Michael Capuzzo’s The Murder Room is a dark and bloody scrapbook of some of America’s longest standing cases. A gripping experience, it also explains the rise of forensic science to the glamorous discipline now ubiquitous across network television. If the subject matter is disturbing, the treatment is undeniably glamorous, and the contrast between subject and treatment should make for queasy listening. Thankfully, Adam Grupper’s narration acts as a counterbalance to the sensational material: his measured delivery doesn’t dwell on the macabre details, nor does he relish the ghoulishness.
It is surprising how true the clichés of crime literature turn out to be. Here, for example, we have Richard Walter, the cerebral, classics-living forensic psychologist “obsessed with things that decent people were happiest not knowing about”. Frank Bender is his Dionysian opposite, a brilliant forensic artist whose clay models rescue vanished faces, yet whose unconventional private life is given a little too much attention by the clearly smitten author.
Capuzzo’s writing can be compared to contemporary crime masters such as Michael Connelly and Linda Fairstein. Like the forensic experts he chronicles, the author reanimates crimes long-since filed away through the power of his imaginative observations: moments before her death, a victim is “dreaming her thoughts into the bleak grey sky”. He is also good at the time-honored need to reframe senseless crimes through a metaphysical lens. Along the way, there are a few missteps: unhelpfully opaque sentences such as “His was a dark vision, the same one that made Machiavelli and Dostoevsky embittered men and geniuses for the ages,” and head-scratching assertions such as “In the modern media age, Bender was becoming better known in his time than Michelangelo was in his.” The listener will have to decide on his or her own where their level of comfort stands in relation to the license Capuzzo takes in dramatising events unknowable except to the dead and the deranged: it is an irony that a book concerned with establishing facts resorts to so much colorful conjecture.
Another challenge for the listener is the fragmented storytelling: the story dips in and out of several cases as they progress, and it can be a struggle to hold on to the narrative threads. But with barely a pause between each chapter, Grupper’s unfaltering narration drives the listener on through the grim accumulation of bodies. His restraint is his greatest attribute: his uninflected reading gives just enough space to let the true tragedy of each case come across all the more vividly, a respectful tribute to the victims of the crimes chronicled in this morbid yet engrossing book. Dafydd Phillips
Thrilling, true tales from the Vidocq Society, a team of the world's finest forensic investigators whose monthly gourmet lunches lead to justice in ice-cold murders.
Good friends and sometime rivals William Fleisher, Frank Bender, and Richard Walter—a renowned FBI agent turned private eye, a sculptor lothario who speaks to the dead, and an eccentric profiler known as “the living Sherlock Holmes”—were heartsick over the growing tide of unsolved murders of innocents. They decided one day over lunch that something had to be done, and pledged themselves to a grand quest for justice. The three men invited the greatest collection of forensic investigators ever assembled, drawn from five continents, to the Downtown Club in Philadelphia to begin an audacious quest: to bring the coldest killers in the world to an accounting. Named for the first modern detective, the Parisian Eugéne François Vidocq - the flamboyant Napoleonic real-life sleuth who inspired Sherlock Holmes - the Vidocq Society meets monthly in its secretive chambers to solve a cold murder over a gourmet lunch.
The Murder Room draws the listener into a chilling, darkly humorous, awe-inspiring world as the three partners travel far from their Victorian dining room to hunt the ruthless killers of a millionaire's son, a serial killer who carves off faces, and a child killer enjoying fifty years of freedom and dark fantasy.
Michael Capuzzo's brilliant storytelling gifts bring true crime to life more realistically and vividly than it has ever been portrayed before. It is a world of dazzlingly bright forensic science; true evil as old as the Bible and dark as the pages of Dostoevsky; and a group of flawed, passionate men and women, inspired by their own wounded hearts to make a stand for truth, goodness, and justice in a world gone mad.
©2010 Michael Capuzzo (P)2010 Simon and Schuster Audio
Maybe I read the book's description wrong the moment before I bought this, but (from what I understood) this was meant to be an inside look on how top professionals in the crime-solving industry approach their craft to answer tough quesitons/crimes. What comes off instead is a continual (a quickly irritating) reiteration of 'how awesome' these people are, with no in-depth look at how these individuals come to the conclusion they make or why. If a chapter isn't going into how gruesome a crime is, it's basically over-inflating its protagonists (aka the VD society) to be these larger-then-life individuals, and then spends the remaining few minutes to say that the crime is suddenly solved. I didn't know there were so many ways to reiterate how supposedly, awesome, a certain person could be but Capuzzo takes it to a whole new level. In short, if you're looking for an insightful, objectie look into how modern-day crime-solvers are able to handle their craft, this IS NOT that novel. If you're looking for something that borders (perphaps even crosses into) just plain criminal fiction that is hyped up, then give this book a read, but for myself it was a pretty big disappointment almost from the gecko.
I was captivated from the first page. We meet the Vidocq Society: the world's leading forensic experts and detectives. Meet the living Sherlock Holmes, Richard Walter, the brilliant and eccentric forensic artist Frank Bender and William Lynn Fleisher of the US Customs learn why and how they became among the very best in the world at catching murderers. The Vidocq Society only undertakes cold cases, and murders. Author Michael Capuzzo explains "When the world breaks and needs fixing, the thing to do is find the right three men."
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
I fell in love with the characters, who would seem over the top in a work of fiction.
The book could use a good editor and rewrite so there are consistant characters (people) to follow from one point to another. I can usually keep up with jumping around but they seemed to swap things within a single chapter, sometimes within, what I would assume, is a page or two.
I didn't finish it but made it through chapter 3 and it repeated several things that were in the very first chapter.
The writing-style of this book is more challenging than that of this audiobook review. There are so many adjectives, cheesy metaphors and over-characterization of the supposedly real people and events described in this book, that it might as well be a work of fiction. In other words, the writing style is sufficiently preposterous as to trivialize much of the serious stuff contained herein.
The book has some entertainment value, on par with a "true crime", Friday night cable news magazine program. And, like that genre of entertainment, it is sufficiently superficial to leave you wondering about the litany of relevant nuances and complexities omitted for some silly sake, such as unnecessarily manufacturing drama, broadening the prospective audience and/or advancing the author's own naive world view. So, this book does an entertaining job of highlighting the unrealized potential of this topic.
We bought this to listen to on a cross country driving trip. We were very disappointed. The The text was dense, the story buried in many "hand waving" paragraphs.. made us wonder if there was a story there at all.
There was a story in there? mostly I just heard many MANY descriptive paragraphs... .describing the weather, the bugs, the stars, the exact buttons on the suit a non-character was wearing.. yah.. just too thick to enjoy
I have not, but I have no complaints about the performance at all!
um..all of it?
This book was just not for me or my husband... however, it did give us much to laugh about later as we mimicked some of the denser paragraphs...
This book has the advantages of both a great characters and fascinating mysteries. This book's characters' drive the plot and the murders they solve are written as vignettes. Cyclical in his story telling, Michael Capuzzo captures how life can tangle within others lives. If you enjoy mysteries, like Agatha Christie, you will love this book. If you are a fan of James Patterson, this might be a fun brake, but it is not suspenseful (it is character driven not plot driven).
The end of the book, but I'm not giving it away.
Adam Grupper has done a great job representing the three main protagonist.
The heirs of Sherlock Holmes.
I liked the characters
The reconstruction artist
I didn't appreciate the fact that many of the cases brought before the committee were not solved or not explained as being solved
If you like true crime, this is one book you'll want to listen to! Narration is amazing and the stories are really intriguing.
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