- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307279081
- ISBN-13: 978-0307279088
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 127 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science Reprint Edition
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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!
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.
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Douglass Starr is a professor of journalism at Boston University and a co-director of the Center for Science and Medical Journalism.Read more