The Killer of Little Shepherds

By Douglas Starr,

Book cover of The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science

Book description

Winner of the Gold Dagger Award

A fascinating true crime story that details the rise of modern forensics and the development of modern criminal investigation.
At the end of the nineteenth century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher terrorized the French countryside, eluding authorities for years, and murdering twice as many victims…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Killer of Little Shepherds as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I was so excited to see a book that featured an innovative French pathologist, Alexandre Lacassagne, who invented the criminal autobiography during the 1890s.

Starr delves into the French records to show the insights Lacassagne derived about the criminal mind, which altered many notions in criminology. Starr also tells a compelling tale about an early serial killer, the French Ripper, who openly discussed his life history and even helped police find his victims.

During the age of Jack the Ripper, when the first behavioral profiles were used for linking crimes and understanding motives, the French Ripper demonstrated just how deranged…

Starr, a journalist, dug deep into French archives to document the crime spree and investigation of “French Ripper” Joseph Vacher, whom journalists speculated might be the still-uncaught Jack the Ripper. Lacassagne evaluated Vacher, who was accused of viciously murdering and mutilating fourteen young people around the French countryside. Starr includes the story of how a magistrate meticulously created one of the earliest behavioral profiles, which Lacassagne used for his own analysis. This is an impressive story of mental detection in 1896, a time when there were few resources, especially for cross-jurisdiction investigation. It took a special kind of inventive mind…

From Katherine's list on single-case serial murder investigations.

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