Staff Picks: Aurora’s Anticipated Non-Fiction: October True Crime Terrors

Lay Them to Rest by Laurah Norton

At the heart of the story is a severed head. Found by two girls in a lakeside Illinois park in 1993, the head would languish in anonymity for almost thirty years, the woman to whom it had rightly belonged banished to the realm of generic Jane Does. Popular podcaster Laurah Norton is our guide down the winding path tramped by the forensic investigators who set out to thaw this cold case in Lay Them to Rest, an absorbing study of the intricate science of restoring names and identities to the 40,000 people laid to rest as Jane and John Does each year. With equal doses scientific rigor and sensitivity for the disenfranchised whose deaths most often go unsolved, Norton reveals how much more there is to forensic investigation– more long hours, more effort, more unanswered questions – than we’re ever apt to see on TV.

For fans of CSI, Bones, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and cold case buffs.


While Idaho Slept by J. Reuben Appelman

If you happened to turn on your television at all or venture online last year you sure heard of this case: four college students stabbed to death in their off-campus home, a small Idaho town shaken by the bloodshed, then swarmed by journalists and amateur sleuths. The fact that you must have heard of this case because it was virtually impossible not to hear about it is integral to the angle Appelman takes in his new book, While Idaho Slept. Sacrificing none of the propulsive readability that true crime enthusiasts demand from their genre of choice, Appelman infuses his dissection of the so-called Idaho College Killings with a thought-provoking critique of social media madness and its implications for the deep-seated, apparently insatiable cultural appetite for murder and mayhem.

For fans of freshly ripped-from-the-headlines fare and critical media studies.


What the Dead Know by Barbara Butcher

Let’s just get it of the way and move on, shall we? Implausibly on-the-nose though it may seem, “Barbara Butcher” is indeed the author’s real name. What this proves is that life can be more heavy-handed than fiction, since the fatefully named Butcher would go on to a career amongst corpses in Manhattan’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In the early 1990s, after suffering a painful breakup with her girlfriend and hitting the rock bottom that drove her to seek support overcoming her alcohol addiction, Butcher decided to attend a vocational training at the Medical Examiner’s office. This would be her portal into two decades spent piecing together the how’s and why’s of death in the big city as a medicolegal examiner. What the Dead Know is both a candid memoir of the Butcher’s career – its rewards as well as its rough edges, not least the emotional toll of daily exposure to unhappy endings – and a collection of macabre mystery tales, written with the unflinching eye for detail you’d expect of someone who spent twenty years scrutinizing dead bodies. Butcher’s grit and gallows humor make What the Dead Know a tantalizingly noir behind-the-scenes tour of the nightside of New York City, Gotham recast as necropolis.

For fans of Body of Proof, gutsy women, and the mortality-curious.

News & Updates

  • November 16, 2023
    Starry Night

    December 16 from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

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