Hankering for some engaging true crime books to read this winter? Whether you’re looking for a searing memoir or a comprehensive history of organized crime, you’re sure to find a winner among these six books. These true stories will take you deep into the murky world of Mexican drug cartels and the complex politics of Italian mafias. By turns dark, violent, thrilling, insightful, and eye-opening, these books about historical crime will surely teach you something you didn’t know—and keep you up late turning pages.
Black Mass, written by two Boston Globe reporters who followed the case from the very beginning, explores one particular aspect of the Bulger story: his ties to FBI agent John Connoly. Connoly and Bulger grew up together in South Boston in the 1970s. Years later, Connoly was working in Boston's FBI office, while Bulger had become the leader of the Irish Mob. They struck a deal—Bulger's safety in exchange for leads on the Mob—-which soon spiraled into one of the worst informant scandals in the FBI's history. Black Mass is an eye-opening crime narrative, a penetrating exploration of power and corruption, and an in-depth history of Boston's Irish community during an especially tumultuous period.
In March of 2017, a team of FBI agents arrested Juan Granda, Samer Barrage, and Renato Rodriguez, or as they called themselves, “the three amigos.” The trio–first identified publicly by the authors of this book– had built a $3.6 billion dollar business in metals trading, mostly illegal Peruvian gold. Their arrests and subsequent prosecution laid bare more than a corrupt finance firm, though. Instead, Dirty Gold lifts the veil on an illegal international business that is five times as lucrative as trafficking cocaine, and arguably more dangerous.
The Brothers Bulger explores a different aspect of the history surrounding Whitey Bulger; it focuses on Whitey and his brother Billy, who took very different paths to power in Boston. While Whitey Bulger rose to become one of the most powerful criminals in Boston, Billy Bulger chose a political career, eventually becoming president of the Massachusetts Senate. In The Brothers Bulger, reporter Howie Carr explores the complex relationship between the two brothers. He posits that their story is not nearly as simple as good guy/bad guy, and reveals a history of political corruption, FBI scandals, and organized crime alliances.
If you're looking for a disturbing but true story about organized crime, and you can stomach graphic violence, then you're going to want to pick up El Sicario. El Sicario worked as a contract killer for a drug cartel in Juarez, Mexico. After twenty years of life as a hit man, he decided to get out, and he did so alive. Here, he tells his story to reporter Charles Bowden. Presented as one chilling but clear-sighted monologue, his story is not for the faint of heart. He speaks about his training by the FBI, carrying out torture and murder for both drug cartels and the Mexican government, and his eventual repentance and life in the US as a fugitive. This book is the story of one man, but it sheds light on the hidden underbelly of the war on drugs.
Even if you're not a historical crime buff, you've likely heard of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum art heist, which became one of the most famous art heists in history. The heist occurred almost a decade after a low-level Boston thief tipped off career criminal Ralph Rossetti that security at the museum was lax. Thirteen works of art valued at almost 500 million were stolen. The FBI immediately took on the case, but twenty-five years on, it was still unsolved, and the artwork still missing. In Master Thieves, investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian presents the most comprehensive version of this story to date. He explores the Boston gang wars of the 1980s and goes into detail about the night of the heist in 1990. He pieces together a compelling argument for those he believes are responsible for the crime and their complex motives.
The Sicilian mafia may be Italy's most famous crime organization, but it's not the only one. Southern Italy is home to several other powerful mafias, including the Camorra mafia from Naples and the surrounding region, and the 'Ndrangheta mafia from Calabria. In Blood Brothers, John Dicky gives an in-depth history of these three powerful mafias. This comprehensive work is a must-read for crime buffs.
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