In the nineteen-thirties and forties, The New Yorker began to cover
crime as a regular beat, with writers including St. Clair McKelway,
Janet Flanner, and A. J. Liebling reporting on misdeeds ranging from mob
hits to elaborate kidnappings. Like Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,”
many of these stories—with titles such as “The Murderous Philologist
with But One Big Toe” and “The Case of the Scattered Dutchman”—revealed
as much about the communities and landscapes where the crimes took place
as they did about the victims and perpetrators. The articles suggest a
particular vision of human nature: tempestuous, scheming, and
passionate, always on the verge of careening out of control. Often, they
chronicled “crimes of passion,” hinting at the darkness lurking within
civilized life.

This week, we’re bringing you eight sensational tales about crimes of
the heart—stories centered on abandoned lovers, cheating husbands, and
enraged rivals. In “American in Paris,” from 1938, Flanner investigates
the case of a Brooklyn dancer who was kidnapped and murdered in the City
of Light. (“The late Miss Jean De Koven was an average American tourist
in Paris but for two exceptions. She never set foot in the Opéra, and
she was murdered.”) McKelway tells the story of a former salesgirl who’s
tricked into shooting a man’s ex-wife on the subway, in “The Perils of
Pearl and Olga”; in McKelway’s “This Is It, Honey,” a man deceitfully
confesses to the murder of his wife. In E. J. Kahn, Jr.,’s “It Has No
Name,” a cheating husband kills his wife with a timebomb installed on
her plane. (All three of those stories are from 1953—a banner year for
crime writing in The New Yorker.) In more recent pieces, Mavis Gallant
reports on a tragic student-teacher affair that scandalized France;
Susan Orlean travels to the home town of Tonya Harding; and Hilton Als
profiles identical twins from Britain who retreated into a silent world
of their own before going on a crime spree. Finally, in a story from
2015, Nathan Heller explores the case of two college lovers who may have
committed murder. Like many of the best crime stories, it’s sad,
horrifying, mysterious, and darkly revelatory. We hope that you enjoy
these journeys to the dark side.


It Has No
Name
,”
by E. J. Kahn, Jr.

Though fond enough of his wife—“The last thing between us was a kiss,”
he said later while recounting how he had ushered her into an airlines
limousine on the fatal morning—J. Albert Guay had no compunction about
murdering her, as well as twenty-two people who were strangers to him.


The Perils of Pearl and
Olga
,”
by St. Clair McKelway

On the morning of December 31, 1946, two young women got on a subway
train separately at the Fifty-fifth Street B.-M.T. station in Brooklyn,
and sat down across from each other. They had never met, but their lives
had been drawn together and the entwinement was a sinister one.


American in
Paris
,”
by Janet Flanner

The relation of the murdered and the murderer is the base of any
assassination. The relations between Jean De Koven, professional dancer
from Brooklyn, and Eugen Weidmann, practiced criminal from Frankfurt am
Main, were merely social.


Immortal
Gatito
,”
by Mavis Gallant

Gabrielle Russier identified herself with Phaedra and Antigone, but she
must have forgotten that the same Greeks who called them heroines
admired only heroes in real life, a life in which women had no
status—none whatever.


Figures in a
Mall
,”
by Susan Orlean

One of the last happy meetings of the Tonya Harding Fan Club took place
at Nancy Welfelt’s house. The meeting had actually begun at Clackamas
Town Center—the mall where Tonya skates—on the morning of the day before
Tonya’s on-again, off-again ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, began his sixteen
hours of interviews with the F.B.I.


We Two Made
One
,” by
Hilton Als

For most of June and Jennifer Gibbons’s lives together, they refused to
speak to anyone but each other—a refusal that led to their emotional
exile, their institutionalization, and, eventually, to the misguided
appropriation of their story by activists and theorists who used it to
pose questions about the nature of identity.


This Is It,
Honey
,”
by St. Clair McKelway

“He didn’t seem drunk,” the detective said later. “He seemed calm and
sad, but he didn’t cry or anything like that. He told me he had this
suicide pact with his girl and that he had strangled her and turned on
the gas to kill himself.”


Blood
Ties
,” by
Nathan Heller

While driving to Washington, D.C., Jens Soering said, he and Elizabeth
Haysom had talked about the problem of her parents. They objected to her
dating him. The idea of killing them, mentioned in the winter letters,
arose again. Yet Soering had thought that he could talk things through
with them.