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The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas…

The Killer of Little Shepherds (2011)

by Douglas Starr

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4122625,790 (3.87)43
  1. 10
    Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates by Stewart P. Evans (Luchtpint)
  2. 10
    The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (391)
    391: The Killer of Little Shepherds both have to do with the advent of forensic science; one set in rural France, in the attempt to track down a vicious serial killer, the other set in 1920s New York during Prohibition. Both are excellent books that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the vanguards of forensics!… (more)
  3. 10
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» See also 43 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Although certainly not the first serial killer, Joseph Vacher was the first to be caught using what we would think of as the modern tools of criminal investigation: careful autopsy, scientific testing, profiling, and correlation of data from different areas. Vacher was an odd and interesting killer, but the real fascinating stuff here is the birth of modern forensics and the personalities involved in it. Good read! ( )
1 vote Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
A fascinating story about a Victorian-era French serial killer, using the investigation of his case to talk about the development of forensic science. I found the discussion of how to determine whether a criminal was insane or responsible for his crimes to be particularly interesting; the legal definition of insanity makes more sense in this Victorian context than it does in our modern age, but it's still a very slippery thing to get ahold of. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Jul 7, 2016 |
The investigation of a murderer.

I'm giving up on this one. I started it several years ago for a book group and it's been sitting on my 'Current Read' shelf since then. At first I'd occasionally pick it up to try and finish it but I don't think I've touched it in a long time.

It's a non-fiction narration of the use of forensic science in the discovery of the identity of a brutal killer in France a century ago. Joseph Vacher was a sergeant in the French army but after he was jilted by a young woman to whom he'd proposed marriage, he became a wandering vagabond, committing heinous crimes in various parts of France. It was his wandering that kept him from discovery for so long, as each departement of France was slow to communicate with the others.

I'm probably giving up just as the book becomes interesting - Vacher is caught and the trial begins. I'm missing the discussion about insanity and its meaning as related to the crimes - but I've lost interest and so this is going into my very small 'Abandoned' category. ( )
  DubaiReader | May 28, 2016 |
Riveting is a great single word explanation of this book. The story is actually two stories intertwined, one of a serial murderer who is eventually caught, Joseph Vacher and the second is the story of Dr. Alexander Lacassagne a renowned criminologist who sought to create standards in forensic science. Our story happens during the Belle Epoque, a period of scientific achievement and science's promise to reveal the secrets of the human condition. The book grapples with the ideas of morality and the belief society has a right to defend itself. "Lacassagne believed that a society lacking the will for self protection would find itself ravaged by crime, just as a person who neglected to attend to his hygiene would find himself ravaged by disease. Compassion, even pity, should not trump the values of order, self discipline, and social responsibility. And so in context, too, he once again employed his famous aphorism: "Societies have the criminals the deserve."

The book is filled with several great scientist of the times with differing opinions of criminology. Science still has not exposed all the mysteries of the brain nor has it laid to waste the work and theories of Lacassagne. During the time of Joseph Vacher's horrific crimes against humanity, there were winds prevailing in both directions on mental illness, the treatment of mental illness, and the death penalty.

Mental care facilities of today are nothing like the asylums of the 1890's and 1900's strides have been made in that regard. Treatment of the poor still poses many questions even today.

Mr Starr research and this book are a fascinating look in time at a horrific crime of the 19th century and at the birth of forensic science which led to the capture, trial and death of Joseph Vacher of his crimes and to the conviction of several other criminals from that time. I had to force myself to put this book down at night.

Just a note I read this for a non-fiction library book group. Many great discussion points in the book. ( )
1 vote yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
This is not the typical true crime book but more of a historical true crime which is genre I love. It is not as easy to read because you also learn a lot of things. That happened to me while reading The Killer of Little Shepherds. I love history so it was interesting to read how the criminologists of the 19th century worked. For instance which devices they used for autopsies, how they figured out what to use and how blood spatters worked. Back then there were alienists who claimed that criminals were born like that and you could see that in their brains.
This is the story of alienists as they were called back then and one in specific Alexandre Lacassagne and how they worked but also the story of a serial killer named Vacher and when they finally caught him they wondered if he was mentally ill and in a way not guilty or if he was sane when he committed the murders. It is very well written book and although it was not a quick read. (I read it in 2 parts) it was a very good read. ( )
  Marlene-NL | Mar 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
This is basically a true crime book, but with better writing. Most books of this genre appear to have been written by a disembodied hand who dropped out of barber college.
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On a drizzly spring evening in 1893, in the French provincial city of Besancon, nineteen-year-old Louise Barant was walking along the riverside promenade when she crossed paths with a man wearing the dress uniform of the French army.
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Book description
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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307266192, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:24 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

With high drama and stunning detail, Douglas Starr relates the infamous crime and punishment of French serial killer Joseph Vacher, interweaving the story of how Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne and his colleagues developed forensic science as we know it.

» see all 5 descriptions

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