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True Crime Book Club - Past Titles: July 2023

Trigger Warning: Take a look through our previous titles from our True Crime Book Club.

"The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer" by Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan

  1. On pp. 300, Liza states “Since beginning this project, I have been asked one question above all others: Why didn’t he kill you? Why wasn’t a little girl for whom he bought Popsicles and drove countless times to the clearing in the Truro woods among those he killed, violated, dismembered, and buried?” After reading intimate details about both Liza’s and Tony’s stories, why do you think her life was spared?
  2. Do you think Liza’s life was ever in danger while she was in Tony’s care?
  3. “That’s not just a serial killer,” Dr. James Fallon, author of The Psychopath Inside, said of Tony Costa and his butchery. “That’s a whole different animal.” (pp. 303) Do you think Tony Costa was mentally ill? Or do you believe he was simply evil? Discuss both angles with your reading group.
  4. Tony tried desperately to convince his attorneys and the police that others were involved in, possibly responsible for, the murders. What do you think? Did he have an accomplice who did the dirty work of the killings?
  5. Why do you think Tony took Liza and her sister into the woods, his burial grounds for at least four of his victims? Why wasn’t he concerned that they’d tell other adults?
  6. Given the early and ongoing emotional and physical abuse she inflicted on Liza, do you think Liza’s mother was mentally ill?
  7. Do you think Cecelia, Tony’s mother, knew of his crimes? And if so, why didn’t she tell the police?
  8. Many of his friends later admitted that they suspected Tony was at the very least involved in the various disappearances of women in Provincetown. Why do you think no one came forward and shared their suspicions with the police?
  9. Keeping in mind that he was a pathological liar who maintained his innocence until the day he died, what would you ask Tony if you could?
  10. Given all that you read about Tony and his pathological narcissism, do you think he committed suicide or was he killed in prison? Why?
  11. What significance do you think the music mentioned in this story plays in the overall narrative?
  12. What do you think might have helped someone like Tony Costa before he committed the murders? Do you think society can help people like this? Why or why not?
  • born on August 2, 1944, in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • committed his first violent offense in November 1961, at age 17, when he broke into a house and attacked an occupant, a teenage girl
    • Charged with burglary and assault, Costa was sentenced to three years probation and a one-year suspended sentence
  • In 1966, Costa picked up two hitchhikers, Bonnie Williams, and Diane Federoff, and promised to take them to Pennsylvania. The women disappeared shortly after their encounter with Costa, who told investigators that he had dropped them off in California
    • Costa was additionally thought to have murdered his girlfriend, Barbara Spaulding, while he was living in California in 1967. However, all three women were later found alive.
  • Costa was suspected of killing eight women: Diane Federoff, Bonnie Williams, Barbara Spaulding, Sydney Monzon, Susan Perry, Christine Gallant, Patricia Walsh, and Mary Anne Wysocki but convicted of killing only two: Walsh and Wysocki. Although suspected of killing Federoff, Williams, and Spaulding, those women were later found alive.
  • On June 12, 1969, Costa was arraigned on charges of murder for three of the deaths. In May 1970, he was convicted of the murders of Mary Anne Wysocki and Patricia Walsh and sentenced to life in prison at Massachusetts' Walpole Correctional Institution. Four years after his incarceration, Costa died from an apparent suicide by hanging in his cell, though in later years, his suicide was questioned as a possible murder.

Tony Costa Digs Girls – Navigating the Outer Lands

  • Liza Rodman
    • “Liza Rodman has worked as a tax accountant for nearly thirty years in Boston. She began researching this story in 2005 when she realized her personal connection to Tony Costa, the infamous Cape Cod killer. In the years since, she has gathered thousands of documents, testimonies, and interviews, perhaps more than any other investigator or journalist who has looked into this case. She attended UMass/Amherst in the late 1970s and received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Vermont College in 2005. She has been a fellow at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and has participated in the same women’s writing group for the last eighteen years. She lives with her husband outside Boston. The Babysitter is her first book.” (About the Authors – Liza Rodman)
  • Jennifer Jordan
    • “Jennifer Jordan is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and screenwriter, with over 35 years experience as a reporter, journalist, and radio and television producer, working for NPR and PBS in Boston and Salt Lake City and writing for several newspapers and magazines. She has written four books; the first, Savage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women on K2 (William Morrow, 2005) was an Editors’ Choice in the New York Times Book Review and became a National Geographic documentary, which she wrote and produced. Her second book, Last Man on the Mountain: The Life and Death of an American Adventurer on K2 (WW Norton, 2010) tells the story of Dudley Wolfe, the first man to die on the world’s second-highest mountain in 1939, whose skeletal remains Jordan found in 2002 while on K2. Both books won the National Outdoor Book Award. In 2016 she created, directed, and produced the documentary 3000 Cups of Tea: Investigating the Rise and Ruin of Greg Mortenson, a documentary examining the deeply-flawed 60 Minutes report on the renowned philanthropist. For her most recent books, she worked as a ghostwriter: Perfect Strangers: Friendship, Strength, and Recovery in the Aftermath of Boston’s Worst Day (Public Affairs, 2017) and Southern Discomfort, a coming-of-age story in the Jim Crow South (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2018).” (About the Authors – Liza Rodman)


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