The Killer of Little Shepherds is a terrifying, but fascinating true crime story. It gives vivid details on the murders committed by the infamous Joseph Vacher, also known as the killer of little shepherds. The book takes the reader on a journey from Vacher’s first crime all the way to his punishment. The time when Vacher terrorized the rural areas of France was also a time when legal medicine and anthropology were rapidly developing. Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne was a scientist who spent his life studying and analyzing criminal behaviours. He and prosecutor Émile Forquet played important roles towards bringing Vacher’s heinous crimes into light and prosecuting him. Overall, the book is informative and well written; it provides descriptions of crimes, forensic studies, and other documented events. The Killer of Little Shepherds is a valuable piece of history that displays the dark capabilities of humans fighting against the upholders of law and scientific achievement. 5/5 Stars
- @VirtueofReading of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library
"The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Story and the Birth of Forensic Science" by Douglas Starr is obviously a well researched history and reasonably well told. One of Starr's faults is a tendency to digress into areas of peripheral interest. Some chapters we leave the killer behind to wander off and explore ... and return with an interesting fact that isnt central to the Vacher story.
Ordinarily I stay away from true crime books; their stories can be so horribly ghastly that I am too likely to end up traumatized. But this author is a safe guide. He tells only what we need to know about the crimes; keeping the drama foccused on forensic thinking and the simultaneous development of forensic science. I loved it. So, France had its own Jack The Ripper.
A disappointing book.
Although the advances in forensic science achieved by Dr. Lacassagne, which is the central theme of the book (and my reason for choosing to read it) were certainly remarkable, the writer fails to convey any degree of fascination in the telling of the story. When I compare it with other books recounting great scientific and intellectual discoveries and advancements, such as that of geology in "The Seashell on the Mountaintop" or the account of the discoveries of Louis Pasteur, Mr Starr's book doesn't measure up. There is no tension, no thrill of the chase, no "Ah-Hah" moment like that found in books such as "Longitude" by Dava Sobel.
Part of the problem is that the grisly exploits and twisted personality of the murderer Vacher continue to intrude. Further, the extended debate concerning the condemned man's sanity is perplexing and again is a distraction from the valuable advances in criminal medicine and application of scientific methods in investigation.
Finally, the story is made even more depressing by the willful stupidity of the authorities of the day in dealing with the monster Vacher and his crimes. Besides the direct victims, countless others had their lives destroyed, not by the assassin himself but by the police and in some cases the families of the victims, by falsely accusing innocent people of the crimes and insisting on believing rumour and innuendo while ignoring hard evidence.
really good, fast and not technical.
Very interesting book about the beginning of forensic science, especially in conjunction with such a great narrative about a serial killer.
Almost academic in its approach, the author still manages to make what might seem a little dry, interesting by paralleling the development of forensic science with the case of a French psychopath and serial killer.
If you are interested in this period of history and criminology, you will enjoy this little book. A fascinating look at the beginnings of forensic science. The part about the floating morgue is astounding.
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