The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science

( 35 )

Overview

Winner of the Gold Dagger Award

A fascinating true crime story that details the rise of modern forensics and the development of modern criminal investigation.
 
At the end of the nineteenth century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher terrorized the French countryside, eluding authorities for years, and murdering twice as many victims as Jack The Ripper. Here, Douglas Starr revisits Vacher's infamous crime ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.18
BN.com price
(Save 17%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (21) from $5.64   
  • New (9) from $8.91   
  • Used (12) from $5.64   
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Winner of the Gold Dagger Award

A fascinating true crime story that details the rise of modern forensics and the development of modern criminal investigation.
 
At the end of the nineteenth century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher terrorized the French countryside, eluding authorities for years, and murdering twice as many victims as Jack The Ripper. Here, Douglas Starr revisits Vacher's infamous crime wave, interweaving the story of the two men who eventually stopped him—prosecutor Emile Fourquet and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, the era's most renowned criminologist. In dramatic detail, Starr shows how Lacassagne and his colleagues were developing forensic science as we know it. Building to a gripping courtroom denouement, The Killer of Little Shepherds is a riveting contribution to the history of criminal justice.

Winner of the 2011 CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Chilling . . . An exemplar of historical true-crime nonfiction.”
            -Mark Dunkelman, Favorite Books of 2010, The Providence Journal
 
“Absorbing . . . Starr’s thought-provoking journey, through the strange underbelly of a vividly rendered France, lingers in the reader’s memory.”
            -Elyssa East, The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
 
“Engrossing and carefully researched.”
            -The New Yorker
 
“A- . . . Gripping, almost novelistic . . . Like an episode of CSI: 19th-Century France.”
            -Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
 
“Riveting.”
            -Laura Spinney, Nature
 
“Gripping . . . Starr’s description of the legal, medical and even philosophical questions around Vacher’s responsibility are strikingly current.”
            -Drew DeSilver, The Seattle Times
 
“The perfect true-crime book to curl up with on an autumn night.”
            -Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“Riveting, yet cerebral . . . Besides focusing on Joseph Vacher, also known as the Killer of Little Shepherds, Starr explains and expands on the fascinating achievements of those studying the criminal world.”
            -Elizabeth Humphrey, San Francisco Book Review
 
“A gripping book that alternately appalls and fascinates.”
            -Mark Dunkelman, Providence Journal
 
“Superior . . . This book is sensational and swift. But its real strength is the ability to show the history and progress of forensic science and its effect on the criminal justice system . . . This book reads like fiction and fascinates with fact.”
            -Bethany Latham, Historical Novel Review
 
“Lively . . . With drama and stunning detail, Starr documents one of the earliest examples of criminal profiling, Vacher’s murders, his arrest, and the twists and turns of the trial that followed. The Killer of Little Shepherds is an important contribution to the history of criminal justice. It is crisply written, meticulously researched, and rich in historical detail.”
            -Larry Cox, Tucson Citizen
 
“Douglas Starr’s riveting, sophisticated book provides the distance and perspective needed to facilitate systematic but critical thinking about forensic science.”
            -Stanley J. Morse, PsycCritiques
 
“Fascinating . . . Compelling . . . Written with the dramatic tension of a good novel and the impeccable detail of a well-researched history.”
            -Erika Engelhaupt, ScienceNews
 
“Deft . . . Admirable . . . Riveting . . . The Killer of Little Shepherds is deeply rooted in historical sources and subtle context, but Starr also has a journalist’s flair for the colorful detail.”
            -John Williams, The Second Pass
 
“Graceful and accessible . . . The granddaddy of all true crime stories.”
            -David Walton, Louisville Courier-Journal
 
“Expert . . . You’ll be richly rewarded . . . A good book that will keep you reading.”
            -The Crime Segments blog
 
 “Eloquent . . . Starr creates tension worthy of a thriller.”
            -Starred review, Publishers Weekly
 
“Starr’s heavy immersion into forensics and investigative procedure makes interesting reading . . . [A] well-documented mix of forensic science, narrative nonfiction, and criminal psychology.”
            -Kirkus
 
 
 
 
 
 
Elyssa East
…absorbing historical true-crime…Starr could easily have used Vacher's killings as a means of driving home a point about his hero, Lacas­sagne, and left it at that. He is good enough, though, to show the impact these murders had on the victims' families and on the villages where they took place, and to demonstrate how they prompted larger questions about the origins of criminality for La­cassagne and his colleagues…[Starr's] thought-provoking journey, through the strange underbelly of a vividly rendered France, lingers in the reader's memory.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Starr (Blood) eloquently juxtaposes the crimes of French serial killer Joseph Vacher and the achievements of famed criminologist Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne during France's belle époque. From 1894 to 1897, Vacher is thought to have raped, killed, and mutilated at least 25 people, though he would confess to only 11 murders. Lacassagne, who headed the department of legal medicine at the university in Lyon, was a pioneer in crime scene analysis, body decomposition, and early profiling, and investigated suspicious deaths, all in an era when rural autopsies were often performed on the victim's dinner table. Lacassagne's contributions to the burgeoning field of forensic science, as well as the persistence of investigating magistrate Émile Fourquet, who connected crimes while crisscrossing the French countryside, eventually brought Vacher to justice. Vacher claimed insanity, which then (as now) was a vexed legal issue. Lacassagne proved the "systematic nature" of the crimes. Starr, codirector of Boston University's Center for Science and Medical Journalism, creates tension worthy of a thriller; in Lacassagne, he portrays a man determined to understand the "how" behind some of humanity's most depraved and perhaps take us one step closer to the "why." 16 pages of photos. (Oct.)
Library Journal - BookSmack!
Nothing to read? Need some quality nonfiction? Don't despair, smarts are alive and well in master brainiac Starr's fascinating dual account of the birth of forensic science and the whimsical adventures of a carefree serial killer in pastoral 1890s France. A book so painstakingly—even fearfully-researched should not be so smoothly readable, but the craftsmanship is just part of the ride. Starr avoids what could be quite the desultory recitation of facts by skillfully weaving one narrative from two distinct threads: how prosecutor Emile Fourquet and criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne used nascent forensic techniques to nail Joseph Vacher, a kind of protean Charlie Manson who viciously stalked and preyed on weak, lone victims like the titular shepherds. Though often grotesque, the details are mesmerizing. Before Gary Sinese joined CSI: NY, forensics was primitive. Coroners made "pinpricks in the cadavers and lit them, allowing the combustible gases to burn off. They might burn for three or four days." Vacher's own testimony precisely details his whereabouts. After the first of his 11 killings, he "washed his blood-spattered clothes in a stream, formed a haystack into a shelter on a hill overlooking the crime scene, and bedded down." Compelling and readable, this is authorial wisdom for which dudes can be thankful. — Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes," Booksmack! 1/6/11
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307279088
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 322,172
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Starr is codirector of the Center for Science and Medical Journalism and a professor of journalism at Boston University. His book Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce won the 1998 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and became a PBS-TV documentary special. A veteran science, medical, and environmental reporter, Starr has contributed to many national publications, including Smithsonian, Audubon, National Wildlife, Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Time, and has served as a science editor for PBS-TV. He lives near Boston.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

One

The Beast

On a drizzly spring evening in 1893, in the French provincial city of Besançon, nineteen-year-old Louise Barant was walking along the riverside promenade when she crossed paths with a man wearing the dress uniform of the French army. His name was Joseph Vacher (pronounced Vashay). “Ugly weather, isn’t it?” he said, and automatically she responded, “For sure.” Normally Barant, tall and wholesome-looking, with curly blond hair, would not have spoken to a stranger, especially one as brutish-looking as he; but Vacher projected a kind of disarming innocence, and the sergeant’s chevrons on his sleeve reassured her.

So they chatted and walked and shared dinner in a café. They learned that they both came from small towns: she from Baume-les-Dames, a pretty village near the Swiss border, and he from Beaufort, a nondescript hilltown southeast of Lyon. As they lingered over shared stories about their pasts, he told her he had never felt this comfortable with anyone, and she, too, sensed she could speak freely and easily. Yet she felt a shiver of doubt when she looked up from her meal and saw his eyes burning into her. Later that evening, he ardently proposed marriage. When he vowed that he would kill her if she ever betrayed him, she realized she had made a terrible mistake.

In the weeks that followed, he pursued her relentlessly. Like other men who live easily with violence, Vacher knew how to interweave threat, regret, self-pity, and charm in an attempt to prolong the relationship. Louise, who was a stranger to the town and worked as a housemaid, tried desperately to avoid him, inventing endless excuses for not being available. Once, taking pity as victims sometimes do, she agreed to meet him at a dance. They were standing awkwardly among the merrymakers when a soldier approached to talk to Louise. Vacher lunged at the man with such fury that the soldier and Louise ran from the dance hall.

Now she knew that she would never be safe in the same town as Vacher. Too afraid to reject him directly, she made up a story that her mother had forbidden their marriage and had ordered her home. The distance did nothing to quell his obsession. He kept mailing her love letters. Finally, she responded in the clearest possible way: “It would be best if you stopped writing to me . . . Everything is finished between us; I do not want to go against the wishes of my mother. Furthermore, I do not love you. Adieu, Louise.”

She hoped that would finally end things between them. Besides, she knew that if he left his unit to find her, he would face charges of desertion. But her departure and final letter had sent him into such a series of rages that the regimental doctor diagnosed him as having “nervous exhaustion” and gave him a four-month medical leave. He immediately headed to Baume-les-Dames, stopping to buy a revolver along the way.

Any of the soldiers in Vacher’s barracks would have told Louise not to get involved with the twenty-three-year-old sergeant in the first place, for something wild and violent dwelled within him. They had witnessed his manias and explosive temper: How once, when a soldier lagged in formation, Vacher swiftly and without warning kicked him in the groin; or how, during alcohol-induced tantrums, he would hurl heavy wooden bureaus across the room, roar like an animal, and rip handfuls of hair out of his forearms. Once, when he was passed over for promotion, he drank himself senseless, tore apart the barracks, and slashed with a razor at anyone who came near. He ended the episode by taking the blade to his own throat. After that incident, he was hospitalized and transferred to another company.

Yet at times, Vacher could appear deferential, and, when necessary, even charming. Undoubtedly, he behaved that way when he first met Louise, although under the stress of rejection the beast had reemerged.

Arriving in her village, he spent days trying to persuade her mother and family to accept him, only to succeed in frightening them as well. On the morning of June 25, 1893, he went to the house of Louise’s employer for a final confrontation before taking the train back to Besançon. Louise opened the door, recoiling when she saw him.

“Why are you afraid, Louise?”

“I’m not afraid,” she said unconvincingly.

“Look, I don’t want to harm you. I’ve come here peacefully to demand the things that you owe me.”

He had become obsessed with reclaiming the letters and trinkets he had given her, and money he had spent taking her to dinner. She gave him all that he demanded, but still he kept talking about needing more. As he rattled on about his various resentments, she furtively backed her way up the marble stairway. The more he spoke, the more agitated he became.

“When I think that you don’t want me, Louise . . . We would have been so happy! Listen, you don’t know what I am capable of doing. I have already told you and I repeat: I’m crazy about you! Come away with me.”

She told him that if he did not leave immediately, she would wake her boss, who would eject him. Vacher slipped his right hand into his pocket.

“So you do not want to come with me, then?”

“No!”

He pulled out the revolver and began firing. The first bullet entered her mouth, shattered two teeth, ripped through her tongue, and exited her cheek. She screamed and collapsed. Two more shots grazed the top of her head as she fell and another smashed into the wall. Then Vacher turned the gun on himself, firing two bullets into his face.

The explosions echoed so loudly in the hallway that her employer’s family rushed down from their bedrooms and passersby ran in from the street. They found Louise crumpled on the stairs, Vacher staggering blindly, his face covered with blood. He lurched four or five steps out the door before collapsing in the street.*

And so began the public life of Joseph Vacher, one of the most notorious serial killers of his century, who slaughtered more people than the infamous Jack the Ripper. Although the incident with Louise Barant was the first of Vacher’s legal encounters, he had perplexed and discomfited the people around him for years. Neighbors in Beaufort remembered him as a child who was quick to pick an argument, and unusually violent in schoolyard scuffles. Once, when asked to guard the family’s livestock, he took the animals to a meadow and broke some of their legs. He

spent a couple of his teenage years in a monastery but was expelled for unspecified indiscretions. He was drafted and stationed with the Sixtieth

*Both survived, because the dealer who had sold Vacher the revolver loaded the cartridges only with half charges—just enough powder to stop an aggressor but not necessarily to kill him.

Regiment in Besançon. Although he thrived under the army’s strict discipline, he showed violent outbursts there, as well. All along, people found him strange, but as he himself had said to Louise, they had no idea of what he was capable.

Crimes of passion were notoriously common at the time, leniently punished, and often blamed on the victim. After he shot Louise, Vacher spent a couple of weeks in a hospital. He was then sent for observation to the public asylum in the nearby city of Dole, where doctors were to determine if he was sane enough to stand trial. The “Certificate of 24 Hours,” documenting the patient’s first day in the asylum, reported he was “calm, responds meekly to questions and regrets the act he has committed.” It described in detail how the shooting had disfigured him—a scarlet furrow ran the length of his right jaw; yellowish pus oozed from the right ear—stigmata that would mark him for life. With each breath, his right cheek fluttered like an unfettered sail, for one of the bullets had severed a facial nerve. When he spoke, he could barely open his mouth, and the voice that emerged was nasal and slurred.

He seemed a defeated man, rather than a menacing one. Yet over the weeks, as Vacher healed and became stronger, a more paranoid and violent character emerged. Quietly at first, and then more stridently, he accused the doctors at Dole of plotting against him. Day after day, he demanded to see a surgeon to remove the bullet from his ear. When medical personnel arrived for the procedure, Vacher accused them of trying to kill him and bolted from the operating room.

On July 20, according to hospital records, he experienced a “crisis of agitation.” He screamed at doctors and fought with his roommates. Sometimes he sat rocking on the side of his bed. “At certain moments he raises his head and focuses his eyes as if listening to invisible voices,” wrote Dr. Léon Guillemin, adjunct doctor at the facility. “During such times he has the facial expression of a madman.”

Inwardly, Vacher seethed. He hated the institution and everyone in it. According to him, the doctors were heartless and the patients were swine. Later, in a long, embittered letter to the authorities (Vacher would prove to be a prolific letter writer), he would write that the asylum was “everything that is dirty and abominable,” where he was forced to sleep “on a grubby flea-infested mattress.” The food was barely edible, he said, and the guards often stole it. Unsupervised patients often abused one another and took special delight in tormenting the blind. “They pushed them and spit in their faces. Some even pushed them outside naked in the snow.” At times, he thought of killing himself. “And I was not the only one . . . some people could not take this treatment, and committed suicide.”

Contrary to Vacher’s accusations, the alienists at Dole considered themselves sympathetic and attentive. (Alienist was the era’s term for a psychologist, as mental patients were seen to be “alienated” from themselves.) Printed materials from the asylum described their treatments as “gentle, tolerable, humane, and more in agreement with modern ideas.” Unlike in the past, inmates were not shackled to the walls or beaten for offenses they unwittingly committed. “All the coercive methods that tortured the sick patients have been abandoned . . . the fate of the sick [who come to the asylum] is nothing other than completely humane.”

When Vacher was admitted, the asylum’s director was preparing to move the patients to a new facility, a cluster of pavilions in a pastoral setting just outside of town, a notable improvement on the present fortresslike edifice. Scores of such facilities were being built throughout Europe.

Still, conditions at Dole were not what they should have been. A late-nineteenth-century visitor to the asylum noted that many patients still lived behind bars in dank cells and received inadequate personal care. In truth, this asylum, like many others, had far too many inmates. The population of insane people had exploded in France (and throughout Europe and in the Americas, as well) due to the epidemics of alcoholism and syphilis, and to the increasingly common diagnosis of mental disease. In time, insanity became a catchall diagnosis for all sorts of deficiencies, including dementia, homelessness, and criminal behavior. As a result, asylums became dumping grounds for the overflow from prisons, almshouses, workhouses, and the streets. By the time Vacher entered the asylum, the state-run system was housing more than twice the capacity it was designed for. Dole, built for five hundred patients, was bursting with more than nine hundred—at least 15 percent of whom were criminals. (Faced with such impossible conditions, even the most dedicated alienist could lose heart. When the director of the Villejuif asylum in Paris was asked what he found most effective for patients, he replied, “We wait for them to die.”)

Doctors had put Vacher in a special high-security wing, but, as in many asylums at the time, oversight was lax. On the night of August 25, 1893, Vacher sneaked out of his room, found a long wooden beam, leaned it against the wall, and shimmied over it to freedom. He was heading to Baume-les-Dames to find Louise. An all-points bulletin went out over the telegraph, with a special notification to the police in Louise’s village. It would not be hard to identify the fugitive: He wore the asylum’s standard-issue gray cotton shirt and trousers and there was no mistaking his disfigured face.

A couple of weeks later, some soldiers in Besançon caught sight of him. Local policemen jailed him. A few days later, he was put on a train, headed back to the asylum. His guards had instructions to handcuff him and to keep him in view at all times. As the train rumbled on, Vacher asked the guards if he could get off at the next stop to go to the bathroom. “You’ll have to wait,” they said. They had no intention of letting him off the train, even if manacled, for a minute. He persisted. Finally he offered to stand right in front of the guards and urinate out the door. They paused; the train was flying along at top speed, and it seemed there was no way he could even think of making that leap and surviving. He shuffled to the door, opened his pants, and, before they could react, heaved himself out. He hit the talus, then rolled and scampered off like a jackrabbit as the train roared away.

Two days later, police, alerted by some village children, found him eating dinner at a farmer’s house. They took him to the Dole asylum in chains. His condition grew worse. Increasingly “in the grip of melancholic ideas,” he tried to commit suicide by slamming his head against the corner of a wall. “We frequently have to take energetic measures to prevent him from harming himself,” wrote the doctors in a “situation report” of October 26, 1893.

Meanwhile, Dr. Guillemin had arrived to make an official assessment of the inmate’s sanity. He interviewed Vacher, physically examined him, spoke to his minders, and pored over his records. Guillemin diagnosed Vacher as “a deliriant with a persecution complex of the first order.” He had suffered this condition for most of his life. The symptoms, not always evident, would occasionally and dramatically appear. The rejection by Louise aggravated the condition as never before, the doctor said, and triggered the homicidal behavior. At the asylum, Vacher continued to suffer severe paranoia, aggravated by auditory hallucinations. He imagined the “entire world is in league against him,” wrote Guillemin. “From the moment he arrived at Dole, [Vacher felt] his doctors neglected him, ignored him, did not want to care for him, and wanted him to die. We have done our best for him, but he accuses us of trying to kill him, and shows no signs of being cured.”

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Author's Note

PART ONE CRIME

1 The Beast 3

2 The Professor 15

3 First Kill 28

4 The Institute of Legal Medicine 36

5 The Vagabond 50

6 Identity 60

7 The Oak Woods 72

8 The Body Speaks 82

9 The Crime in Benonces 90

10 Never Without a Trace 98

11 In Plain Sight 110

12 Born Criminal 119

13 Lourdes 133

PART TWO PUNISHMENT

14 The Investigating Magistrate 141

15 The Interview 151

16 Professor Lacassagne 167

17 "A Crime Without Motive?" 170

18 Turning Point 180

19 The Trial 190

20 Judgment 203

21 A Question of Sanity 214

PART THREE AFTERMATH

22 The Mystery of a Murderer's Brain 227

23 Postscript 237

Epilogue: The Violent Brain 242

Acknowledgments 251

Notes 255

Bibliography 283

Index 289

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    True & Gritty Details

    I was very interested in reading this book because of the serial killer and forensic science history to it. The serial killer, The Killer of Little Shepherds, story weaves in and out of other historical murders and the developing science to unravel the mysteries. Reading the thoughts and accounts of these murders was both horrifying and intriguing. I loved learning tidbits of new knowledge and seeing things I¿ve learned from attending a forensics class at school. The book covers all aspects of forensic science in regards to crime scene investigation, so for those that love that portion of CSI or Bones, this will be a treat. Don¿t expect the flashy drama of those shows though. This is all about the truth of the history and the grisly details of each murder that led the way to revolutionize the world of criminal science. As with many non-fiction books, it reads dry at times, and that is the only reason I didn¿t give the book 5 stars. Other than that, this is a great read for anyone with any interest in serial killers or the science behind capturing those who have committed crimes.

    Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 3, 2010

    Highly recommended!

    As a retired homicide detective in a major city I found this book to be one of the best non-fiction accounts of forensic and detective work in a book that I have ever read. Kudos to the author!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 22, 2012

    highly recommended for any CSI junkies

    A thoroughly researched, fascinating histoy of forensic science as it pertained to a serial killer in France in the 1890's. I found it interesting that we are still grappling with the same social and moral questions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    Definitely not dry.

    I'm not generally a great reader of true crime books. I am, however, a great lover of Science! This approach, this historical analysis of an early scientific approach to a series of murders, makes me want to learn more about so many things--about the period, the burgeoning sciences, and the people. When a book satisfies but also leaves me curious to explore even further down particular avenues, that's a success in my book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Tattoos are "speaking scars." They reveal "occupation, politics, sexual proclivities"

    Douglas Starr's THE KILLER OF LITTLE SHEPHERDS is a fascinating, easy to read encyclopedia of late 19th century crime solving techniques and theories of crime and criminals. It is built around the real life story of the greatest French mass murderer in 500 years, former sergeant Joseph Vacher. The interplay between case study and encyclopedia is a close to perfect teaching vehicle for the nineteenth century history of the science of criminology, especially as that science draws on anatomy, biology, dissection and constantly adds to the repertory of items that count as clues to the causes of death. ***** The book's obvious villain is Joseph Vacher. He was convicted and guillotined for only one particularly ghastly murder. He confessed to ten others between 1894 and 1897 and is suspected of 25 or more in total. His was a tortured psyche from an early age, to some extent derived from an unhappy childhood. He was twice institutionalized for insanity and twice declared cured and released. ***** Was Joseph Vacher a born murderer as Italian scientist Cesare Lombroso insisted was true of all criminals? Or was he morally free enough to be convicted of murder, as the great French criminologist Professor Doctor Alexandre Lacassagne theorized at his trial? ***** Lacassagne is the leading hero of THE KILLER OF LITTLE SHEPHERDS. But a close second is state prosecutor Etienne Fourquet. Fourquet connected the dots that were the multiple locations of Vacher's murders, did psychological profiling and discovered the killer's modus operandi sufficiently well to alert other investigators in other jurisdictions that behind many crimes there could be only one killer. Fourquet also persuaded Lacassagne to take an interest in the case and testify at Vacher's trial as an expert witness. ***** The encyclopedic dimension appears when author and Boston University Professor Douglas Starr recreates the intellectual excitement of France's Belle Epoque of creative ferment among psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, criminologists and others determined to understand the mind and milieu of criminal, vagabonds and persons on the margin. ***** A sample of the writing: -- Lacassagne studied tattoos as clues to the milieu of criminals. "Tattoos had the added advantage of revealing something about the victim's character -- occupation, politics, sexual proclivities. Lacassagne referred to them as "speaking scars." (Ch. 6) -- Identifying deceased humans through their teeth has a long history. It works because dentists keep records and enamel is hard. "One of the early cases of forensic dentistry occurred when Paul Revere, who worked as a dentist as well as a silversmith, identified his friend Dr. John Warren, killed and buried during the Revolution, by an artiificial tooth Revere had implanted" (Ch. 6). ***** The book also has fascinating vignettes of the great minds of Europe debating the crime solving techniques of fictional Sherlock Holmes. Holmes was a quintessential lone wolf during a Belle Epoque enamored of building teams of specialists. ***** This is a splendid book. You will not be disappointed by it. -OOO-

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 3, 2012

    Very interesting. Thought criminals were a product of the 20th century.

    Worth reading

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2010

    good book!

    i liked this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)