Over the summer I also spent a lot of time reading Historical True Crime books for an article I wrote for Library Journal. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to research and write, but it was fun. For a while. And then I started to get creeped out by all the True Crime. You can only read so much of that stuff at a time, even if it's set far back in history.
Here's the article:
And here's my behind-the-scenes findings and recommendations:
Everything you read on Jack the Ripper is just creepy, creepy, creepy. It doesn't matter what part of the story is being told or when the book was written. I picked up one of the older books on that killer and it flipped open to a photograph of one of the victims--not good. Not books you want to leave laying around where children could peruse them.
I read Kate Colquhoun's Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing before I started work on the article, and really enjoyed it on its own merit;
Paul Collins's The Murder of the Century was perhaps my favorite book of this entire group. Easy to read, fascinating stuff, just the right amount of gory. Collins is one of my favorite nonfiction authors (who writes on a wide variety of subjects); do give him a try.
Thumbs up also on J. North Conway's awesome The Big Policeman: The Rise and Fall of America's First, Most Ruthless, and Greatest Detective and Carrie Hagen's We Is Got Him: The Kidnapping That Changed America.