The Best New True Crime Stories: Well-Mannered Crooks, Rogues & Criminals

Mango. Mitzi Szereto. ed. Jun. 2021. 296p. ISBN 9781642505689. pap. $18.95. CRIME
In the latest installment in the “Best New True Crime Stories” series, anthology editor Szereto and other contributors profile sophisticated, charismatic criminals who “elevated criminality to a fine art” and who relied on their wit, charisma, and inventiveness to move, chameleon-like, between social classes. For instance, David Blumenfeld explores bank robber John Dillinger and explains that during the Great Depression, many thought that the banks were the real robbers; he says that this popular sentiment, along with Dillinger’s courteous manner toward victims, earned him the nickname “Gentleman John.” In “Ching Shih: The Woman Who Dominated the South China Sea,” Morgan Barbour examines the skilled negotiator, courtesan, and pirate leader in 18th-century China, who she says thrived in spite of sexism and her impoverished beginnings, taking command over the Guangdong Pirate Confederation. This anthology’s contributors approach their subjects with the nuanced understanding of a historian or sociologist; rather than simply examining motive and opportunity, they consider factors such as historical backdrops, personality types, public perceptions, self-deception, gender, class, and inequality.
VERDICT A thought-provoking volume, with accounts that span continents and circumstances, that will appeal even to true crime fans who have seen it all.
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