By now, we’ve all heard the insults slung at 2016—dumpster fire, shit show, the year America lost its mind. In the past 12 months, we lost Prince and David Bowie and Gene Wilder; we witnessed the scummy rise of the alt-right; and we looked on helplessly as Aleppo descended into a living hell. And then there was that thing that happened in November.
Yes, it’s been a truly deplorable 12 months. But pockets of light managed to shine through—mostly generated by a supernova called Beyoncé. It’s also a year in which The Daily Beast’s writers uncovered important stories—about a black veteran who died in an Oklahoma jail plagued by systemic corruption. About a famous writer’s fierce final struggle with depression. About America’s most adorable jewel thief. And many, many more, honored here below.
(For even more stupendous tales, see Best of the Beast Part I: Sex Orgies, Spies, Serial Killers and Time Travel.)
Cops Taunted Black Veteran as He Died by Kate Briquelet
Police arrest a veteran for a minor disturbance—then mock him for faking a broken neck as he lies dying in jail.
Inside the Takedown of the Top Navy SEAL by Kim Dozier
Three whistleblowers oust a powerful admiral—but did they hoodwink military investigators?
Cops Cuffed Me For Selling My Own Mac by Joshua Taylor
The author tries to sell his laptop on Craigslist—and gets caught up in a rogue sting operation.
The Little Girl Who Grew Up To Be A Cop—And Caught Her Abuser by Olivia Messer
A brave young girl grows up, becomes a detective, and hunts down the man who molested her.
Rogue D.A. Shielded This Killer Cop by Katie Zavadski and Kate Briquelet
Something is rotten in one New York town when a local prosecutor helps a killer cop get immunity.
America’s Best Jewel Thief is an 85-Year-Old Woman by Goldie Taylor
She’s a coal miner’s daughter who loves diamonds and Interpol’s been hunting her for decades.
The Watch Thieves Who Picked L.A. Clean by Geoff Manaugh
Their high-velocity heists netted millions in luxury goods—and the LAPD always seemed to be just a minute too late to catch them.
The Hunt For My Mom’s Stolen Jewels by Noah Shachtman
Days after the author loses his mother, a dubious appraiser relieves him of the family jewels.
When Hollywood Flocked to Cartel Country by Phoebe Eaton
Everyone from Gertrude Stein to JFK breezes into Taxco, where they behave badly, have torrid affairs, and stockpile the local silver.
The Truth About Life With William Styron by Tim Teeman
A literary power couple dazzles high society—and grapples in private with a dark disease.
A Comics Legend on His Queer, Kinky Wonder Woman by Melissa Leon
A superhero favorite gets a kickass feminist update.
Beyonce's Fiery Call To Arms by Kevin Fallon
Queen Bey’s black power anthem: Bask in it. Dance to it. Listen to it. Hear it.
Merle Haggard Sang Us All Back Home by Malcolm Jones
Goodbye to the man who mended all our heartbreaks.
How New Orleans' Musicians Saved Their City by Jason Berry
Jazz composers and hot brass bands emerge as the true heroes of the city’s post-Katrina rebirth.
The Darkest Week in American History by Matt Wilstein
Jackie Kennedy’s bravery gets its due in a stunning new film.
Who’s Messing With James Brown’s Will? By Alex Belth
The godfather of soul wants his estate to go towards educating poor Southern children. His lawyers have other ideas.
The World’s Largest Hidden Pyramid by Will O’Connor
A Mexican church disguises an ancient pyramid filled with bloody secrets.
The Great Faberge Easter-Egg Hunt by Allison McNearney
Faberge’s jeweled eggs dazzle the Romanovs—and go missing after the fall of the Tzar. Then one turns up in a Midwestern scrap market.
The Father of Color Photography by Malcolm Jones
Meet the man whose color-saturated snaps spawned a thousand Instagram homages.
Perfect Vinegar Drove This Chef to Death by Clive Irving
A genius of the kitchen is consumed with a culinary Grail quest—and it drives him to madness.
The Hustler Who Doomed New York’s Vegan Queen by Kate Briquelet and M.L. Nestel
She’s a blonde health-food bombshell. He’s a scam artist who flirts with her on Twitter. They fall in love—and then go on the lam.
The Devil and David Tyree by Marlow Stern
The man behind the Super Bowl’s greatest catch loses his mind.
How It Felt To Be In the Dugout With the Cubs by Jonathan Alter
The author’s greatest childhood fantasy comes true as Chicago wins the World Series.
Gymnastics' Hidden Abuse Crisis by Gabrielle Glaser
The sport’s most powerful organization covers up years of abuse by Olympic-level coaches.
When Cassius Clay Came Out As A Muslim by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
After Clay beats Liston for the heavyweight championship, the first thing to fray is his friendship with Malcolm X.
The Party Girl Who Brought Trump To His Knees by Christopher Dickey and Michael Daly Verina Hixon is protected by powerful men—men who make young Donald Trump cry.
Spiritual Healing With Marla Maples by Olivia Nuzzi
Donald’s ex dishes on her liberal politics, Trump family astrology, and the power of karma.
An Oral History of ‘Dumpster Fire’ by Erin Gloria Ryan
America becomes acquainted with an evocative political meme.
The Second Empire Strikes Back by Christopher Dickey
A vain authoritarian—in this case, Napoleon III—comes to power on a wave of nationalist populism.
The Billionaire Pedophile Who Could Destroy Trump and Clinton by Brandy Zadrozny
Jeffrey Epstein rubs shoulders with the Trumps and the Clintons—but how much do they know about his sex parties with underage girls?
The Time Trump Called A Deaf Apprentice Contestant ‘Retarded’ by Asawin Suebsaeng
‘Apprentice’ insiders reveal how the president elect routinely mocked a contestant with a disability.
Hillary Clinton Destroyed Her Own Campaign by Betsy Woodruff
The world’s most powerful woman sabotages her own quest for the White House.
The Facebook Oligarch Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine by Gideon Resnick and Ben Collins
The founder of Oculus Rift has a secret side hobby: setting up a shitposting network to take down Hillary.