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The Man from the Train : The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
2017
Availability
Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
True crime
Topics
Serial killers
Serial killings
Unsolved murders
Cold cases
Trains
Related crimes
Criminology
Time Period
1898-1912 -- 19th-20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Publishers Weekly Review

Pioneering baseball analyst Bill James (he created the Sabermetrics statistical analysis system) successfully transfers his detail-oriented mind-set to true crime in this suspenseful historical account, cowritten with his daughter, Rachel McCarthy James. The authors' focus is a series of murders, perhaps as many as 100, committed by a killer they call "the man from the train," who slaughtered entire households, mostly in the Midwest, during the first two decades of the 20th century. Beginning with the best known of the crimes-the massacre of the Moore family in Villisca, Iowa, in 1912-the Jameses identify the signature elements of the crimes: the murderer struck near train tracks, used the blunt side of an axe, left valuables behind, covered his victims' heads with cloth, and displayed a sexual interest in prepubescent females. The authors, who culled data from hundreds of thousands of small-town newspapers of the era to identify crimes not initially thought connected, build their case with an innovative mix of statistical analysis and primary sources. They conclude with a plausible identification of the culprit, but the strength of the book hangs on their diligent research and analysis connecting crimes into the closing years of the 19th century. Even those skeptical at the outset that one man was responsible for so much bloodshed are likely to be convinced. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
2018 Edgar Award Finalist--Best Fact Crime <br> <br> Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.<br> <br> Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.<br> <br> When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery: they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.<br> <br> Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, when crime was regarded as a local problem, and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system. James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. 1
Villiscap. 3
Section I1909 to 1912
Chapter IThe Bloody Pennyp. 7
Chapter IILogan's Turnpikep. 16
Chapter IIIThe Scandalous Schultzesp. 22
Chapter IVMarshalltownp. 28
Chapter VThe New Orleans Axemanp. 39
Chapter VIWhich Is Not Really a Chapterp. 43
Chapter VIIMartin Cityp. 44
Chapter VIIIThe Casawaysp. 56
Chapter IXOregonp. 66
Chapter XThe Double Eventp. 81
Chapter XIMonmouthp. 88
Chapter XIIEllsworthp. 93
Chapter XIIIPaolap. 104
Section IISummer 1912
Chapter XIVVillisca 2p. 121
Chapter XVVillisca 3p. 129
Chapter XVIVillisca 4p. 144
Chapter XVIIVillisca 5p. 166
Chapter XVIIIDynamite Pfanschmidtp. 182
Section III1900 to 1906
Chapter XIXStepping Backwardp. 199
Chapter XXTrenton Comersp. 208
Chapter XXIStanding by Henryp. 217
Chapter XXIIAn Uncertain Set of Namesp. 230
Chapter XXIIIJust When You Thought This Story Couldn't Possibly Get Any Uglierp. 233
Chapter XXIVHughesp. 250
Chapter XXVThe Christmas Day Murdersp. 255
Chapter XXVIWest Memphisp. 265
Chapter XXVIIJacksonvillep. 268
Chapter XXVIIICottonwood, Alabamap. 271
Chapter XXIXMurder in the Coldp. 276
Chapter XXXThe Worst One Everp. 284
Chapter XXXIThe Lyerly Familyp. 291
Section IV
Chapter XXXIIHiatusp. 309
Chapter XXXIIIThe Crimes of 1908p. 319
Section V
Chapter XXXIVConversation with the Readerp. 333
Chapter XXXVHurleyp. 353
Chapter XXXVIBeckley and Beyondp. 364
Chapter XXXVIIThe Zoos and the Hubbellsp. 373
Chapter XXXVIIIClementine Barnabetp. 381
Chapter XXXIXHarry Ryanp. 415
Chapter XLThe First Crimep. 420
Chapter XLIBrookfield and Villiscap. 435
Chapter XLIIWhere the Evening Is Spread Out Against the Skyp. 444
Chapter XLIIIHinterkaifeckp. 456
Acknowledgmentsp. 461
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