My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This forensics true crime book is a little different. It’s more about the careers of mainly three of the founding members of the Vidocq society, which is a group of experts who assist law enforcement on cold cases. They take their name from a famous French detective and the three men Capuzzo concentrates on are Bill Fleisher, Richard Walter and Frank Bender. If these three men were in a novel you might not believe they could be friends as different as they are. The group comes together under Bill’s direction more than anything. He’s a Jewish cop known for crying easily. Walter is a psychological profiler and Bender, the one I was most familiar with, is a forensic artist who seems to sculpt the dead using psychic intuition.
The book is broken into four parts, the first two dealing more heavily with the above mentioned men and a few others and the last two about the building of the Vidocq society and their work. There are many crimes examined here but the real limelight is shown on the lives of the men stopping the criminals instead of the criminals themselves which is a bit different.
Overall, it’s a very nice and detailed look at these men’s lives and careers and the work of the society. I very much enjoyed that but it is not without its problems. Before I read this I saw several reviews complaining that the chapters are choppy and things jump around. This is valid. The chapters are short. They introduce one crime then we don’t get back to it until three chapters later and even then it might be another three chapters before it’s finished.
It was also a little lopsided in its coverage. Granted I don’t know the behind the scenes for this but Fleisher, for all his involvement in getting the society off the ground, is the man we spend the least amount of time with. I’m not sure if Capuzzo found him dull or just didn’t get enough time with him or what but we get a lot more on Walter and Bender. Unfortunately some of what we get on those two gets very repetitive. Yes, we got it the first 20 times, Walter is a cool Sherlock Holmes personality and Bender is polyamorous. That last bit gets beat into the ground. Now here’s something America’s Most Wantednever mentions. Frank Bender has a wife and a very long term girlfriend (approved by the wife, they’re friends) and multiple other women. I think Capuzzo is half in love with Bender’s sex life and half jealous because more time is spent on Bender’s sex life than any one detail in all three men’s write ups. It got to be a tad much.
I did like this book though, even if it was a tad slow to start. I think if you like true crime, you’ll probably like this. Also, Frank Bender lost his battle with mesothelioma during my reading of this book. I’ve been following his career for years and that lose echoed while I read this.
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