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Fatal

Fatal

The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer

In an era that produced some of the most vicious female sociopaths in American history, Jane Toppan would become the most notorious of them all.
AN ANGEL OF MERCY
In 1891, Jane Toppan, a proper New England matron, embarked on a profession as a private-duty nurse. Selfless and good-natured, she beguiled Boston's most prominent families. They had no idea what they were welcoming into their homes....
A DEVIL IN DISGUISE
No one knew of Jane's past: of her mother's tragic death, of her brutal upbringing in an adoptive home, of her father's insanity, or of her own suicide attempts. No one could have guessed that during her tenure at a Massachusetts hospital the amiable "Jolly Jane" was morbidly obsessed with autopsies, or that she conducted her own after-hours experiments on patients, deriving sexual satisfaction in their slow, agonizing deaths from poison. Self-schooled in the art of murder, Jane Toppan was just beginning her career -- and she would indulge in her true calling victim by victim to become the most prolific domestic fiend of the nineteenth century.
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  • Gallery Books | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439182642 | 
  • August 2009
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Then my little daughter Ann Eliza took the chills and fever, and was continually sick. This made me downhearted and discouraged again. I had some arsenic in the house which I purchased in Harlem, and I put it in the medicine I bought for her to cure the chills. I gave it to her twice, then she was taken sick as the others were, and died about noon four days afterward. She was the happiest child I ever saw.

-- FROM THE CONFESSION OF LYDIA SHERMAN

Exactly what transpired on that long-ago day when Edward Struck lost his job in disgrace will never be fully known. Certain facts, however, are beyond dispute.

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About the Author

Harold Schechter
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Harold Schechter

Harold Schechter is a professor of American literature and culture. Renowned for his true-crime writing, he is the author of the nonfiction books Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, and, with David Everitt, The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. He is also the author of Nevermore and The Hum Bug, the acclaimed historical novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe. He lives in New York State.

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