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 Eugéne 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.
Michael Capuzzo’s The Murder Room is a dark and bloody scrapbook of some of America’s longest standing cases. A gripping experience, it also explains the rise of forensic science to the glamorous discipline now ubiquitous across network television. If the subject matter is disturbing, the treatment is undeniably glamorous, and the contrast between subject and treatment should make for queasy listening. Thankfully, Adam Grupper’s narration acts as a counterbalance to the sensational material: his measured delivery doesn’t dwell on the macabre details, nor does he relish the ghoulishness.
It is surprising how true the clichés of crime literature turn out to be. Here, for example, we have Richard Walter, the cerebral, classics-living forensic psychologist “obsessed with things that decent people were happiest not knowing about”. Frank Bender is his Dionysian opposite, a brilliant forensic artist whose clay models rescue vanished faces, yet whose unconventional private life is given a little too much attention by the clearly smitten author.
Capuzzo’s writing can be compared to contemporary crime masters such as Michael Connelly and Linda Fairstein. Like the forensic experts he chronicles, the author reanimates crimes long-since filed away through the power of his imaginative observations: moments before her death, a victim is “dreaming her thoughts into the bleak grey sky”. He is also good at the time-honored need to reframe senseless crimes through a metaphysical lens. Along the way, there are a few missteps: unhelpfully opaque sentences such as “His was a dark vision, the same one that made Machiavelli and Dostoevsky embittered men and geniuses for the ages,” and head-scratching assertions such as “In the modern media age, Bender was becoming better known in his time than Michelangelo was in his.” The listener will have to decide on his or her own where their level of comfort stands in relation to the license Capuzzo takes in dramatising events unknowable except to the dead and the deranged: it is an irony that a book concerned with establishing facts resorts to so much colorful conjecture.
Another challenge for the listener is the fragmented storytelling: the story dips in and out of several cases as they progress, and it can be a struggle to hold on to the narrative threads. But with barely a pause between each chapter, Grupper’s unfaltering narration drives the listener on through the grim accumulation of bodies. His restraint is his greatest attribute: his uninflected reading gives just enough space to let the true tragedy of each case come across all the more vividly, a respectful tribute to the victims of the crimes chronicled in this morbid yet engrossing book. Dafydd Phillips
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Beware of staring into the abyss,it stares back
- Melvin Lindsey
Guaranteed to Fascinate
- David I. Williams