Starr 2010 Killer

Title Information

Author: Douglas Starr

Title: The Killer of Little Shepherds

Subtitle: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science

Place: New York, NY

Publisher: Knopf

Year: 2010

Pages: 320pp.

ISBN-13: 9780307279088 – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | French History | Cases: Offenders /Joseph Vacher; Research: History of Criminology

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Additional Information

Author: Douglas Starr, College of Communication, Boston UniversityAuthor's Personal Website


  Author's Note (p. xi)
Part One: Crime
  1. The Beast (p. 3)
  2. The Professor (p. 15)
  3. First Kill (p. 28)
  4. The Institute of Legal Medicine (p. 36)
  5. The Vagabond (p. 50)
  6. Identity (p. 60)
  7. The Oak Woods (p. 72)
  8. The Body Speaks (p. 82)
  9. The Crime in Bénonces (p. 90)
  10. Never Without a Trace (p. 98)
  11. In Plain Sight (p. 110)
  12. Born Criminal (p. 119)
  13. Lourdes (p. 133)
Part Two: Punishment
  14. The Investigating Magistrate (p. 141)
  15. The Interview (p. 151)
  16. Professor Lacassagne (p. 167)
  17. "A Crime Without Motive?" (p. 170)
  18. Turning Point (p. 180)
  19. The Trial (p. 190)
  20. Judgment (p. 203)
  21. A Question of Sanity (p. 214)
Part Three: Aftermath
  22. The Mystery of a Murderer's Brain (p. 227)
  23. Postscript (p. 237)
  Epilogue: The Violent Brain (p. 242)
  Acknowledgments (p. 251)
  Notes (p. 255)
  Bibliography (p. 283)
  Index (p. 289)


»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.« (Source: Knopf)


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Wikipedia: Alexandre Lacassagne, Joseph Vacher

Added: October 25, 2014 – Last updated: October 25, 2014