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

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

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

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Product Description

A riveting true crime story that vividly recounts the birth of modern forensics.

At the end of the nineteenth 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.

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Douglas Starr is an old pro at reporting and writing science history, which puts The Killer of Little Shepherds squarely in his wheelhouse. The author ably tells two stories—of the serial killer Vacher’s lust for murder and of the developing science that finally caught up with him—and there are enough fascinating details here to keep even the most jaded forensics fans entertained. More popular journalism than a failed “quest to understand evil” ( New York Times), Starr’s compelling history can be added to the growing library of books ( Devil in the White City, The Lost City of Z, The Ghost Map) that brings to life forgotten or neglected events by playing on a reader’s sense of adventure and the unknown, as well as the satisfaction of witnessing a confounding puzzle well solved.

Review

“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
 
 
 
 
 
 

About 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.

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4.4 out of 54.4 out of 5
197 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Kindle Customer
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not Bad
Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2013
The story told is very interesting. A serial killer who roamed France a century ago-- this is their basis for this book. The author makes very good use what surely had to be scarce documentary sources. I was most impressed by the discussion of the origins of modern... See more
The story told is very interesting. A serial killer who roamed France a century ago-- this is their basis for this book. The author makes very good use what surely had to be scarce documentary sources. I was most impressed by the discussion of the origins of modern forensics.
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K. L Sadler
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book on creation of forensic science...
Reviewed in the United States on June 24, 2012
I don''t usually read ''real crime'' stories...but this one intrigued me because it was tied in both with the creation of forensic science and the early beginnings of neursocience in the 1800''s. Most of the time, we tend to think of serial killers as being a modern phenomena.... See more
I don''t usually read ''real crime'' stories...but this one intrigued me because it was tied in both with the creation of forensic science and the early beginnings of neursocience in the 1800''s. Most of the time, we tend to think of serial killers as being a modern phenomena. It seems to be true that the attention of modern day press and media has definitely brought more attention to them. Whether or not, serial killers occur more due to the attention or due to sociatal pressures or increased population or increasing creation of psychopaths due to genes is an ongoing discussion.
But serial killers have happened before in other time periods, but the problem was trying to catch them and bring them to justice. In many cases, these killers did not get caught until years of slaughter, and they made a mistake. Occasionally, they were in positions of authority and hard to bring to justice.

In Joseph Vacher''s case, he was a smart enough man to use the chaotic justice system in France to keep ahead of the law. He preyed on the young, on those who were traveling alone, and always someone much smaller than he...who could not fight back. Though the book uses Vacher''s crimes as the basis for the case study, the book actually focuses on how Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, an imminent professor of legal medicine who was the father of ''forensic science'', helped to bring Vacher to justice. Lacassagne started insisting that everything in the field of crime be based on scientific measurements, whether it be shoe prints, fingerprints, blood spatters, rifling marks, and even information about mental status of the perpetrator. At the time of Vacher, neuroscience or the study of the brain was brand new, but was growing by leaps and bounds. Information from all over the world was being gathered and utilized, including information about brain damage changing personality as seen in Phineas Gage in the U.S. (from a tamping rod going through his amygdala).
Because of changes made in the justice system, and a mistake on Vacher''s part, Vacher was finally caught by the authorities after several small communities shared information about a vagabond with weeping scar by an ear who was attacking young people in a monstrous manner.

Where Lacassagne came in was at the trial, when Vacher and his defense team were trying to prove he was insane. Vacher lived with the idea from the beginning that he was immune from blame, because he must be insane to do these types of crimes. He didn''t care about those he hurt as he had no empathy or compassion, but he was intent on proving his own insanity to avoid real punishment (Having been in an insane asylum before he knew how easy it was to get out of one). Lacassagne and other experts of the time were able to show that Vacher was able to plan these crimes ahead of time, and was aware enough of right and wrong to move out of local areas to avoid being caught.

This book provided a lot of information about the forensic science that was being developed and adapted at this time period. There was a lot of research and background supplied about other cases that led to discoveries in this field, about other doctors/researchers, and some of the wrong ideas they proposed that were then tosssed, about how some of these developments are still being used today.
5 people found this helpful
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Clothesandhistory
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Gripping and well written. A MUST READ!
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2011
I bought this book to read on my Kindle, and it grabbed me from the first page. It took me on a terrifying, informative, amazing journey. So well written! The author''s style of writing a chapter about Vacher ("The Killer of Little Shephards") and then about LaCassagne, the... See more
I bought this book to read on my Kindle, and it grabbed me from the first page. It took me on a terrifying, informative, amazing journey. So well written! The author''s style of writing a chapter about Vacher ("The Killer of Little Shephards") and then about LaCassagne, the brilliant French Physician who helped usher in the age of Forensic Science; and how the Police were able to work with Physicians and more to help solve some "unsovlable" crimes.
This is before fingerprinting, before....ANYTHING! People who may have been innocent were sent to the Guillotine, especially if they were poor, or not well liked. However, in some cases, in the smaller villages in France, people who had some kind of wealth or property were accused of crimes because poorer people resented them!And when they got it into their minds that someone did something, they did NOT change their minds.
What a very scary time to live, or die in..........
Villages far from Paris or Lyon were still thinking witchcraft and the like when some horrible crimes (like Vacher''s ghastly murders) were commited!
I loved the way the author made me think about whether or not Vacher was insane and was not culpable, or if he was just incredibly strange, with definite personality disorders, but knew exactly what he was doing.
Vacher''s murder trial had me on the edge of my seat.
So many new things happened during this time, it was truly the beginning of a new era in solving crimes by using scientific evidence. I also enjoyed reading about other crimes that were solved using LaCassagne''s techniques; what patience that man had, and he also had dedicated students and other physicians who admired him so much, and rightfully so.
I highly recommend this book. As a Criminology student, I found it almost impossible to put down. It is not gratuitous, it tells what we need to know and not more. I don''t like true crime books that go into WAY more detail than they need to.
Read this book. You won''t be sorry!
13 people found this helpful
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Trish
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Historical True Crime at Its Best
Reviewed in the United States on June 25, 2011
I enjoyed this well researched and totally readable account of the serial killer, Joseph Vacher, (Vacher admitted to killing 11 people during the late 1800''s across the French countryside), and the Forensic scientist who helped convict him, Alexandre Lacassagne.... See more
I enjoyed this well researched and totally readable account of the serial killer, Joseph Vacher, (Vacher admitted to killing 11 people during the late 1800''s across the French countryside), and the Forensic scientist who helped convict him, Alexandre Lacassagne.

The book is told in alternating chapters between Vacher''s history and killing spree, and Lacassagne''s history, prior cases, and ultimately how he concludes whether or not Vacher is legally responsible for actions.

Not only does Starr recount the personal histories of each man, but he puts everything in historical context, for example giving background about French economics and why there were so many vagabonds roaming around the countryside during this time. He also tells us about other scientific forensic theories i.e. "natural born criminals" based on certain physical characteristics, and of the first "database" of criminals'' physical features and measurements used to track down and apprehend criminals across the country.

Each man''s story is fascinating, Vacher''s killings and his reasoning for his innocence, and Lascassagne''s use of forensic evidence, way before fingerprinting, DNA evidence, and ultraviolet light became the norm, to convict criminals.

I recommend this to anyone interested in forensics or serial killers; historical true crime at its best.
2 people found this helpful
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Sabrina
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliantly Told!
Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2015
I have so much to say about this book that I don''t even know where to start. It was a fascinating read about Alexandre Lacassagne, the pioneer of modern day forensics, and the serial killer,Joseph Vacher. This could have been an extremely dry read of facts, but instead,... See more
I have so much to say about this book that I don''t even know where to start. It was a fascinating read about Alexandre Lacassagne, the pioneer of modern day forensics, and the serial killer,Joseph Vacher. This could have been an extremely dry read of facts, but instead, Starr expertly weaves the two accounts with an engaging writing style that kept me turning the pages. I''m glad that Starr addressed and applied the 1890 events to modern day criminology, because experts, even with all their new understanding of the human brain are still struggling to answer the same questions that Lacassagne and his peers were dealing with: "Why people like Vacher arise to bring chaos and violence into a world that we struggle to keep orderly and safe."
2 people found this helpful
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lneal1
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
When the French started getting it right....
Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2015
I LOVE historical crimes/mysteries. This tells the story of the French "Jack the Ripper." It did not dwell overly on the bloody details, but focused on the development of forensics and the evolving realization that some criminals were actually insane and should... See more
I LOVE historical crimes/mysteries. This tells the story of the French "Jack the Ripper." It did not dwell overly on the bloody details, but focused on the development of forensics and the evolving realization that some criminals were actually insane and should not be punished as "normal" criminals. It is also amazing that any justice was possible in the 1800s in France. Each "division" throughout the country operated pretty independently of other divisions. Arrests were usually local residents who had been accused by their neighbors. Once arrested, it took months to gain release even when it was clear they were innocent. Very readable.
4 people found this helpful
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Judy Clay
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I absolutely adored this book. First, it traces ...
Reviewed in the United States on October 21, 2014
I absolutely adored this book. First, it traces the actions of a serial killer in France while all attention was being paid to Jack the Ripper in London at the end of the 19th century. Second and most profound is that Starr uses this to provide the foundation of forensic... See more
I absolutely adored this book. First, it traces the actions of a serial killer in France while all attention was being paid to Jack the Ripper in London at the end of the 19th century. Second and most profound is that Starr uses this to provide the foundation of forensic pathology and the science behind death, and investigation using scientific principles (in all too short supply with our current media obsession on titillation). If you have ever read any of Caleb Carr''s work such as The Alienist, you will really appreciate this work.
I''m am definitely looking forward to his next work.
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Elizabeth McDilda
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Depth
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2015
Micro-history; in which one learns an abundance anecdotally about a time or place as the author places extreme focus on a rather obscure event. This is the type of very well written tome that engulfed me whole then led me to seek several other books wherein I might explore... See more
Micro-history; in which one learns an abundance anecdotally about a time or place as the author places extreme focus on a rather obscure event. This is the type of very well written tome that engulfed me whole then led me to seek several other books wherein I might explore some intricate or arcane knowledge appealing to me. So it still goes, which is why we read, yes?
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Top reviews from other countries

Grr (tiger)
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Forensic science had little to do with it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2012
The chapters of the first half of this book alternate between relating the life story of Vacher up his apprehension as a serial killer, and the development of forensic science in France towards the end of the 19th Century. The second half deals with his trial, conviction...See more
The chapters of the first half of this book alternate between relating the life story of Vacher up his apprehension as a serial killer, and the development of forensic science in France towards the end of the 19th Century. The second half deals with his trial, conviction and sentence. Unfortunately it seems that forensic science had little to do with solving the case of the French Ripper. Certainly the man most famously credited with the birth of forensics did give evidence at Vacher''s trial, but with respect to his sanity and not to the science leading to his arrest. Which it seems was due much more to good old-fashioned detective work, a la Sherlock Holmes, rather than pure science. It is all very interesting, but I was left with the feeling that whilst I had learnt all about Vacher''s crimes, I was left short changed on forensics and the issue of legal insanity. Moderately well written, but the case of the French Ripper and the birth of Forensic Science are really not as interconnected as the book and its title imply. And that is finally a disappointment.
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Mrs L. Stevens
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliant!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 4, 2018
It''s well worth sticking with the read. I felt it was like a reading two books at the same time. Really enjoyed it.
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sebquest
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The French Ripper
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 25, 2013
Reasonable read though there''s more emphasis on the development of French forensic science than the activities of the Ripper, which is strange because the Ripper, apparently, simply loved to talk about himself no end.
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Jay
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 5, 2017
What a lot of research has gone into this book. Absolutely fascinating account of a French serial killer.
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APH
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 12, 2015
An extremely interesting view of the beginning of forensic science, focussed on France because of the subject matter but of wider relevance. Very readable.
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The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True outlet sale Crime Story and the online Birth of Forensic Science online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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