The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases

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Thrilling, true tales from the Vidocq Society, a team of the world’s finest forensic investigators whose monthly gourmet lunches lead to justice in ice-cold murders.

Good friends and sometime rivals William Fleisher, Frank Bender, and Richard Walter—a renowned FBI agent turned private eye, a sculptor lothario who speaks to the dead, and an eccentric profiler known as “the living Sherlock Holmes”—were heartsick over the growing tide of unsolved murders of innocents. They decided one day over lunch that something had to be done, and pledged themselves to a grand quest for justice. The three men invited the greatest collection of forensic investigators ever assembled, drawn from five continents, to the Downtown Club in Philadelphia to begin an audacious quest: to bring the coldest killers in the world to an accounting. Named for the first modern detective, the Parisian Eugène François Vidocq—the flamboyant Napoleonic real-life sleuth who inspired Sherlock Holmes—the Vidocq Society meets monthly in its secretive chambers to solve a cold murder over a gourmet lunch.

The Murder Room draws the listener into a chilling, darkly humorous, awe-inspiring world as the three partners travel far from their Victorian dining room to hunt the ruthless killers of a millionaire’s son, a serial killer who carves off faces, and a child killer enjoying fifty years of freedom and dark fantasy.

Michael Capuzzo’s brilliant storytelling gifts bring true crime to life more realistically and vividly than it has ever been portrayed before. It is a world of dazzlingly bright forensic science; true evil as old as the Bible and dark as the pages of Dostoevsky; and a group of flawed, passionate men and women, inspired by their own wounded hearts to make a stand for truth, goodness, and justice in a world gone mad.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743532648
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date: 08/10/2010
Edition description: Unabridged, 12 CDs
Pages: 5
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 11.06(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Michael Capuzzo is the author of the New York Times bestseller Close to Shore and a former feature writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Miami Herald. His stories have appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Life. He lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Connoisseurs of Murder

The great hall was filled with the lingering aroma of pork and mallard duck sausage as black-vested waiters appeared, shouldering cups of vanilla bean blancmange. Connoisseurs sat at tables between the hearths under glittering eighteenth-century chandeliers, chatting amiably in several languages. When the coffee arrived, a fine Colombian supremo steaming in its pots, the image of the corpse of a young man of uncommon beauty, lying on his back, materialized in the center of the room.

A gray winter light slanted into the hall, as the midday sun had sailed beyond the city, and the image on the large screen was crisp. The young man's blond locks were matted in a corona of dried blood, his sculpted cheekbones reduced to a pulp. The police photograph had been taken at night in a restaurant alley, and the surrounding scene was obscured in darkness. Yet the strobe light had thrown the young man's face into sharp relief. Out of the shadows of a distant southern night, the stark, wide-open eyes loomed over the room.

It was shortly before one o'clock in the afternoon, and the fifth and final course had been served to the connoisseurs of the Vidocq Society.

"My goodness," said a short-haired young woman in a red dress. Patting her mouth with a napkin, she excused herself from the table and, a hand over her mouth, hurried to the door. William Fleisher, a big man in a magnificent blue suit, WLF embroidered on his custom shirt, sadly shook his large, bearded head. "We need to do a better job screening guests," he said. Richard Walter, his gaunt cheekbones sunken in the wan light, glared at the departing figure. Frank Bender—clad in a tight black T-shirt and jeans, the only man in the hall not wearing a suit—whispered to the detective next to him, "Nice legs."

Fleisher shook his head in wonderment at the two eccentric, moody geniuses with whom he had thrown in his lot. His partners were criminologists without peer or precedent in his thirty years with the feds.

Forensic psychologist Richard Walter was the coolest eye on murder in the world. Tall and acerbic, he spoke with a clipped propriety that had earned him the moniker the Englishman from certain criminal elements. Walter had spent twenty years treating the most violent psychopaths in the state of Michigan at the largest walled penitentiary in the world, in Jackson, and at one of the toughest, the old Romanesque castle in Marquette on Lake Superior. His habit of peering over the top of his owlish black glasses and boring into the souls of inmates was known as the "Marquette stare," and it was a look to be avoided at all costs. He employed it to crack the façade of psychopaths. Walter was unsurpassed in his understanding of the darkest regions of the heart. In his spare time, moonlighting as a consulting detective, he was one of the small group of American criminologists who invented modern criminal profiling in the 1970s and '80s to battle serial killers.

At Scotland Yard, which used him on the most extreme murder cases, he was known as the "Living Sherlock Holmes"—an epithet that horrified him.

"Richard looks like Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles," Fleisher said. "He talks like him, he thinks like him."

"Whenever someone says that," Walter said, "I look away and wait for the moment to pass, as if someone has just farted."

Frank Bender was the most celebrated forensic artist working at that time, perhaps in history. The wiry ex-boxer was muscled and balding, with a Van Dyke beard and piercing hazel eyes. For the occasion, he wore long sleeves that concealed his Navy tattoos. Bender, who grew up in tough North Philadelphia with bullets hitting the row house wall, was high school-educated, blunt-spoken, happily sex-addicted, and a psychic—a gift he was shy about in the roomful of cops. But cops were awed by his ability to keep six or seven girlfriends happy as well as his wife, and to catch Most Wanted mass murderers with a sketchpad and scalpel. "Frank," Walter liked to tease him. "You would have been burned at the stake in the seventeenth century. Now you'll just get shot in the back."

The tall, melancholy, deductive Walter and the manic, intuitive Bender were blood brothers and partners on major cases. A detective duo without precedent, the psychologist and artist were capable of penetrating secrets of the living and the dead. When they could stand each other.

Bender saw dead people; Walter was contemptuous of spiritualism. The artist counted his sexual conquests in the hundreds; the psychologist, divorced, shrank from the touch of man, woman, child, dog, and cat. Walter was the most orderly mind on a murder, Bender the most chaotic.

William Lynn Fleisher was the glue that held the three together—the one, friends said, "with a sail attached to the mast." The sartorial big man was the number two in charge of United States Customs law enforcement in three states, a world-class polygraph examiner and interrogator, a former FBI special agent, and an ex-Philadelphia beat cop. Fleisher was obsessed with the truth, had made himself a scholar of the history of truth-finding and an expert at distinguishing the truth from a lie. He used the polygraph to try to peer into the hearts of men to judge them, but really what he wanted to do was redeem them—both the criminals whose psychophysiological signs spiked with guilt, and their tragic victims whose suffering society forgot. The big man, it was said by his special agents, had gained a hundred pounds to make room for his heart.

Bender and Walter were the most astonishing investigative team Fleisher had ever seen, equal parts reason and revelation, when they turned their combustible gifts on a killer and not on each other, like a man trying to extinguish his own shadow. The stout federal agent was the administrator who allowed them to take shape and function in the world.

They had met that morning in Bender's hall of bones, where a legendary and especially terrifying mob hit man had been the force that first brought them together, bonded in their fierce and awkward way, to create a private club of forensic avengers. Fleisher was sipping coffee with Bender at the kitchen table when the thin man entered the warehouse studio, nose wrinkled in disapproval "at the cat smells and whatever else."

"Richard!" Bender shouted, pumping Walter's hand enthusiastically, yet careful not to give a manly hug. "Let me show you my new painting!"

It was an enormous, brightly colored oil portrait of one of his many girlfriends, rendered in paint as thick as cake frosting. It was an eight-foot frontal nude; from the left nipple dangled a real brass ring.

"Chrissie has the cutest little butt," Bender said quietly, smiling as if visited by a wonderful memory.

Walter stood with his nose upturned, which pushed his mouth into a frown, studying the painting for a long moment.

"It's smut, Frank," he declared, turning away. "Simple smut." Bender howled with delight, as if there was no greater compliment. Walter glared at him. "Frank, Jesus Christ, you're almost sixty years old, and you're behaving like a fifteen-year-old Bolivian sex slave houseboy! You're using sex as an antidote to depression. As I have tried to explain, at our age it is not healthy for one to live as if one is poised before a mirror ringed with stage lights. One day the lights will go out and you will look in the mirror and see nothing at all.

"Now I'll take some coffee, black, if it's not too much trouble," Walter added. "I'm not fussy, so long as it wasn't boiled with a head."

Now with Fleisher in the great hall, Bender and Walter greeted each other warmly. The three men radiated an energy that seemed to animate the room. The habitual sadness in Fleisher's brown eyes lifted like a mist as he looked proudly across the gathering. All morning forensic specialists from around the globe had been quietly arriving at Second and Walnut streets in Philadelphia. They had gathered as they arrived in the high-ceilinged Coffee Room and Subscription Room on the first floor of the tavern, where colonists had once discussed politics, trade, and ship movements over the latest magazines and Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette. Fleisher had felt the heady buzz of reunited friends, peers, and rivals. But now as he studied the assembly of sleuths from seventeen American states and eleven foreign countries, he sensed that something special was happening. Each man and woman was more renowned than the next.

There was FBI agent Robert Ressler, tall and silver-haired, who had confronted Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and more "serial killers," a term he coined, than anyone in history. He was accepting congratulations, and no small amount of teasing, for The Silence of the Lambs, the new hit movie featuring Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter being hunted by the FBI's Jack Crawford, a character based partly on Ressler. Ressler was never far from his cohort Richard Walter. They were two of the greatest profilers in the world.

Of equal distinction were the forensic pathologists. Their table included Dr. Hal Fillinger of Philadelphia, who had proven that the "Unicorn Killer," fugitive Ira Einhorn, had murdered his girlfriend Holly Maddux; Fillinger had arrived in his big white Cadillac with the "Homicide Hal" vanity plates. Next to him sat Dr. Richard Froede of Arizona, who would autopsy the remains of kidnapped CIA agent William Buckley, tortured, murdered, and dumped at a Beirut roadside by Islamic jihadists. Among the Philadelphia cops was Frank Friel, the former homicide captain who solved the 1981 assassination of mob underboss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, immortalized in Bruce Springsteen's song "Atlantic City": "…they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night…" Fleisher saw noted investigators of the JFK and Martin Luther King assassinations, and a CIA friend who was leading the bureau's secret war on Afghanistan, sitting with a colleague, a young blond female "spook" who loathed to show her face in public, even here. At the French table, with the agents from Interpol in Lyon, sat the director of Brigade de la Sûreté in Paris, the French equivalent of the FBI. Sûreté, founded in 1811 by Vidocq, had been the very first state investigative agency, later inspiring the creation of the FBI and Scotland Yard.

The chamber on the second floor of the City Tavern was the historic Long Room, forty-four feet long and narrow with a soaring chapel ceiling, the first ballroom in the New World, where General George Washington had toasted his election to the presidency as cannons boomed across the city and Madeira glasses smashed. By modern standards it was austere, a pale green chamber with chair rails and candle sconces. But now it had been arranged to re-create the spirit of a second-floor chamber in Paris in 1833. In the upstairs room of No. 12 rue Cloche-Perce, Vidocq had run the first private detective agency in history, Le Bureau des Renseignements (Office of Information), seventeen years before the Pinkerton Agency was founded in the United States. It was the first room in history designed for a group of men to systematically deduce and brainstorm solutions to murder cases.

In the north corner of the room, overlooking the Delaware River, a bronze bust of Eugène François Vidocq rested on an oak pedestal. The wide, arrogant face was stippled in shadows from the heavy green drapes, beneath crossed French and American flags. In the room at No. 12 rue Cloche-Perce, in the flickering shadows of hissing gaslights, Vidocq and his men kept intricate records to track criminals' patterns. They discussed motive and modus operandi in greater detail than ever before in history. They made plaster casts of shoe impressions and studied bullets to link them to crimes. They worked under paintings of Damiens being quartered, John the Baptist losing his head, and Ravaillac being tortured. They were the first modern criminologists. Convinced of their superior knowledge of the criminal mind, Vidocq had chosen them from the ranks of ex-convicts, like himself.

Each of the men and women at the long tables wore a redwhite-blue pin on their lapels—Les Couleurs, the colors of France, the signature of their status as Vidocq Society Members (VSMs). There were eighty-two VSMs, one for each year of Vidocq's life. It was the world's most exclusive club, open, regardless of race, sex, age, or national origin, only to the best detectives and forensic scientists on the planet. They had been called the greatest gathering of forensic detectives ever assembled in one room. "No police agency in the world has the luxury of this kind of talent," Fleisher said. The New York Times declared the Vidocq Society "The Heirs of Holmes." "This is not a gathering of a ragtag bunch of Baker Street Irregulars playing dutiful amanuensis to Sherlock Holmes's genius," the Times said. "Nor are they a bunch of good-natured Archie Goodwins, filling the role of narrator and legman to the sedentary but brilliant Nero Wolfe in the mystery novels of Rex Stout…It is a group that collectively has hundreds of years of crime-solving experience."

The Vidocq Society's mission was simple and straightforward: As many as one in three murders in the United States went unsolved. It was a well of suffering scarcely known to the journalists who claimed crime was sensational and overblown, or the millions of Americans entertained nightly by it on TV. Murder was a scourge that had taken more than a million lives, more than most of the American wars ever fought in the twentieth century. Cops were overworked, departments underfunded; the criminal justice system favored the rights of criminals over victims. In a world that had forgotten its heroes, they resolved, by the light of a twelfth-century chivalric pledge, to hunt down murderers in cold cases, punish the guilty, free the innocent, and avenge, protect, and succor families victimized by murder. They resolved to work pro bono rather than swat a golf ball around in Florida or Arizona. They met on the third Thursday of every month; they were the Thursday Club. The eighty-two of them pledged themselves to their cause until death, when the rosette would be pinned on another man or woman chosen to fight for a better world.

The old Victorian brownstone on Locust Street in Philadelphia, headquarters of the Vidocq Society, was besieged with requests from around the world from cops and victims seeking an audience in the private chamber in City Tavern. A congressman who wanted to solve a murder in his family. A federal agent in Washington who needed another pair of eyes on the assassination of a woman agent in broad daylight while jogging. A young, small-town Tennessee cop overmatched by an elderly millionaire serial killer who moved from state to state killing his wives. But the Vidocq Society would not touch a case unless it was a murder, the victim had committed no crimes, and the case was at least two years old, officially a "cold case." "Our mission is to help the police at their request, working quietly in the background without fanfare, to act as an agent for justice," Fleisher said. In all cases, the society required the presence in the room of the municipal police officers, state or federal agents, or government prosecutors working on the cold case; families looking for vengeance became too emotional without official support. Yet in rare instances, when police corruption was suspected, an ordinary citizen was granted an audience before the Vidocq Society. This afternoon was one of those cases, when an ordinary citizen had earned an audience before the forensic court of last resort.

At one o'clock, Fleisher stood at the lectern and welcomed them from four continents to Philadelphia and the monthly convening of the Vidocq Society. Before lunch, he had led them in the Pledge of Allegiance, hand clamped over his heart, his voice the loudest in the room. He had introduced a pastor who asked that God favor and guide their undertakings for justice. Now Fleisher loosened the room with a joke about their purpose, "to enjoy my great hobby, which is lunch." Then he reminded them somberly that their work was to speak for the dead who cannot speak for themselves. It was sacred work.

The essential method that Fleisher, Bender, and Walter had resurrected from the nineteenth century was deceptively simple: They had filled a room with detectives to unmask a crime of murder. Like Vidocq's ex-cons, though far more sophisticated, they had at their disposal the most advanced forensic tools of their age. Busboys swarmed out of the kitchen and swept away the last of the silver and china, carded the remaining crumbs from the white tablecloths. As the coffee was poured, the historic chamber was no longer the Long Room. It was the Murder Room, reborn.

At ten past one, Fleisher introduced Mr. Antoine LeHavre of Louisiana. A rotund man in his forties with dark hair and a gentlemanly manner, LeHavre wore a sports jacket and eyes burdened with woe. He stood at the lectern, slightly to the right of the gruesome image of his slain friend. There was an air of anticipation, as never before had an ordinary citizen presented to the Vidocq Society, alone.

LeHavre began by thanking the society for inviting him. "I know that you better than anyone else understand what I've been through," he said. "I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't do it anymore alone."

They had all seen enough cases to know the Murder Room was a place to walk far around, a step in life to bypass if you could. The chamber was invisible to a happy man. Agony lit the way. The room appeared to the suffering. They had seen his like before. He was one of the walking dead, zombified by the unsolved murder of a friend or loved one, a man willing to crawl to the end of the Earth to right a terrible wrong. But they saw something else as well, also well known among them: After four courses served hot, Antoine LeHavre was ready for revenge, served ice-cold.

What People are Saying About This

Michael Connelly

“Once again Michael Capuzzo shows he is one of our most brilliant storytellers. The Murder Room is a gripping page turner, masterfully drawn and full of truth, dedication and darkness.”

Stephen White

“Novelists know to be wary of those slices of reality that are just too outlandish to be transformed into the stuff of fiction. In the superb and tantalizing The Murder Room, Michael Capuzzo dares readers to believe the can-they-really-be-true stories of the heartbreaking cold cases that have been investigated by the forensic dream team that is the legendary Vidocq Society. The once forgotten crimes are horrendous, each bigger-than-life detective more outrageous than the next, and the circuitous paths they take to find long-delayed justice are impossible to forget.”

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The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 145 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific look at the mysterious (pun intended) Vidocq Society pledged to solve the tundra of cold cases. Established by internet expert William Fleisher, profiling guru Richard Walter and forensic sculptor Frank Bender, the group is named after Napoleonic era Parisian detective Eugene Vidocq. They meet to brainstorm, discuss processes and solve cases as cold as five decades old and more. The over fifty cases are fascinating in a macabre way as Michael Capuzzo graphically describes the crimes such as Marie Noe convicted as a septuagenarian in 1999 for killing eight of her kids in 1949 or John List who murdered his family to keep them religiously pure but afterward vanished for two decades before being sculptured. Well written, it is the human element accentuated by the victims such as Widow Marilyn Flax who negotiated with her husband's kidnapper-killer that grips the audience; her story will leave readers eyes watering. Throughout the 56 entries is the underlying competitive camaraderie between the trio, bickering to the amusement of observers like us readers over glasses. Graphic (one killer cut off the visage of those murdered) yet heartfelt (all will cheer when the caught priest mutters "God damn", The Murder Room is a true crime winner. Harriet Klausner
HistoryHunter12 More than 1 year ago
I am very shaken and overwelmed with the naked forces of evil exposed by the brilliant minds united in the pursuit of justice. Micheal Capuzzo has done a fabulous job of telling the story of the Vidoqc's society's adventures into the realm of darkness seldom understood by everyday people. If the forces of goodwill on earth ever meet and engage in battle with the forces of darkness this book has put some of their battles on dispay for us all. This book like strong drink is not for the feeble hearted or tender stomach. You will need courage and fortitude to endure the words written on the pages of this book. Enjoy your guided trip into the depts of the wicked souls of evil people who have an infinite capacity to shock the human mind with the horor of their existance on earth.
markpsadler More than 1 year ago
In what I took to be a series of vignettes, Capuzzo leads us on a journey into the mind of the sadistic, sexual, serial killer. His style led me to see this was a much better story than when I originally picked up the book. Not until I discovered a sheath of photographs halfway through the book did I realize this was in fact an actual true-crime book. The stories he had woven together where stranger than fiction and all of them chillingly real. From cold-case headlines, predominantly, at least initially in the Philadelphia, PA area we learn about a pro-bono, crime-fighting unit named the Vidocq Society. The group, formed by former FBI agent and private detective William Fleisher, psychic forensic artist Frank Bender and forensic psychologist Richard Walter lead us through the most bizarre, traumatic crimes ever committed, and one by one, with help from the other society members, finally put to rest scores of unsolved murders. During brainstorming sessions where lunch was often, 'chicken, steamed vegetables and a corpse with a small and unforgettable face' these miracle workers brought closure to many a forgotten family who were glad to know these, 'were men who had a green thumb in the garden of death.' Without impeding on going, police investigations they refused any case until it was at least two-years-old. Many cases where two decades old. They discussed centuries old murders and had a melding of minds and enjoyed lively discussions with like-minded individuals. These larger than life characters will open your eyes and your minds to the impossible, and transport you to a world you don't want to believe exists outside of your comfortable living room.
beatle_mania4 More than 1 year ago
"The Murder Room" is a thrilling ride that takes you from behind the police caution tape and into the interrogation room. Michael Capuzzo follows three men, modern day Sherlock Holmes, around their lives pursuing justice and creating the cold case cracking group: The Vidocq Society. This book is and outstanding 5 out of 5 stars. Capuzzo captures every detail of every case. If you aren't one for gore and murder, this book is definitely not for you. Capuzzo recreates murder scenes right from the crime scene itself and the detectives who were there to witness it. Because of the three would be heroes, this book's overall theme is strictly justice and avenging the innocent. Their passion is so strong and Capuzzo's writing is so excellent, the reader is immediately transported into the genius minds of Fleisher, Bender, and Walter. Although murder is a gruesome topic, "The Murder Room" isn't like any horror you've seen at the movies. Evil never prevails with Fleisher, Bender, and Walter on the case. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery or a taste for justice will love this book and be sad when the story has to end.
iskate2 More than 1 year ago
This writing contains a plethora of verbiage that is totally unnecessary in telling the story. I think the story being told could be interesting, if the writer wasn't so hung up on using every world in the dictionary 25 times. It was easy to fortget people, dead or alive, as he went from one character to another and then five chapters later back to the first one. Because of over describing everyone and everything I want to say this book could kill you with horedom. I got the feeling that the author was tryintg to present this book as a mystery to be solved like the Vidocq Society reviews things - way to many detail/words in a book about a society that actually needs detail to do their work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first began reading this book, I didn't realize that it was a series of true accounts. I found myself totally immersed in the book and read until I fell asleep and my first thought in the morning was to open my Nook and read my book! If you like crime fiction, this is a must read. As the saying goes, "Life is stranger than fiction." Five stars in all respects.
James Rzonca More than 1 year ago
I love true crime and this book is honestly one of the best i have read by any author! I loved the way this story was told, and with so much detail. I wish he would write more books in this genre and would read them in a second! I have already reccomended this book to many people.
Story-Weaver More than 1 year ago
Murders happen to other people, never to you or those whom you know. Right? Think again. I've nearly been killed three times;two persons I know have died. The Murder Room, is the result of five years' effort by the author, delving into records,researching the Vidocq Society, heirs of Sherlock Holmes who gather to solve the world's most perplexing cold cases.This group of amazingly passionate sleuths, studied 300 cold cases and solved 90 percent of them, unsolved, some for over 47 yrs. Named after nineteenth-century Paris detective Eugene Francois Vidocq, the father of forensic detective techniques. The society was organized in 1989 by three men: former FBI agent, Bill Fleisher; an amazing psychological profiler, called ' the living Sherlock Holmes, Richard Walter, and forensic artist, Frank Bender, said to be able to speak with the dead, and thus capture a person's essence in clay. His the ability to model a person as he would look now from pictures 15 -20 years old. There are 82 members; with associates 150. The society is now global, as are cases presented for consideration. All members give of their time and skills pro bono, that is 'for the public good'. Cases must be at least two years old with the local policing agency requesting assistance in solving the crime. In many instances, once the crime is solved and announced to the public, the society's name is not even mentioned. The importance in the group's intervention is justice: finding a name of the victim, tracking the killer and holding that person accountable for the crime or crimes committed,giving both the family resolution, the victim justice. Michael Capuzzo is a masterful writer and the story's concentration of the founding members and how their prior experiences influenced their skill and dedication. Law enforcement and everyone like you will benefit by reading this book.
JewelDragon More than 1 year ago
This is a good book. It is not a great book. The way the story of the Vidocq society, its founders, and some of its cases is told is awkward! While the society is a story well worth telling it is chopped up into little pieces. It becomes difficult to carry the thread of a story from section to section. I almost wanted to cut the book apart and put the story lines together. GOOD story! BAD writing!
g33kgrrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was interested in this book because I was in the mood to read some murder mysteries as well as read some history. The book does provide these, but to be honest, I thought the writing was terrible. The timeline skipped around without a clear indication of what time we were in, information was repeated multiple times between chapters, and some thoughts and actions were presented as happening during the murders without any explanation of how it was known that they happened. Not to mention that the prose was awful. I also found the end jarring and disappointing.You can certainly pick things worth reading out of this, but there is a much better book that could have been written. I have no idea why his editors didn't step in. A few of the problems would have made sense (especially the fact that we often didn't know at the start of the chapter when was being discussed, and the repetitiveness of the narrative) if the book had been published serially to begin with, but I couldn't find any evidence of that.Also I'm from Hudson WI, and when the author talks about news being published in the Hudson Gazette, he's way off. Our only weekly newspaper is the Hudson Star-Observer, and my mom even sent me the clippings about the case the Vidocq Society consulted on (well before we knew about the Vidocq Society). So that really made me doubt the research that was done.
iread2much on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I did not enjoy the way the author somewhat clumsily tried to "weave" the stories of three very different but brilliant men together, the stories are very interesting, well told, and provide a vivid, if somewhat unbelievable picture of the lives of three extraordinary men. While I would not suggest it to people who prefer non-fiction, if you can stand the way the author meanders through everything, you learn a lot.
pak6th on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3 extraordinary men, a criminal profiler, a forensic artist and a private eye, form the Vidocq Society to solve various cold cases. They gather for lunch with other famous police personal and discuss a case to try to solve it using fresh ideas, new science, and psychological profiling. Told in chronological order we meet the 3 men, and learn about the cases as they did. Capuzzo describes both the minds and the thinking of the criminals as well as those who try to solve the crimes. And they did solve many of the crimes, though whether justice was done is another issue. For true crime buffs everywhere
BellaFoxx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the United States as many as 1 in 3 murders goes unsolved. The Vidocq Society was formed from this realization, the best law enforcement minds in the country, every third Thursday they meet ¿to hunt down murderers in cold cases, punish the guilty, free the innocent, and avenge, protect, and succor families victimized by murder.¿ They are there to speak for the dead.The Society is named after Eugène François Vidocq (1775-1857) a French crook-turned-cop, who was named the first chief of the Sûreté in 1811 (inspired the FBI and Scotland Yard). There are certain requirements for a case to be reviewed by the society. All cases are cold, such cases as the boy in the box (unsolved for 50 years), ¿The Worst Mother in History¿, about a woman who had 8 children die (since the title of the book is The Murder Room, would it be a spoiler to say they had been murdered?)of what was originally determined to be ¿crib death¿.This book while being about the Vidocq Society focuses on the three founding members, a biography of sorts. William Fleisher, Frank Bender (forensic artist), and Richard Walter (profiler) telling how they got to where they did. It describes how they would meet (the third Thursday of every month) to review cold cases and decide if they would accept one. The book goes from case to case, not jumping around so it is easy to follow, rather seamlessly. It not written in a `short story¿ format, the different cases form parts of the whole. The cases are written in such a way that they flow into each other.I would recommend this book to true crime fans.Below are some quotes from the book,Marie Noe convicted of killing 8 of her 10 children (she pleaded guilty), her lawyer said: Marie did not have ¿the heart of a killer. This is one of those situations that make us human. Some things happen in life that we cannot understand.¿ This was a woman that when she was confessing to the detectives, called each of the children `it¿.Marie told detectives, ¿All I can figure is that I¿m ungodly sick.¿A priest named by a Philadelphia grand jury as a pedophile, believed by the Vidocq Society to have raped and murdered a nine year old girl, when he died was eulogized by another priest, as a man who ¿touched countless souls, especially those of children.¿ (No it wasn¿t their souls he was touching.)
aglassmd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the type of book that stayed with me several days after I finished it. As the reader, you just know the Vidocq society will have enough work to keep themselves business forever.Another review said the book was "all over map." I agree, but I think that is part of it's charm. Chapters are interspersed with narratives about cold cases, how the society operates, and what happens when they are close to being solved.If you are at all interested in how cold case crimes are solved, and the genius' behind solving some of the worst, most grisly and most unsolvable crimes, I urge you to read this book. You won't be disappointed.I wish it could have gone on for another 300 pages.~Amy
pmfloyd1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Way too scattered to be a good read. The short chapters were nice, but you did not know what decade you were in, let alone what story line for much of the book. Either poorly edited or the author got in the way of letting the editors do their work. Also, overpriced..... not worth $13.00 in Kindle.... get it used, not worth paying full price in my opinion. 2 stars out of 5. Paul Floyd, Mpls, MN
PsibrReadHead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not well-crafted, but fascinating subject matter.
mmadamslibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
IT was like reading a Patricia Cornwell fiction title. Unsolved cold cases are presented to the VIdocq society, where the top cops and forensic experts of the world use their talents to solve the crime.
alanjlevine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo could have been much more, and better, than in fact it was. I learned about the book from an intriguing interview with the book's most interesting character, psychologist and psychopath profiler Richard Walter. The book purports to give the reader insight into the Vidocq Society, a group of elite experts from around the world who gather to solve the world's most perplexing cold case murders. The society takes its name from the 18th Century French detective Eugène François Vidocq. The three main characters upon which the book centers its tale are Walter, and his co-founders: policeman, FBI and U.S. Customs agent William Fleisher, and forensic sculptor Frank Bender. However, far too much writing is spent describing things like Walter's addiction to nicotine with overwrought depictions of cigarette smoke coiling around his head. And then there is the now aged but still randy Frank Bender's sexual predilection for anything in a skirt which Capuzzo visits over and over and over again. Had the book's subtitle been "A Repetitive Yet Cursory Look into the Personal Lives of Three Men Who Try to Solve Crimes," rather than the actual subtitle "The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases," that would have been a truer description. The book attempts to do two things at once - explain how Fleisher, Walter, and Bender have come to their professions while at the same time providing insight into how some of America's most heinous, perplexing crimes have been solved at long last. Alas, neither is done exceedingly well. Amidst the occasional gratuitous, nauseating details of a particularly gruesome torture-murder, only a smidgen of interesting ideas are stingily scattered about the book's pages. And these ideas - true or not - are exclusively from Walter. For example, we do learn towards the end about the helix the sadistic murderer descends on their road to self-actualization as a beast. It begins with comparatively harmless sexually deviant behavior and fetishes, and in the case of an Albert Fish or a Ted Bundy, culminates in becoming an embodiment of evil whom the Devil can speak and act through directly (the last being my theological gloss on Walter's theory). And here is where I think an interesting story may lie. For the Catholic Church now perceives a need to train and thereby increase the numbers of priests who can perform exorcisms. Some members of the Vidocq Society and others in law enforcement have observed an increase in the number of brutal murders involving sadism, and even necrophilia and cannibalism. Perhaps there is a non-coincidental correlation? Anyway, the first clue I had this would be a mediocre read was when, at a lunch meeting of the Vidocq Society, the following is said of a grieved petitioner for their services - "After four courses served hot, Antoine Le Havre was ready for revenge, served ice-cold." Then, one page later, this is said of Le Havre - "As strong as his feelings were, he didn't want revenge, only justice." Never mind that after the meeting Walter and Bender become convinced that Le Havre is really the murderer who is playing with the Vidocq society. Why never mind? Because nothing further is learned about that case and what happened after Le Havre's request for assistance. Instead, after being dragged willy-nilly, back-and-forth from case to case to case, we're supposed to stand in awe of these men's seemingly psychic abilities and logic jumping intuitions without learning what training and facts are actually guiding such seemingly supernatural sleuthing. Still, I don't regret reading The Murder Room. It wasn't a total waste of time - just fell way short of its potential in both its scope and depth. I am glad I checked it out at the library and didn't spend my hard earned money on it. The book read like it was written on a deadline and the editor was under an even tighter schedule. But it conveyed enough to make me glad there are p
MarthaHuntley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this book very, very much. I started by listening to it from an audio book, and was so intrigued that I read it as well. I thought the three main characters, the founders of the Vidocq Society, Richard Warner, Bill Fleisher, and Frank Bender are fascinating men, very different from each other, but each truly committed to justice and solving crimes for the sake of decency, the survivors, and the truth. The many crime stories were well told and riveting. Some reviewers found the switching back and forth from crime to crime, with the events and opinions of Warner, Fleisher, and Bender interwoven, off-putting, but I felt this storytelling method parallels the work of law enforcement which follows a bumpy road indeed, with many a detour, often a false trail, and the ending not revealed, sometimes for years or decades, sometimes never. I was impressed by the underlying morality and dedication that goes into solving crimes, however long it takes. The passion of the Vidocq Society members for justice has a near-Biblical quality.
mthelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written by a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, this is an interesting story of the Vidoq Society, based in Philadelphia, which draws talented people from a wide range of professions to solve cold cases of at least 2 years. Though I've now lived in Philly for more than 15 years, I had somehow missed the Vidocq Society's story. However, my mom, a CSI junkie in Wisconsin, HAD heard of it. I was deeply impressed with the results the group has achieved, and wondered how much good could be done if such a society existed in all professions - especially politics.
WorldReader1111 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, mostly. 'Murder Room' is, first, generally well-written from a literary standpoint, with a clear voice and functional formatting. There were times when I had some trouble following what was happening (and when it was happening, due to some narrative ambiguity about past or present); though, this wasn't much of an issue, ultimately (and, it might very well just have been some confusion on my part, rather than a flaw in the writing). In this respect, the book is coherently composed, as to be readable and accessible. When it comes to actual content, 'Murder' is equally pleasing, and on multiple levels. Most noticeably, there is simply a lot of raw inquiry in the text, with it delving as much into the Vidocq Society, its history, and its members as into the cases and people the Society helped investigate. Consequently, the reader is treated to character studies of these notable individuals and their life and times (and their contradictions, which, interestingly, sometimes parallel those of the sought perpetrators), alongside the examinations of the alleged criminals and their crimes, with many contextual detours along the way, spanning everything from history to psychology to criminology to geography to anthropology. It's a veritable smorgasbord of substance, most of which I personally found quite educational, both on an intellectual level and a human, emotional one. So diverse is the book's scope, there should be something interesting for about anyone, I think, as to make for an uncommonly well-rounded read. For me, one aspect of 'Murder' stood out in particular: its value as a psychological data point, to be learned from. As a factual resource, true-crime books such as these are, I believe, very important to humanity as a whole, for the clues they hold to collectively understanding ourselves and our behavior. In my experience, there are few better ways to know oneself than by studying one's opposite; and, thus, for the "sane" majority, much can be learned by studying the violence and deviance catalogued so candidly in this book. As it were, the reality of the human experience shines through such criminal acts; and, if we are ever to better ourselves and our society in any real, sustainable way, we would do well to pay attention to such information, in the sense of "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." It's the redeeming trait of even the most sensational and lurid of crime literature, I think. One complaint I had about 'Murder Room': the author could have been more objective in relaying the facts. The Vidocq Society detectives are often treated with a subtle fanfare, which at times errors towards outright fawning and bias, such that the text loses some value as an impartial document. Some folks might not care about this; with my desiring material for evaluation and study, however, the dramatization was something of a drawback, albeit a small one. After finishing the read, I still felt enriched and satisfied. My sincere thanks goes out to this book's author, subjects, and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work and service. * * * A notable quote from this book: "Gill, the high-ranking treasury agent, left the Friedman case with a humbling lesson. [...] 'A lot of people in this country get away with murder. A lot more than I thought.'" -- p.177
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a very good and very interesting book that ruined by poor, disjointed writing. The author darts around way too much until you really have no idea which crime he is writing about at any given moment. Fortunately, I bought the NOOK version so going back and looking things up was easy. I don't think that I would have finished the book if I had bought a regular copy. Also, the author seems to proudly present two of the main investigators as amoral and sociopathic as the criminals they hunt. Not quite sure if this is on purpose or not, but it is pretty distracting.
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
An engaging history of the Vidocq Society, an association of top professionals from the various disciplines involved in murder investigation, whose purpose is to examine cases that have gone unsolved for at least two years.  It's very interesting to learn how forensic pathologists, forensic artists, and especially psychological profilers work, and how their disparate styles can complement each other.  While the Society's 90% success rate is admirable, the author seems to hold little, if anything, back in describing crime scenes and what victims suffered, with numerous cases that plumb the depths of human misery and death.  The writing style is at times over-the-top potboiler in nature, which can either amuse or annoy, depending on one's mood.  Fascinating book, but be forewarned you'll endure many tales about the worst things one human being can do to another.
BCSO7148 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I couldn't put it down.  I had heard about the Vidocq Society but didn't know exactly what they were all about.  This book takes you from the beginning on how everything started and is just fascinating on how they all come together to try and help solve cold cases. Highly recommended read 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very convoluted writing; hard to imagine this survived an editor's pen.