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The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Printing edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592401422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592401420
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #279,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite journalist Capuzzo's obvious reverence for the crime fighters he profiles, his account of the formation of the legendary Vidocq Society is as scattered as many of the cold case files they wade through. Based in Philadelphia, the Vidocq Society was the brainchild of three wildly different men brought together by their desire to speak for the dead: freewheeling exboxer turned forensic sculptor Frank Bender; FBI and U.S. Customs agent William Fleisher; and pre-eminent forensic psychologist and profiler Richard Walter. What began as an informal meeting of colleagues in 1990 evolved into an expansive international think tank of sorts modeled and named after France's famed criminal-turned-sleuth EugeÌÇne Vidocq, a model for Sherlock Holmes. The cases--ranging from Philadelphia's long-festering "Boy in the Box" murder to the "Butcher of Cleveland," a serial killer who taunted Elliot Ness in the 1930s--are fascinating, but Capuzzo (Close to Shore) loses much of his narrative momentum by abruptly shifting between the founding members' individual backstories and homicides the society investigates. Yet there is no denying that the 82 "VSMs"(Vidocq Society Member) do an immeasurable service in the name of justice.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Here is the Pickwick Club for people who study psychopaths: once a month, several forensic experts gather in a posh Victorian brownstone in downtown Philadelphia, have a sumptuous lunch, and then consider cold cases brought to them by baffled detectives. The club is called the Vidocq Society, named after the nineteenth-century French criminologist who was one of the inspirations for Sherlock Holmes. Journalist Capuzzo (formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Miami Herald) has gained access both to this club (his description of one meeting ending with the projected image of a murder victim is brilliant) and to its founders, including a forensic psychiatrist, a forensic artist, and a former FBI special agent. Members also include Robert Ressler, the father of criminal profiling; forensic pathologists; and some Philadelphia cops. Capuzzo provides background on the founders and gives sketches of some famous cold cases the group has solved. This is compelling reading, but Capuzzo’s narrative style often has the reader guessing at details, methods, and outcomes. --Connie Fletcher

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Customer Reviews

Also, Capuzzo's writing style is awkward and much too wordy at times.
Mystery Fan
I tried to like this book, I really did, but the second case really screwed it up for me.
Ava Daniel-Johnson
The book is a very hard read, not worth the effort; I will not bother finishing it.
Geoff Bender

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Carter on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It was a relief to read some of the other reviews that commented on how poorly written this book is. True crime is my favorite genre and the Vidocq Society is a fascinating subject, but I had to force myself to keep on reading. When I first brought it home from the library (thank goodness I did not spend money for it) I must have started the first chapter five times. I was actually worried that I could not follow the thread of the book and wondered what was wrong with me. I wish I had read these reviews first. They would have saved me all that worry that my comprehension skills were dying.

I agree with many other reviewers: purple prose that would be embarrassing in a paperback crime novel, metaphor upon metaphor, confusing organization (almost like all the paragraphs were cut up and dropped at one time and many did not get put back where they belonged), and I almost screamed every time the author referred to Richard Walter as "the tall thin man." I recommend to Capuzzo the self-editing book for writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. For those reviewers who wondered where the editors were, at the end of the book Capuzzo thanks his wife and SEVEN others who took on that task. I can only imagine that at one point they all threw their hands up in the air and said, "Let's just publish the darn thing!"
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92 of 98 people found the following review helpful By SWL on August 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was excited to read about the detectives in the Vidocq. However, the disjointed and confusing arrangement of the book -- along with the most overwritten, purple prose -- made me feel that I was swimming through syrup trying to get to the point. It's as if Michael Capuzzo was trying to insert his own character into the story and I wanted him to get the hell out of the way. I did finish it, and I did remain intrigued with the people depicted -- especially Richard Walter -- but this was IN SPITE OF the way they and their stories were portrayed. I really hope some other writer will take a stab (sorry) at this topic. PS: I would like to have a serious talk with whomever edited this mess, if in fact anyone actually did.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By L.M. Perrault on August 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like several other reviewers, I was initially intrigued by the concept of The Murder Room. The true-life murder mysteries do indeed captivate, but ultimately the author's writing style gets in the way of the stories. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way he organizes the material. Is it chronological? I can't decipher. He introduces countless characters in a seemingly endless stream of murders committed in various regions of the US. He jumps from the 50's to the 90's to the 70's without so much as a heads up to the reader. He has a great germ of an idea and seems to have spent a good amount of time investigating the complex cases. What a pity....
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By RuthAlice on October 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I had high expectations of this book as the subject matter is so rich with intrigue, mystery and the sort of detecting details that should make it an easy success. Unfortunately it was written by someone with poor to mediocre writing and research skills who was a credulous transcriber that failed to fact check anything. I knew I was in for an unverified transcription of others' stories when the preface included the easily verifiable falsehood that the crime rate was increasing. Five seconds with Google would blow that out of the water. That was followed by the idiotic claim that the legal deck was stacked in favor of defendants - something that is equally proved false with a minimum of research. So, it'c clear that Capuzzo was not going to double check a thing, not even basic facts. Oh well, the cases should still be interesting, right?

They certainly have the potential to be interesting if they were not made ridiculous by Capuzzo's narrative sounding like the script for those cheap and cheesy weekend filler documentaries on MSNBC. The entire time I was reading I could not escape the sense of ridiculousness that comes from cheap melodramatic hack writing. Here are stories of obscene murders and horrible tragedies that are given an inappropriately comic tone because of badly melodramatic writing. The book sounds like 48 Hours with a 6 Hour budget.

But the worst of the it are the too clever by half quips put into the mouths of the poor real life heroes he is lionizing. I hope that he invented them and that the brilliant profiler Richard Walter does not sound like David Caruso in CSI Miami making those stupid asinine comments while putting on sunglasses.
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48 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Swierczewski on August 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Mountain Home Magazine, I read a fascinating article about "The Living Serlock Holmes" that caught my attention. From there I learned that the Vidocq Society actually existed and that they even had a book coming out this month that would help sate my growing curiosity. The stories are very interesting for the most part, but I can't stand the way the author chose to write about them. The first half of the book was tremendously hard to get through.The majority of it seems to be a fragmented biography about Frank Bender. I can't even remember the number of times I had to read about a short, muscular, ex-boxer, whose a Casanova of Philadelphia. He's the least interesting character, but has the most written about him. I respect what the man has done, but too much space on the page was devoted to talking about his sexual prowess.Likewise, the author goes overboard in his use of metaphors. I get that these men are righteous purveyors of justice, but do I have to be told so on every second page? To have a "green thumb in the garden of death" for example, is overkill after taking two pages to talk about how expert these men are in their field and how often they are exposed to the grim reality of death. The author tries to take worldly men and make them something they're not, and it comes off as outlandish. The pages were spilling out with high-arching metaphors long after the point was made and after the first fifty pages, I felt like the title should have been called "God's Chosen Ones." Read this to learn about three very interesting people and the society they created, but have some aspirin handy.
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