This is the story of the forming of the Vidocq Society, a group of the world’s top forensic specialists who meet monthly in Philadelphia to assist on cold cases. The book mainly focuses on three men (a detective, a psychologist and an expert at facial reconstructions) who are the best of the best at what they do and came up with the idea of the Vidocq Society. These three have EXTREMELY disparate personalities and reading about the interplay between these men is entertaining. The levity of these interactions is needed to offset the cases. Told in short chapters, some chapters will reveal the solution of a cold case in its entirety, some a piece of a case that will be returned to in later chapters, all are quite gruesome.
If you are a fan of true crime this is a book not to be missed. The Society has solved 90% of the cold cases presented to them. This is a rare glimpse into the working of the minds of three noted criminologists who all look at the same problems in different ways.
31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
Back in 1857, on 31 Bond Street in New York City, the brutally murdered body of respected dentist Dr. Harvey Burdell was discovered. His housekeeper, the widow Emma Cunningham, was arrested and charged with the crime. Defense Attorney Henry Clinton answers her plea for help and mounts a defense to save her from the gallows.
This novel is based on the actual murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell. Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts of articles from The New-York Times and other contemporary papers. This was a HUGE deal back in 1857 that captivated the city for weeks. Today we would hear the condition of the body (the dentist’s head was practically removed through the violence of the knife attack) and know that this slight woman would not have the strength to do it; however, in 1857 forensic science was in its infancy and the word of this scientists were a large part of her defense.
The narrative jumps between present day and the time period leading up to the murder. It is a very straight-forward style presenting the facts and unaffected style, much like true crime. The author brings the story a step further than the newspapermen of the time were able, she creates a back-story, a reason that Dr. Burdell would have been killed and how it was accomplished. An engaging read that really brings the reader back, revealing much about the justice system and the role of women, blacks and Lenape Indians at this time in Manhattan’s history.