The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr
A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 15 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Douglas Starr

See more books from this Author
Douglas Starr is an associate professor of journalism and codirector of the Graduate Program in Science Journalism at Boston University. A former newspaper reporter and field biologist, he has written on the environment, medicine, and science for a variety of publications, including Smithsonian, Audubon, and Sports Illustrated. He was science editor of "Bodywatch," a health series that ran for three years on PBS. Mr. Starr lives near Boston with his wife and their two sons.
 
Published October 5, 2010 by Vintage. 336 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Law & Philosophy, Political & Social Sciences, Crime, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Killer of Little Shepherds

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Although Starr’s heavy immersion into forensics and investigative procedure makes interesting reading for CSI fans, his focus too often meanders—from autopsies to “root” causes of crime to, finally, an inconclusive look at the sticky business of separating “insane” murderers from “sane” ones.

Oct 07 2010 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

Lacassagne believed "societies have the criminals they deserve" and supported rehabilitation of prisoners – although he also accepted the need for the guillotine in cases such as Vacher's.

May 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

The effect is a mesmerizing history of ideas and the men who matched their intellect and imagination against the criminal element, while the menacing true crime story of a madman stalking the French countryside adds tension and urgency to their quest.

Dec 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Entertainment Weekly

A– See all of this week's reviews Originally posted Nov 03, 2010 Published in issue #1128 Nov 12, 2010 Order article reprints

Nov 03 2010 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

The Telegraph

The foundation of modern criminology was laid during the investigation, and many aspects of the fledgling science were showcased to bolster the case against Vâcher because when he was eventually caught – in the act of trying to kill another woman – he confessed to everything, and at his ...

Apr 08 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Suite 101

A challenging new book aims to change forever the perception of Stone Age Britons from the primitive to the sophisticated.

Mar 27 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Dallas News

Douglas Starr's The Killer of Little Shepherds tells the granddaddy of all true-crimes stories and, in the process, recounts the history of forensic science itself.

Nov 21 2010 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Slate

Resnick, professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, says he asks the suspect to talk at length about his history before saying a word about the crime, to lessen the chance of “retrofitting” a pattern of alleged illness to the deed.

Aug 07 2012 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Seattle PI

But if in Lacassagne's era it may have seemed that future advances in psychology and science in general would lead mankind one day to a deeper understanding of the mind of a man such as Vacher, today, over a century latter, the question of whether someone chooses to do evil or is merely a victim ...

Dec 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Scotsman.com

Joseph Vacher was France's worst nightmare – or he would have been had the nation woken up to the vile campaign this bloodthirsty vagabond was conducting across its countryside.

Feb 25 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Bookmarks Magazine

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 ...

Oct 25 2010 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Shots

This is a serious account documenting the ascent of forensic science in the late 19th century, set against the background of the story of a notorious French serial killer, Joseph Vacher.

Mar 03 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Science News

In his latest book, Starr, a veteran journalist, traces the beginnings of criminal science, a fascinating history made all the more compelling by the interwoven story of 19th century French serial murderer Joseph Vacher, known as the Killer of Little Shepherds.

Dec 30 2010 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Jackson District Library

Jack the Ripper had nothing on Joseph Vacher, a good-looking soldier from rural France.

| Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

The Anniston Star

He said he needed help.” He sought help, Knoll said, explaining that Wilson went to Regional Medical Center on more than one occasion to say he thought he might hurt himself or someone else.

Apr 08 2011 | Read Full Review of The Killer of Little Shepherd...

Reader Rating for The Killer of Little Shepherds
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 121 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×