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America's First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster (Mind of a Serial Killer, True Crime, Violence in Society, Criminology)

America's First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster (Mind of a Serial Killer, True Crime, Violence in Society, Criminology)

by Mary Kay McBrayer


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The Making of a Female Serial Killer

"In America's First Female Serial Killer, McBrayer offers us a complex―and terrifying―portrait of a killer who seemed almost doomed from birth." ―Kate Winkler Dawson, author of American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI

#1 Best Seller in History of Ireland, Child Psychology, and Crime & Criminals

For readers who are fascinated by how serial killers are made. This book is for listeners of true crime podcasts and readers of both fiction and true crime nonfiction. It is for watchers of television shows like Deadly Women and Mindhunter, who are fascinated by how killers are made. It’s for self-conscious feminists, Americans trying to bootstrap themselves into success, and anyone who loves a vigilante beatdown, especially one gone off the rails.

America’s first female serial killer was not always a killer. America’s First Female Serial Killer novelizes the true story of first-generation Irish-American nurse Jane Toppan, born as Honora Kelley. Although all the facts are intact, books about her life and her crimes are all facts and no story. Jane Toppan was absolutely a monster, but she did not start out that way.

Making of a serial killer. When Jane was a young child, her father abandoned her and her sister to the Boston Female Asylum. From there, Jane was indentured to a wealthy family who changed her name, never adopted her, wrote her out of the will, and essentially taught her how to hate herself. Jilted at the altar, Jane became a nurse and took control of her life, and the lives of her victims.

Readers of America’s First Female Serial Killer:

  • Will gain insight into the personal development of a severely damaged person without rationalizing her crimes
  • Experience the rarely told story of a female serial killer
  • Understand that even monsters were humans, first

If you enjoyed books such as In We Keep the Dead CloseMindhunter, or In Cold Blood; you will love reading America’s First Female Serial Killer.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781642502077
Publisher: Mango Media Inc
Publication date: 05/19/2020
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 429,579
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Mary Kay McBrayer is a co-founder and host of the podcast Everything Trying to Kill You. She is a Book Riot correspondent and professor of literature in Kennesaw State University. Her writing and prose are feature in the Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly Review and Chicago Literati. For more, you can visit her blogs, and Book Riot.

Table of Contents

Many Things Can Be True 13

Part 1 Indenture 18

Prologue the Staff Boston Female Asylum, 1862 19

Chapter 1 22

Chapter 2 27

Chapter 3 30

Chapter 4 36

Chapter 5 40

Chapter 6 54

The Undertaker 62

Chapter 7 65

Chapter 8 68

Part 2 Hospital 70

Chapter 9 71

Chapter 10 74

Chapter 11 80

Chapter 12 85

Chapter 13 87

Part 3 Homes 90

Chapter 14 91

Chapter 15 98

Chapter 16 100

Chapter 17 114

Part 4 Criminal 117

Cataumet, MA: The Townspeople 119

Anna Genevieve Gordon (née Davis) 121

Alden Davis 124

Minnie Gibbs (née Davis) 127

Beulah Jacobs 133

Jesse Gibbs 136

Captain Paul Gibbs 137

Chapter 18 138

Chapter 19 147

Chapter 20 150

State Detective Josephus Whitney 154

Mrs. Cash, Matron 182

Jane Toppan 206

Epilogue the Staff Taunton Asylum, 1938 208

Acknowledgements 210

Bibliography 212

About the Author 214

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Mary Kay McBrayer’s America’s First Female Serial Killer brings the horrifying true story of Jane Toppan to lurid, novelistic life, and forces the reader face-to-face with the thoughtlessness and cruelty that helped turn a gifted, damaged child into one of America's most legendary killers. A heartbreaking page-turner of a book, and a story as sadly relevant today as it was a century ago.”

—Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters

“In America’s First Female Serial Killer, Mary Kay McBrayer brilliantly presents one of the most fascinating serial killers in American history—and not just because the killer was a woman. McBrayer digs into the troubled life of Jane Toppan, who is by far one of the most disturbing ‘angels of death’ found in the annals of murder. What McBrayer offers us is a complex—and terrifying—portrait of a killer who seemed almost doomed from birth.”
—Kate Winkler Dawson, author of American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI

"Mary Kay McBrayer has written a thoughtful and inspired take on one of the greatest poisoners in history. America's First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster seethes with rage, compulsion, and a righteous condemnation of the servitude of the underclass. A chilling and sobering read."
—Robert Levy, author of The Glittering World and Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol

“I found it difficult to put down this cinematic retelling of a troubled and murderous (yet charismatic and scientifically bright) mind from America's Gilded Age. Using vivid scene work and insight, Mary Kay McBrayer shows us more than just a portrait of a killer; she argues, with deft and horrific storytelling, the most extreme effects of our class system's tendency to marginalize, and ultimately de-humanize, so many of its citizens.”

—Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses and Let Me Clear My Throat

“Jane Toppan’s legacy may have been written in strychnine, but it is Mary Kay McBrayer who finds Jolly Jane's voice in this captivating, empathetic exploration into one of America's most prolific serial killers.”

—Clay McLeod Chapman, author of The Tribe trilogy and The Remaking

America's First Female Serial Killer is more than a book about murder; it's a recipe for creating monsters. McBrayer has turned knowledge into a gripping narrative and cold facts into a full, painful life to show us how wanting to be needed can turn a normal person into a heartless fiend. This is Capote’s In Cold Blood for serial killer enthusiasts: meticulously researched, superbly written, and incredibly vivid. Don't miss it.”

—Gabino Iglesias, author of Zero Saints and Coyote Songs

America's First Female Serial Killer sheds light on the horrifying—but long neglected—story of Jane Toppan, the nurse with the dubious honour of being America’s first female serial killer. Toppan’s own confession stated that she had dispatched over thirty victims through poisoning—but her motives are contradictory and unclear. In this compelling and creative book, McBrayer unravels the threads of Jane Toppan’s narrative to see what we can discover of the woman beneath. It’s a startling picture of sociopath quite unlike any other, told through the fragmented stories of those people who were unfortunate enough to cross paths with Jane Toppan. Complex, contradictory and cold, these stories offer the reader a chance to look behind the curtain and see what turned Honora Kelley, a young girl of Irish heritage left in the care of the Boston Female Asylum, into Jane Toppan, one of the most prolific and complex serial killers in America’s history.”

—Dr. Hannah Priest, Manchester, editor of She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves

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