The Killer of Little Shepherds: The Case of the French Ripper and the Birth of Forensic Science

Douglas Starr

The Killer of Little Shepherds: The Case of the French Ripper and the Birth of Forensic Science

At the end of the nineteenth century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher, dubbed "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 typified the Belle Epoque, a period of immense scientific achievement and fascination with its promise to reveal the secrets of the human condition. Douglas Starr recounts the infamous crime and punishment of Vacher, interweaving the story of how Lacassagne and his colleagues developed forensics as we know it. 3.6 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
The Killer of Little Shepherds: The Case of the French Ripper and the Birth of Forensic Science

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre True Crime
Format Hardback
Pages 320
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication March 2011
ISBN 978-0857201669
Publisher Simon & Schuster
 

At the end of the nineteenth century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher, dubbed "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 typified the Belle Epoque, a period of immense scientific achievement and fascination with its promise to reveal the secrets of the human condition. Douglas Starr recounts the infamous crime and punishment of Vacher, interweaving the story of how Lacassagne and his colleagues developed forensics as we know it.

Reviews

The Independent on Sunday

Rebecca Armstrong

Starr has created a book with every bit as much tension as a thriller, as much detail as a meticulous police procedural, and a court-room drama that's up there with the best.

13/03/2011

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The Spectator

Judith Flanders

[A] fine book … Where the author is sure-footed, however, the publisher is less so. Vacher travelled hundreds of miles along provincial routes, and it would have been sensible to supply readers with a map … These niggles matter only because they break the immediacy of the narrative Starr conveys with such lucidity and urgency.

12/03/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Toby Clements

... the really interesting meat of this fascinating study comes when Starr discusses the lives of those who brought him to justice and the state of criminal science at the time ... a gripping, sometimes horrific, sometimes funny page-turner.

08/04/2011

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The New York Times

Elyssa East

[Starr shows] the impact these murders had on the victims’ families and on the villages where they took place, and to demonstrate how they prompted larger questions about the origins of criminality for Lacassagne and his colleagues. But the moral significance of these inquiries — trying to isolate the roots of criminality is, at heart, a quest to understand the origins of evil — comes as an after­thought that slipped from the path of Starr’s own densely detailed wanderings. Nonetheless, his thought-provoking journey, through the strange underbelly of a vividly rendered France, lingers in the reader’s memory.

22/10/2010

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The Guardian

Stephen Bates

Starr's book is written for an American audience, and the device of switching between Vacher's crimes and Lacassagne's deductions slows the narrative; but it ably evokes what might otherwise be thought an idyllic rural France in all its ghastly 19th-century ignorance, suspicion, violence and fear.

21/05/2011

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The Daily Mail

Christopher Hudson

Douglas Starr, an American medical journalist, describes in gory detail how Vacher killed his victims — clasping them from behind in a vice-like grip before slicing their throats and then mutilating them, sometimes while they were still alive. What he cannot tell you is why Vacher did it ... This is a book which will appeal to viewers of CSI and Silent Witness. But one word of advice to readers: first take off the book jacket which, daftly, gives away the ending.

18/03/2011

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