The Killer of Little Shepherds

  • by Douglas Starr
  • Narrated by Erik Davies
  • 12 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A riveting true crime story that vividly recounts the birth of modern forensics.
At the end of the 19th century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher, known and feared as “The Killer of Little Shepherds”, terrorized the French countryside. He eluded authorities for years - until he ran up against prosecutor Emile Fourquet and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, the era’s most renowned criminologist. The two men - intelligent and bold - typified the Belle Époque, a period of immense scientific achievement and fascination with science’s promise to reveal the secrets of the human condition.
With high drama and stunning detail, Douglas Starr revisits Vacher’s infamous crime wave, interweaving the story of how Lacassagne and his colleagues were developing forensic science as we know it. We see one of the earliest uses of criminal profiling, as Fourquet painstakingly collects eyewitness accounts and constructs a map of Vacher’s crimes. We follow the tense and exciting events leading to the murderer’s arrest. And we witness the twists and turns of the trial, celebrated in its day. In an attempt to disprove Vacher’s defense by reason of insanity, Fourquet recruits Lacassagne, who in the previous decades had revolutionized criminal science by refining the use of blood-spatter evidence, systematizing the autopsy, and doing groundbreaking research in psychology. Lacassagne’s efforts lead to a gripping courtroom denouement.
The Killer of Little Shepherds is an important contribution to the history of criminal justice, impressively researched and thrillingly told.

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What the Critics Say

“Eloquent.... Starr creates tension worthy of a thriller.” (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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Masterly introduction to modern forensic science

In this book, Starr expertly weaves the story of turn-of-the-century serial killer Joseph Vacher, with the early heroes of forensic science. The book is simply fascinating, both the tales of Vacher's crimes and the hunt for him, and the various people developing methods in forensics (like how to perform an autopsy, determine a person's height from a few bones, or finding out how long ago a person died). The book is well paced, and the performance of the narrator, Erik Davies, is wonderful.

I truly have nothing negative to say about it - it's great.
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- Praetor

Truly the best true crime/forensic science

This is my pick for my audible book of the year. Mesmerizing. A perfect listen.
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- Julia Fierro "Author of Cutting Teeth, a novel (St. Martin's Press, 2014)"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-05-2010
  • Publisher: Random House Audio