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Publisher's Summary

Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.
Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.
When celebrated baseball statistician and true-crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then, after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter, Rachel, made an astonishing discovery: They learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.
Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the 20th century, when crime was regarded as a local problem and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system. James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.
©2017 Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James. All rights reserved. (P)2017 Simon & Schuster Audio. All rights reserved.
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Customer Reviews

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By ArtieM on 09-27-17

Extremely interesting

While I had known of the horrific 1912 murders of the Moore family in Vallisca, Iowa, I assumed with certainty it was an isolated case and perpetrated by someone known to the family. To learn of the countless similar family axe murders across the country in the same time period was astounding. Great job by the authors as far as research and telling the tale of this twisted psychopathic serial killer and how he managed to wipe out entire families for many years without ever being identified. Until this book, that is. While much of this story is extremely disturbing, it is also very historically educational. I learned so much about the justice system of the US in that era, or unjust system in many cases. For anyone who enjoys unsolved crime mysteries, this is a great story.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

By Amy L Bruce on 10-04-17


This was a very well thought out book about a series of murders I've never heard about. Although the layout is at times rather disorganized, I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of what life was like in that time period - how news papers and literacy were linked, the way policing worked, etc.

Assuming their research is solid and they didn't cherry pick facts to fit their narrative (I'm too lazy to do the research myself), I think their conclusion is pretty solid. And I got epic goosebumps when I listened to the last tidbit about where the murderer probably ended up.

I need to listen again and take notes and make diagrams to try to make sense of it all. Wow!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By mrs_v on 10-13-17

Fascinating unknown story.

Really interesting, frightening and atmospheric book about a series of axe familcides across North America at the beginning of the 20th century. Well researched and perfectly captures rural, small town life in the US at that time. Very frustrating at times, partly down to lack of available information and the attitude of law enforcement at the time. I also think there is too much repetition, I get it for linking the crimes, but certainly phrases or information was unnecessarily repeated again and again. However this was a fascinating story and I couldn't stop listening.

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