True crime books are well investigated nonfiction reads that feature people and events involving serial murders, kidnappings, and other horrific crimes. Some true crime reads are even memoirs, written by those effected most by the tragedies.
Whether you’re captivated by the genre of true crime or fascinated by a specific story, these page-turning true crime reads cover in depth some of the most notorious crimes in Canadian history.
22 Murders: Investigating the Massacres, Cover-up and Obstacles to Justice in Nova Scotia by Paul Palango
On April 18, 2020, denturist Gabriel Wortman was on a killing rampage throughout the tiny community of Portapique, Nova Scotia, and the details released from the RCMP were sketchy at best.
Paul Palango has spent much of his career reporting on RCMP scandals, and knew the true story was more complicated and damning than what was being reported.
With the COVID-19 lockdown sealing off the Maritimes, no journalist in the province knew the RCMP better than Palango did. Within a month, he was back in print and on the radio, peeling away the layers of this murderous episode and uncovering the combination of failure, incompetence and corruption that cost a quiet community 22 innocent lives.
In 1958 Botwood, Newfoundland and Labrador, around midnight in the middle of November, three RCMP officers entered a restaurant through an upstairs window. The owner’s son had been missing for days. Father and son despised each other. He had been stabbed, or shot, and had been dumped somewhere, or he had been cut into pieces and put into a freezer to be secretly disposed of later. This unfolded as a German ship, the Alstertal, was scheduled to return to port, whereupon crew members intended to kill both father and son, feeling quite justified in doing so. No one was paying attention to the many warning signs of impending disaster. As the police cautiously made their way toward the living quarters door, a terrible chapter in the history on Newfoundland and the RCMP was about to be written.
The Sydney River McDonald’s murders took place on May 7, 1992. They were committed by a three friends who only intended to rob the restaurant, but ended up murdering three people and permanently disabling a fourth.
A broken conveyor belt took eighteen-year-old McDonald’s employee Derek Wood into the restaurant’s back room, where he saw the safe and hatched a sinister plot. He would prop the back door open, allowing two friends to sneak inside and steal the money. Wood assumed there was at least $200,000 in the cashbox, but things would not go according to plan.
The robbery went horribly wrong from the beginning, and within minutes, a fast-food restaurant in the backwoods of Nova Scotia turned into a massacre.
The Shafia family murders took place on June 30, 2009. A car is discovered underwater at a Rideau Canal lockstation near Kingston, Ontario. Within it are the bodies of three sisters—Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia, as well as the body of their presumed aunt, Rona Amir Mohammad.
The statements being given to police by parents Tooba Mohammad Yahya and Mohammad Shafia, and their eldest son, Hamed, don’t match up with the evidence at the scene.
As the extensive investigation progressed, it revealed a troubling story of physical and emotional abuse in the Shafia home, including threats of murder. Police began to suspect a quadruple “honour killing,” planned and carried out to wipe away the family’s “shame” caused by the eldest daughters.
Barry and Honey Sherman appeared to lead perfect lives. Together, their wealth has been estimated at well over $4.7 billion. But the world was shocked in late 2017 when their bodies were found under strange circumstances inside their Toronto home. At first it appeared to be a murder-suicide. Belts were looped around their necks, they were found seated beside their basement swimming pool. This was soon ruled out and police announced it was a staged, targeted double murder.
Kevin Donovan chronicles the unsettling story from the beginning, interviewing family members, friends, and colleagues, and sheds new light on the Shermans’ lives and the disturbing double murder.
Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer by Eve Lazarus
When forty-year-old Esther Castellani died a slow and agonizing death in Vancouver in 1965, the official cause was at first undetermined.
Her husband Rene would eventually be charged with capital murder for poisoning his wife with arsenic-laced milkshakes in one of British Columbia’s most sensational criminal cases of the century.
Murder by Milkshake is the compelling story of the Castellanis, and of their daughter, Jeannine, who was eleven at the time of her mother’s murder and who clung to her father’s innocence, even committing perjury during his trial.
The Castleton Massacre: Survivors’ Stories of the Killins Femicide by Sharon Anne Cook, Margaret Carson
In May of 1963, Robert Killins, 56, a former United Church minister, went on a hours-long femicide rampage throughout the small village of Castleton, just west of Belleville, Ontario.
He hunted and killed his estranged wife, Florence, who was also pregnant; his 19-year-old daughter, Pearl Campbell, who herself was nine months pregnant; his older sister Gladys Killins, 60, and her dog, Taffy; and six-year-old Patsy, Florence’s daughter with a different partner.
He slaughtered every woman in his family except one. She and her brother survived the night of terror. Here she tells the story of what motivated Robert Killins to stalk and terrorize the women in his family for almost twenty years before finally murdering them.
Carol Blackstock died at age 24 in 1959, poisoned by arsenic, but the cause of her death remained shrouded in mystery for decade.
Jeff’s father George Blackstock was a career diplomat in Canada’s foreign service, and the family was posted to Buenos Aires. Within a year of their arrival, Carol was struck with a mysterious illness and was transferred to Montreal for treatment, only to pass away a short time later.
In the following year, George Blackstock remarried, and Carol’s parents soon had suspicions about their son-in-law but were unable to get justice for their daughter, due to class privilege. George was the heir of a Toronto establishment family and Carol was from modest beginnings.
But secrets have a way of coming out. An autopsy report would lead Jeff Blackstock and his sister to eventually confront their father and accuse him of their mother’s murder.
John D Montgomery takes the reader through the act of murder as remembered by Allan Hurd, as well as the arrest, court appearances, trial, and conviction of Bender and Lucas.
He follows their lives in prison, including a hostage taking incident participated in by Lucas resulting in the unfortunate death of one of the hostages.
This book is a critical read of a 1976 amendment to the Canadian criminal code and the procedures that followed, that permited a convicted axe murderer to apply to the court for a hearing by a jury where he only needed to convince two-thirds of them that his eligibility time for parole should be reduced.
The murder trial of Evelyn Dick, one of Canada`s most infamous murderers, grabbed headlines across the country in 1946 and 1947.
Represented by attorney J.J. Robinette, Dick acquitted in what turned out to be one of Canada`s most fascinating murder trials ever. However, during the murder investigation police found a suitcase containing the body of Evelyn`s baby boy, encased in cement. The best Robinette could do on that charge was a verdict of manslaughter for which she served eleven years in penitentiary.
Evelyn Dick’s whereabouts have been unknown to the public since her release from prison. If she is alive today, she would be 101.