Friday, December 09, 2011

Book Review: "The Murder Room"

Michael Capuzzo's The Murder Room (2010) is one of those books that's at once fascinating and frustrating. Its subject is the Vidocq Society, a real-life conclave of the top forensic scientists and criminal profilers from around the world who meet once a month to discuss (and attempt, usually successfully, to solve) a particularly cold and nasty murder case. The club's founding trio: forensic artist Frank Bender, profiler extraordinaire Richard Walter, and FBI/Customs agent Bill Fleisher, make for excellent subjects. And the crimes they help solve are chilling, horrifying things.

The ingredients are there, and the book is in many ways very satisfying. The look inside the investigative process is captivating, and the stories of how some of the crimes ended up being solved were absolutely remarkable. Capuzzo has structured the book in such a way, though, that it often feels rather repetitive. Each of the major Vidocq Society cases that he profiles is told in several short chapters, but the chapters are non-sequential, with bits of other cases and storylines in between. This keeps any narrative flow from developing, and also means that the author repeats himself frequently, to bring the reader up to speed on ground that he'd already covered in previous chapters. The chapters also bounce around from decade to decade, which certainly didn't help.

I liked the book; I think with some reworking it could be much, much better.

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