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Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  5,637 ratings  ·  768 reviews
When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are likely Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, and Kate Bender? The narrative we're comfortable with is one where women are the victims of violent crime-not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally male ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Harper Perennial
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  5,637 ratings  ·  768 reviews

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Katie McGuire
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stay sexy, read about murderers.
Katie B
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

I've read many true crime books over the years but this is actually only the second or third time I have had the opportunity to read one featuring female serial killers. There's just not that many books like that on the market so I am glad the author decided this was a subject worth writing about.

For the most part I thought the author chose an interesting group of women to feature in this book. The women were from all over the globe and represented many different time periods. I don't
I wanted to enjoy this more than I did.

This book has a lot of positives. Its a very fast read, I learned about murders I had never heard of, the book was written in a very easy to understand way and I liked the way the author pointed out the sexist manner in which female murderers are portrayed.

So why didn't I like it more?

I'm really not sure.
I guess I found the book to be a little too shallow, since most of this women have been dead for anywhere from 50- 300 years its hard to tell if any of th
Helen Power
This review appeared first at:

Tori Telfer has compiled this compelling compendium that features female serial killers throughout history.  Each murderess is illustrated with an absolutely gorgeous pen-and-ink portrait done by Dame Darcy.

Telfer opens the book with a well-researched discussion of female serial killers. In 1998, it was infamously stated by an FBI profiler that female serial killers simply do not exist. This is clearly not the case. Telfer ta
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was okay for me. Unlike others, I found the sarcastic tone a little odd and offputting. The cases were old, so there was a lot of conjecture and poison. If I’m being honest, I was bored. I guess historical true crime isn’t my thing. 2 stars
Jill Hutchinson
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
This book proves that not all serial killers are men. Contained herein are the tales of 14 murderous women through the ages who, for the most part, used poison as the weapon of choice. It was difficult to prove the existence of poison in the body before the science of medical testing and forensics were developed and since many people died at young ages most of these deaths were determined to be due to "natural causes".

The majority of the women profiled here committed their crimes prior to the b
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The ladies have raised their whips, where will they descend?"

A compilation of women who abused their power (position in society, trustworthy nature, money) and talent (baking delicious cakes, making poisons, charming behaviour).

Killing husbands after husbands, children, relatives and even strangers, these women will make Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper sigh.

The motive? There are many, but the one that stood out the most was for 'improving' their situations.

This side of the history would have b
Interesting but lacks any real look at sexism, racism, social standing, etc. There's no nuanced look at the crimes. In some cases the women are just cold blooded killers. In some cases killing develops as a way of coping with crushing poverty.
Women have been killing infants since forever and for a multitude of valid if horrifying reasons. All of that would need to be looked at in the analysis of some of these murders.
Apr 07, 2017 rated it liked it

I am still mulling over why I didn't enjoy this more. A book about female serial killers is surely innovative and I am a sucker for the twisted human mind. After so much fiction about this topic, I was thrilled to begin a non-fiction, realistic account.

The writing is engaging and witty and the author brings the right amount of humour to balance the wickedness in those pages.

However, that said humour, paired with the fact that none of the women portrayed w
I love that this book exists. The realm of serial killers is so one-sided, what with all the crazy white guys running around, finding victims to rape, torture, kill, maybe eat, maybe skin.
But here's what I've learned about female serial killers from this book: they do not grab the imagination. They're not terrifying.
In the last chapter, the author addresses this very point right after she mentions telling someone that she empathizes but doesn't sympathize with all the ladies in this volume.
Laura Noggle
Probably more of a 3.5 — it wasn't bad at all, very entertaining, just a decent amount of speculation and "crazy, psychopath" nomenclature.

If you're interested in the topic, I recommend it—so many murderesses!

“But I believe in the healing and illuminating power of narrative, and I think there’s something to be gleaned from looking at evil, trying to understand it, wondering if perhaps we are all a little bit responsible. Should anything human be alien to us? That question is terrifying, and be
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I wanted to like this one more than I did, but it's too breezy and repetitive for me.

While I appreciated the author's point that female murderers are often dismissed or diminished by a public that wants to make them more palatable, she undercuts that argument by using a cutesy, conversational tone that doesn't seem to take these crimes seriously. She also includes all the same scandalous rumors and descriptions of age or beauty that she criticizes previous reports for focusing on.

I'd love to see
Nov 03, 2017 rated it liked it
It was significantly awkward to have this book on my work desk for 3 days in a row, and more than a few people asked me, "Are you reading that to get ideas?" Well, yeah, I guess if I'm reading about women serial killers it's rational to assume I want to become one... ??? Ugh.

After the first few chapters, I was 75% positive I was going to rate this 5 stars. Which I don't think I do very often. So I obviously was entranced at the beginning. Seeing as how I clearly did not rate this 5 stars, the e
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2019-read, auth-f
With wry humour and grim facts, Tori Telfer describes a series of female serial killers throughout history. While Telfer’s tone might be light, she points out the economic and/or societal pressures that did play a part behind some of the women’s exploits. The author does not diminish their horrific acts, but provides some context for how why they did what they did, and also how these women were perceived during their strings of murder, and the combination of leering and befuddlement they were at ...more
Katherine Addison
I got this book because Telfer wasn't satisfied with retreading the same Caucasian Anglophone ground over again. She avoided the standard line-up, including American serial killers I'd never heard of, and branched out and found female serial killers in Morocco and Russia and Hungary (and not just the Countess Bathory, either, although she's in here) and Egypt. (She has a note at the end that says she was thwarted in her attempts to include "Clementine Barnabet, a young black girl from New Orlean ...more
I've long said that the reason why more female serial killers don't make the news is because they don't get caught.

Telfer gives you a brief over of the various female serial killers who did caught, and who in some cases might have gotten away with it. In part, this is to show how society functioned and in part it is to show how women worked around society while being bitches.

The book is entertaining It is more of a crime history than a social history. You will either enjoy the writing style or
Oct 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, 3-stars
Unlike the infamous Bundy or Gacy or Dahmer, chances are good you've never heard of Tillie Klimek or Daryl Nikolayevna Saltykova or Nannie Doss. They each have many, many murders to their credit. And they are all female. Does it then follow that they were less vicious? Less monstrous? Less cruel? Does it mean they should be forgotten, buried as odd footnotes to tales belonging primarily to their male counterparts?

In 1998 a criminal profiler for the FBI is famously quoted saying "There are no fe
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z2018, ebook, nonfiction
I really enjoyed reading about these female serial killers!
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
but your Dad
just calls me
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Stories of a seemingly random assortment of murderous ladies throughout history. Telfer doesn't offer any insight into why she chose these particular women (except to say that she finds modern cases too gruesome, and thus omitted them) and I wish that had been a factor; instead, reading this book kind of feels like going on an obsessive Wikipedia deep dive, where you're just clicking from page to page to page. It's an entertaining way to eat up some time -- but it's never anything more than that ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is better than the usual true-crime dross - Telfer is clearly a good writer, and I really liked her attempts to reframe how we think of female killers. I wish the essays had all gone a little more in-depth. But it’s still a fun, easy read that’s not too trashy, but not super-serious either.
L. McCoy
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Okay... this was even more fascinating than I expected.

What’s it about?
Basically this book tells about various female serial killers throughout history. Not just their murders and hearings but also their lives in general.

The people talked about in this book are all interesting. My interest ranged from “Hmm okay interesting” to “HOLY SHIT THIS MIGHT EVEN HELP INSPIRE SOME OF MY FICTITIOUS VILLAINS!”
This book is well written. I often complain of nonf
jess ✨
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Wish this was more detailed, even though I understand some was impossible to, as were too old to have a lot of facts rather than rumors and guessing, but was still an interesting read nonetheless. Even though I found more interesting all the topics the author brought up such as sexualization of female serial killers, sexism in it, the necessity of society (men in particular) either turning them into sweet old ladies that didn't look like could hurt anyone or hypersexualized version of t
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
"When one feels desperate, she can do many things."

What a truly macabre collection of vintage true crime! These cases pack a punch and are well researched. Telfer really delves into how we as a society try to romanticize the reasons females kill, when ultimately their motives to kill are anything but... Highly recommend this book and just an fyi but the illustrations at the beginning of each section are haunting and beautifully done.
Alex (Hey Little Thrifter)
3.5 stars

I particularly liked the introduction where the author talks about female killers and how they are portrayed so differently to their male counterparts. The individual cases seemed to be well researched but I did have a hard time telling some of them apart since there were similarities to quite a few of them and it felt somewhat repetitive. It was still an interesting read overall.
Review in English | Reseña en Español

The book addresses an unexplored topic –the existence of female serial killers. I believe the introduction is quite interesting as it points out how women are swept up constantly from history and their roles often minimized. Certainly being a psychopath is nothing to be proud of; however, why the male serial killers have acquired a sort of “celebrity” status and their crimes remembered and studied? As in many other areas, women have often been written out of
Liza Fireman
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Women killers and especially women serial killers are not considered very reasonable in our society mind. Thus the infamous 1998 quote from Roy Hazelwood of the FBI: “There are no female serial killers.” But they exist, and they can be very cruel, more than we would like or can imagine. This book surveys close to 20 of them, which murdered many many people, in many cases they poisoned them, but there are other ways and the women used any terrible way possible. Some of them murdered their loved o ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, nonfiction
The subject of female serial killers is not one that comes up often in literature, but this book handled the subject well and is aptly named. Many of these killers were ladies in the strictest sense. Some came from well-to-do families. They looked liked society people, or like hard-working innkeepers, or like loving relatives, or even like a kindly grandmother. But in reality, they were cool, conniving, cold-blooded killers. They beat their servants, poisoned their husbands, and buried the bodie ...more
This was pretty good but just not entirely what i was expecting / am used to. There are only 14 women featured so each section is a pretty in-depth look at their life and crimes, and I probably would have preferred to have more women featured but a little less detail overall. Still, it is a very interesting read because it discusses not only their crimes but also their lives in general, their legacy in history, and which parts of the story are fact vs. which have been embellished over the ages. ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2017; Harper Perennial/ HarperCollins Canada
(Review Not on Blog)

This is a collection true stories of women killers. It is a mix of cases throughout history. I haven't read a lot of true crime books until now, so I am still finding out what is working for me as a reader. Lady Killers was an okay read as it didn't really keep me interested. It read like newspaper articles.

***I received an eARC from EDELWEISS***
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Tori Telfer is a freelance writer who is a) inconsolable at her lack of skateboarding skills, b) obsessed with talking about serial killers at dinner parties, and c) has been published in and around the world wide web on topics from Johnny Depp impersonators to vengeful cowboys in frontier America. Her first book, Lady Killers (Harper Perennial), will be released on October 10th. ...more

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