Fans of true crime—as well as detectives in homicide bureaus—will relish this book.



A baseball detective attempts to solve a homicide cold case.

With his statistics-driven “abstracts,” James (The Bill James Handbook: Baseball Info Solutions, 2017, etc.) is famous for revolutionizing the way fans look at baseball. Here, the author and his daughter deliver a provocative book that employs his prodigious research techniques in an effort to solve a famous, 100-year-old mass murder case. Murders, actually, as their research on this case led them to a startling conclusion. On June 9, 1912, in Villisca, Iowa, a family of eight was brutally murdered with an ax at night in their home. No one was ever convicted. James believed other, similar mass murders might have occurred around the same time: “And then I found one, and another one, and another one. I hired my daughter as a researcher, and then she started finding them.” The authors’ research uncovered at least a dozen similar murders from 1909 to 1912 that occurred from Virginia to Oregon to Kansas, 48 murders in all. They kept digging and found a few dozen more during the period 1900 to 1906, with the locations ranging from Nova Scotia to Arkansas to Florida. The authors became convinced they were committed by one person. The murderer’s modus operandi revealed a pattern: he worked for a living, probably in mining or logging, committed the crimes on weekends with an ax, often burning down the house, and didn’t steal anything. Since the murders were always close to train lines, the authors figured he traveled by train. Eventually, they came up with a suspect. They include detailed discussions of investigative techniques back then and stories about people wrongly (they feel) executed for the crimes. Told in workmanlike, journalistic prose with plenty of personal injections—“hear me out. Have I got a story to tell you”—the narrative becomes addictive, and it’s easy to get caught up in the elaborate search and the authors’ conclusions, which are plausible.

Fans of true crime—as well as detectives in homicide bureaus—will relish this book.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9625-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist



The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?