; many women cut their hair so they wouldn't fit the killer's victim profile. No one knew when he would strike again. Berkowitz's span of crimes lasted a single year. Now imagine that kind of fear going on for decades. That's exactly what happened in the case of the Mad Bomber. Over the course of the 1940s and '50s, he left 33 explosive devices in crowded areas of New York City, including phone booths, storage lockers, and movie theaters. Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling by Michael Cannell details how it took the help of a psychiatrist, Dr. James Brussells, to catch him. It's fascinating to hear narrator Peter Berkrot explain how Brussells examined all the clues, including anonymous letters left behind at the scene, to piece together a portrait of the bomber. Fans of Mindhunter and CSI will be particularly interested in the forensic details.
03. Angel Killer: A True Story of Cannibalism, Crime Fighting, and Insanity in New York City
One of the most chilling and gruesome stories involving serial killers in New York is the tale of a cannibal, rapist, and serial murderer known as Angel Killer, who blended in on the streets of Brooklyn where he committed many of his horrific crimes. Award-winning journalist Deborah Blum tells the story of this killer, and the detective who ultimately brought him to justice.
co-host of All the Books, and a Book of the Month judge.