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Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  3,072 ratings  ·  456 reviews

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 Bende

Kindle Edition, 327 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Harper Perennial
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,072 ratings  ·  456 reviews

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Katie McGuire
Stay sexy, read about murderers.
Katie B
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.

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
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
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: z2018, ebook, nonfiction
I really enjoyed reading about these female serial killers!
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
but your Dad
just calls me
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
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 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
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Liza Fireman
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
Lately I've been listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder a lot and realized that while I have a great interest in true crime . . . I don't really read about it. This made me go onto Hoopla (an app through my library that allows me to borrow ebooks for free) and I quickly found Lady Killers.

It was disappointing.

It was a little boring.

Lady Killers talks about female serial killers (mostly historical ones, as the most recent is from the 1950s). It was intriguing because 99.9% of the murderers
Ali Wolpern
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-non-fiction
5 🌟!!!!

This book is amazing!!! One of the best historic accounts of women serial killers, which is not something you hear about often. Great book!! The author reading the book really makes this book the best part!
Alisi ☆ wants to read too many books ☆
3.5 stars

This didn't start off well for me. The first profile was of Elizabeth Bathory, who was probably completely innocent (everyone who accused her of these things stood to conveniently gain a whole shitton of land and money -- she was the richest, most powerful woman in that area.) And then it went on to over the Giggling Granny, which I'd already read about.

The rest were relatively new to me and interesting.
Regina Rolando
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: podcast-insp
I have been obsessed with serial killers for the past year and after stumbling onto great true crime podcasts (And Thats Why We Drink and Wine&Crime) I was looking for another medium to consume some horrific tales. I was gifted this book for my birthday and it is one of the best gifts I've gotten this year.

What's great about this book is that it gives great details on the rarely discussed female murderers. I have a very short attention span and so these short 15 pages stories were perfect f
Michel Avenali
* * * 3 Stars -Liked/Enjoyed

This little volume was so interesting to read and while the subject matter was often horrendous -we are talking about people who go around killing- the author's tone and writing style was sharp, witty, often funny, and extremely readable. The book is broken down by chapters each highlighting a different historical female serial killer, some known, some relatively unknown. Weaving through centuries and different countries each piece is enga
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, audio
3.5 *s. I listened to the audio of Lady Killers and enjoyed it, This looks at women serial killers throughout history. Most of these accounts are from a very long time ago. It is told with a good bit of wit which I enjoyed. The author particularly looks at how the killers are perceived over time particularly because they were women. My only complaint is that some of the killers seemed similar because so many used poison. I would have liked to see a few more unique accounts.
Celeste Lambert
I almost never put a book down unfinished, but I just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading this one. The subject matter is very interesting, but the tone...Ugh. It’s just so trite, and seems, to me anyway, to reinforce some of the very stereotypes the author claims her book will dispel. The author might as well say, “Oh, silly little murderesses!”. It was quite a disappointment for me.
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There is something so morbidly fascinating about serial killers. The killers who have wormed their way into the public psyche tend to have one thing in common outside of their macabre hobby; generally, these killers are men, or at least assumed to be men if they were never caught. The Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, and Jeffrey Dahmer are just a few such killers. In this book, Telfer makes the case that female serial killers are just as deadly, and far more prevalent throughout histor ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining book. A relatively quick read, it broadly explores the lives and motives of several female serial killers. Telfer explains that society is always trying to rationalize why some women kill: insanity, revenge, abuse. But what if the reality is as simple as this: they’re cold blooded killers.

The book opens with the most disturbing, and probably most famous murderess, Elizabeth Bathory. Telfer puts Elizabeth in the context of her times, details her young marriage, her violent
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I was in the mood for reading YouTube-style profiles of female serial killers, but Tori Telfer's insight reaches just a step further than that of an entertaining five-minute video. Lady Killers is a light and informative tour looking at a selection of womankind's deadlier specimens through a feminist lens. She places these deadly women in the context of their times by revealing how their contemporary public audiences reacted to their crimes, and how many of them cunningly worked societal gender ...more
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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.
“But that’s unfair, because poisoning requires advance planning and the stomach for a drawn-out death scene. You need to look into your victim’s trusting eyes day after day as you slowly snuff out their life.” 1 likes
“A coward’s weapon? Not so much. Poison is the weapon of the emotionless, the sociopathic, the truly cruel.” 0 likes
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