Why does a young woman lure teenagers into her car and participate in their horrific rape and torture? What makes a nurse lethally inject the healthy babies in her care? Women, statistically, are not a violent breed…but the female of the species can be just as deadly as the male. Carol Anne Davis explores the dark world of the female serial killer.
From the mass poisoner to the sexual sadist, from profit killings to crimes committed just for twisted thrills, Carol Anne Davis sets out to explore the dark and disturbing world of the female serial killer. In-depth analysis of individual cases, including new information from the minister who heard Myra Hindley’s confession, provides an invaluable insight into the psychology behind these atrocities.
In this grisly, workmanlike compendium, British crime novelist Davis (Noise Abatement) examines the lives of (mostly) contemporary female serial killers from England, the U.S., Australia and Canada. Her case summaries support her contention that although only 2% of known serial killers are women, they are as "cruel and compassionless" as their male counterparts. She also recounts neglect, abuse and manipulation inflicted on her subjects during childhood by criminalized, impoverished, drug-using adults, with a few notable exceptions such as upper-middle class Charlene Gallego, who with her husband Gerald raped and killed ten teenagers. Some of the women worked as caretakers of children or the infirm, such as nursing aides Gwen Graham and Catherine Wood, who in 1987 killed at least five seniors. Others went on vicious rampages against their own gender, often in cahoots with sociopathic males. Assessing these couples, Davis notes that the women may be seen by society and juries as less accountable, despite evidence of their enthusiastic involvement. The seemingly harmless femininity of, for instance, Karla Homolka, who helped her boyfriend rape and murder her sister and two others, may have abetted the murders. Davis writes with verve, but her distanced, summary journalism and slavish attention to gory detail can have a pummeling effect, and her insights pale alongside prominent shock-value material. Despite ample psychological discussion (e.g. of criminal types with names like "Profit Killer" or "Angel of Death"), this book is more Grand Guignol than academic, unlike Deborah Schurman-Kauflin's The New Predator: Women Who Kill Profiles of Female Serial Killers (Forecasts, Jan. 1).