The shock and horror of homicide is somehow compounded when the crime is committed by a family member, violating the trust many see as inherent to sharing DNA or exchanging vows.
“Most of us think of families as representing safety and love,” says Charles Spicer, v-p and executive editor at St. Martin’s, whose forthcoming releases At Any Cost and Golden Boy show that some homes are anything but safe. “Families are places of refuge where we go for emotional support and protection from danger. How terrifying, then, to be taken inside a family where that very danger is hidden, lying in wait, ready to strike.”
Here, we round up new tales of crimes committed within the family unit that also explore larger issues, including failures in the criminal justice and mental health systems.
At Any Cost
On New Year’s Eve 2009, the body of Shele Covlin, a successful wealth manager in New York City, was discovered floating in a bloody bathtub by her two young children. Her death was initially ruled an accident, and it took a decade for justice to be served.
In 2019, Covlin’s estranged and abusive husband, Rod Covlin, was convicted of her murder, after attempting to frame his daughter for the crime and plotting to kill his parents. PW’s starred review calls the book a “riveting account” and a “chilling plunge into the mind of a psychopath.”
Couple Found Slain
Psychoanalyst Brottman (An Unexplained Death) probes the U.S. mental health system through the story of Brian Bechtold, who in 1992 walked into a police station and confessed to killing his parents in their Maryland home, claiming to have been possessed by the devil. Bechtold, then 22, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and for 27 years has been interned at a maximum-security psychiatric hospital; in her book, Brottman describes Bechtold’s life before the murder, and his post-conviction world in the institution.
In 2020’s The Perfect Father, Glatt chronicled the crimes of Christopher Watts, who admitted to smothering his pregnant wife and two young daughters in 2018. Here, he turns his attention to another familial homicide. Thomas Gilbert Jr., a Princeton grad and son of a Manhattan hedge fund manager, shot his father in the head at point-blank range in 2015. Gilbert pleaded not guilty, with his lawyers mounting an insanity defense, but he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison. His mother, whom Glatt interviewed for the book, maintains that her son killed his father as a result of acute mental illness.
My Brother the Killer
Journalist Sharkey explores the different life paths he and his younger brother, Stuart, have taken—Alix writes and travels the world, and Stuart has been imprisoned for 20 years after being convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of his 15-year-old niece. While also detailing their upbringing in southeast England under the thumb of their violent, alcoholic father, Sharkey seeks to answer the question of what makes a murderer and attempts to convince his brother to reveal the location of the child’s remains, to bring the family peace.