New books explore real-life criminal activity beyond the U.S. borders

Anansi’s Gold

Yepoka Yeebo. Bloomsbury, Aug.

Yeebo, a journalist who divides her time between Ghana and the U.K., tells the story of a charismatic, resourceful scammer who found fertile ground in the postcolonial Ghana of the 1970s and ’80s. After President Kwame Nkrumah was unseated by a military junta and falsely accused of hiding the nation’s riches overseas, John Ackah Blay-Miezah claimed custodianship over Nkrumah’s alleged cache, and offered a share of it in exchange for helping him retrieve it. Abetted by a rogue’s gallery that included Ghanaian state officials and Richard Nixon’s former attorney general, he fleeced thousands of hopefuls for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Angel Makers

Patti McCracken. Morrow, Mar.

“Auntie Suzy,” the midwife of a small village in 1920s Hungary, was as efficient at ushering life out of the world as she was at ushering it in. In a recounting that PW’s starred review called “a must for true crime fans,” McCracken, whose reporting work has included long stints in Central and Eastern Europe, describes how Auntie Suzy would dispense arsenic extracted from flypaper to the women in her care, letting them take care of abusive husbands as they saw fit. By the time the world took notice, hundreds were dead.


Lost Son

Brett Forrest. Little, Brown, May

Billy Reilly was a Michigan high school student on 9/11. Fascinated by the overseas conflict that followed, he spent time in jihadi forums and taught himself Arabic and Russian, fasting in the school cafeteria during Ramadan. At age 23, his internet activity caught the attention of the FBI, which recruited him as a Confidential Human Source, a civilian role often involving great personal risk. At the bureau’s behest, he traveled to Russia, then disappeared. Wall Street Journal national security reporter Forrest picks up his trail.

The Opium Queen

Gabrielle Paluch. Rowman & Littlefield, Apr.

Journalist Paluch delivers what PW’s review described as “a jaw-dropping study of a lesser-known yet larger-than-life figure”: anti-communist rebel leader and genderqueer narcotics smuggler Olive Yang. This “detailed and compassionate portrait” shows how, in the 1950s and ’60s, she earned a reputation as “a Burmese Joan of Arc while sparring with local chieftains, the Chinese army, and rival family members for control of smuggling routes in the region.”


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