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The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases Hardcover – August 10, 2010

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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: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,906 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

More About the Author

A Boston native and graduate of Northwestern University, journalist Michael Capuzzo is author of the New York Times bestsellers CLOSE TO SHORE (the true story of Jaws) and THE MURDER ROOM (a true-crime classic featuring the "living Sherlock Holmes"). Both books were critically acclaimed, published in many languages, and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.

CLOSE TO SHORE, optioned by director David O. Russell, was a Top Ten Book of the Year (People magazine) and "adventure classic" with "artistry reminiscent of Stephen Crane" (The New Yorker).
THE MURDER ROOM, the true story of the crime-fighting club the Vidocq Society and its brilliant lead detective, was nominated for the Edgar Award, shortlisted for Great Britain's Golden Dagger Award, reviewed as a worthy heir to Raymond Chandler, and optioned by the producers of CSI.

Capuzzo was a longtime staff writer for The Miami Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was nominated four times for the Pulitzer for feature writing and national reporting. In his spare time he wrote WILD THINGS, a nationally syndicated humor column on animals that spawned his books WILD THINGS; MUTTS: AMERICA'S DOGS (with Brian Kilcommons), and the two-volume collection OUR BEST FRIENDS and CAT CAUGHT MY HEART (with his wife, Teresa Banik Capuzzo). A sportswriter starting at age fifteen, he was nominated for a National Magazine Award for his Sports Illustrated profile of Henry Aaron, and has written for Esquire, Life, Reader's Digest, and appeared often on NPR and many national media outlets.

Mike and his wife Teresa founded and publish Mountain Home, a regional magazine, "Free as the Wind, in Appalachian Pennsylvania and New York that has won wide acclaim as a new form of citizen storytelling journalism and more than seventy statewide and international awards for writing, photography, and design.

Customer Reviews

If you like true crime, you will enjoy this book.
The book deals with interesting characters and subjects but it is oddly structured and not very well written.
Mark Butcher
The book is a very hard read, not worth the effort; I will not bother finishing it.
Geoff Bender

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 93 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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98 of 105 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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41 of 43 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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25 of 27 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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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Swierczewski on August 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Mountain Home Magazine, I read an article about "The Living Sherlock 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 sate my growing curiosity. The stories are interesting for the most part, but I can't stand the way the author chose to write about them. The majority of it seems to be a fragmented biography about Frank Bender. The sheer number of times I read about "a short, muscular, ex-boxer, who's also the Casanova of Philadelphia" is staggering. He's the least interesting character and has the most written about him. The author goes overboard in his use of metaphors. To have a "green thumb in the garden of death" 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. I felt like the title should have been called "God's Chosen Ones." Read this to learn about three very interesting people and the club they created, but have some aspirin handy.
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