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Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters

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The danger with a book like this is that it descends into a tawdry list of titillating details about serial killers and their methodology without even a nod to the victims or the science behind the crimes and solving them. bUt this book is very different, it is an excellent investigation into the minds of serial killers, why they do what they do and acknowledges the victims. There is a solid balance of science and exposition followed by examples to prove the point the writer is making, never feeling like it descends into just a sick list of horrors. Every example is interesting and really does illustrate the science, breaking open the topic for the layman. Highly recommended.

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    • By Binker
      Just before Jack the Ripper was active in London, the Midnight Assassin was busy in Austin, Texas, then a podunk little town in Texas, itself a relatively-recent addition to the United States.  He started out attacking and killing poor black servant women in their shanties behind the homes they served.  But his last two murders were of two affluent white women in their homes.  All of the murders were barbaric butcheries.   And then he stopped, right before the Jack the Ripper murders began.  There was a lot of talk at the time that he must have left Austin and gone to London.
      This is the second book I've read on those murders.  The first was by Steven Saylor, who some of you know from his "Roma Sub Rosa" series which features the detective Gordianus.  Saylor lives part time in Austin and must have been intrigued by the stories because in 2000, he published A Twist at the End, which was a fictional account of the "Servant Girl Murders" as they were known.  Hollandsworth goes the non-fiction route, but in the end he doesn't claim to have solved the mystery.  There are some people who left Austin society at the time who are possible candidates, but nothing really ties them to the murders and he avoids claiming more than the evidence will allow.  
      What makes the two different is Hollandsworth's focus on the society at the time, particularly the terrible position of the black servants.  It's sad to see how callous their employers were with their safety and attending to the ones who were injured rather than killed.  And Hollandsworth, who writes for Texas Monthly really knows how to tell a story, so it's engaging.  
      As an aside, if any of you have seen "Bernie," about the murder in East Texas of an 82-year old woman by her 39-year old companion, Bernie Tiede, Skip Hollandsworth was the author of the original Texas Monthly article (which I remember reading because the facts leave you bug-eyed) and co-wrote the movie.  Here's a link to the original article:  http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/midnight-in-the-garden-of-east-texas/
      As for this book, I recommend it for what it is, but you need to be interested either in serial murders that will never get solved or late 19th century Austin, Texas.