I just finished audio booking The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Mike Capuzzo on my drive to Park City, Utah. I have to say on those long hours across the very boring Nevada desert this book was a god send.
Capuzzo broke the book into several sections, talking first about the three men who found the Vidocq Society, the early cases, and their big successes.
Will Fleisher, Frank Bender, and Richard Walter founded the Vidocq Society over lunch one day and continued the tradition with the societies monthly luncheon meetings. The society is named after Eugene Vidocq who is considered the father of modern criminal investigation and was the first head of the Surete.
Fleisher, Bender, and Walter limited full membership to 82, one for each year of Vidocq’s life. The society works only cold cases, where the detective, or in rare instances a family member of the murdered cold case victim, presents their case at a luncheon. Members ask questions and if the society can’t solve the situation on the spot, a team will form based on interest to take on the case. The society boasts a 90% solution rate but they rarely ask for press or acknowledgement of their good work.
Capuzzo used a chronological format for his novel which was at times irritating. For several chapters I would hear about a particular case and I would become quite invested. Then the case was gone. On to a different case as it occurred chronologically. I found this jumping around somewhat diminished my enjoyment. I also felt the book was somewhat repetitive. For example, every time Walter was mentioned, it was repeated he was the thin man or a thin man. By chapter 45 I was desperate to feed him just so I could stop hearing about his thinness. I heard the same speech by Walter many many times. Did you know for a sadist the murder isn’t over until the murderer says so? Well I did, quite well by halfway through the book but that didn’t stop Capuzzo from repeating it, ad infinitum.
All that said, it was an intriguing listen. I enjoyed the specifics of the back side of cases, why they don’t get solved, how easy it is for a small mistake to lead police in completely the wrong direction. I enjoyed hearing the way these detectives thought. How a a crime scene can talk to someone with adequate experience and give a completely different perspective from the norm. I particularly enjoyed the case at one of their luncheons where the presenter was a civilian trying to find the murderer of a good friend. As the meeting wrapped up, after the members had asked their questions, Walter finally has his say. He declares the friend presenting this case is actually the murderer and this seeking of help from the Vidocq Society is a way to keep the pleasure going. After all the murder isn’t over until the murderer says so.