Reading with Mikita Brottman

November 26, 2018 | By Baltimore County Public Library

Portrait of Mikita Brottman

Mikita Brottman, author of "An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere," offers a fascinating look at the case surrounding a body found in Baltimore's historic Belvedere hotel, which is also where the Maryland Institute College of Art professor resides. Part true crime, part history of the Belvedere, part author introspection, this is a riveting tale with added interest to our readers because of the Baltimore setting.

We asked Mikita to create a virtual book display of some of her favorite true crime books, and her list does not disappoint! All of the titles mentioned can be found in our catalog.

Mikita's Picks

True crime combined with memoir can be especially compelling, especially when the writing is strong. These are some of my favorite true crime memoirs, in no particular order. Although they’re all written in the first person, each author’s involvement is different. Some were directly affected by the crime; others got involved after the fact by attending the trial or interviewing the participants. What they have in common is skillful writing and a gripping story.

"The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial" by Maggie Nelson
Nelson, along with her mother, attends the trial of a man accused of murdering her aunt Jane 35 years earlier. Although Nelson never met her aunt, she’d always been fascinated and horrified by the murder. Woven into her observations of the trial are family memories, reflections on a broken relationship, meditations on the nature of violence and much more.

"Who Named the Knife? A True Story of Murder and Memory" by Linda Spalding 
In 1982, Spalding was the second alternate on the jury in the trial of a woman named Maryann Acker, who was convicted of murder. Eighteen years later, something compels Spalding to revisit the case. She begins writing to Acker, who is serving a life sentence, and the two women become friends. Spalding’s quest to reverse the conviction is interspersed with reflections on the nature of memory. The New York Times described the book as “creepily fascinating.”

"I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer" by Michelle MacNamara
The author, who died unexpectedly in 2016, was a true crime addict who had always been fascinated by a violent psychopath who committed a series of rapes and murders over ten years in California. An amateur sleuth, McNamara got deeply involved in the case. After her death, the book was completed from her research notes.

"Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial" by Janet Malcolm
A smart and scrupulous narrator, Malcolm observes the 2009 trial of a woman accused of arranging the murder of her dentist husband, who had recently won custody of the couple’s 4-year-old daughter. Malcolm’s interviews with participants in the case, along with her reflections on the trial, add to the power of this engrossing book.

"Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery and a Masquerade" by Walter Kirn
A brazen imposter who called himself Clark Rockefeller won the trust and friendship of the author, a disarmingly honest narrator. Kirn admits to being easily impressed by wealth and a family name; his entanglement with a sociopathic con man is bizarrely thrilling.

"My Friend Dahmer" by Derf Backderf
In the form of a graphic novel, the author relives his schooldays when one of his classmates was the future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Backderf depicts Dahmer as an unhappy kid beset by problems and driven by a desperate need for attention. Jeff is different from other teenagers—but not all that different. When an old friend calls Backderf in 1991 and asks him to guess which one of their former classmates has been found with body parts in his fridge, Dahmer’s name is definitely on the list—but it’s not at the top.

"The Spider and the Fly: A Writer, a Murderer and the Story of an Obsession" by Claudia Rowe
The author, a journalist, was living unhappily in Poughkeepsie, New York, when she began writing to a serial killer named Kendall Francois. Among other things, she wanted to understand why and how Francois had hidden the bodies of his eight victims in the home he shared with his parents and sister. Rowe describes how her fascination with Francois grows out of her own insecurities and unfulfilled needs.

"This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial" by Helen Garner 
In September 2005, an apparently loving father drove his car into a dam, causing his three children to drown, although he escaped unharmed. Unsure if the event was a tragic accident or a well-planned murder, the Australian author Helen Garner attends the trial and interviews family members. As a narrator, she is discreet and stays in the background, yet gradually wins our sympathy and trust.

Category: Collection and Materials