THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND MAN by Stephen G. Michaud


The True Story of Serial Killer Robert Charles Browne
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How the correspondence among three volunteer detectives and a self-proclaimed serial killer helped solve long-standing murder investigations.

Michaud (The Evil That Men Do: FBI Profiler Roy Hazelwood's Journey into the Minds of Sexual Predators, 1999, etc.) has made a career of penning splashy true-crime books, and Price is an experienced newspaper journalist. Their first book together never strays far from the facts. A three-man cold-case squad of former law-enforcement agents in Colorado decided one morning in 2002 to pick up the trail of Robert Browne, who was serving a life sentence for the murder of a 13-year-old girl. Browne had been mailing the police cryptic messages of rhyming verse that made references to many other victims. Retired FBI officer Charlie Hess suggested writing Browne a letter, and the other men agreed that even if the con’s claims proved false, they had nothing to lose by trying. Four years later, their efforts paid off when Browne confessed and pleaded guilty to a murder he had committed two decades earlier. Clear, clipped prose and vivid descriptions of the cases never bring readers close enough to the killer or his thoughts. Neither Browne nor Hess was interviewed for the book, so the information is parsed from the letters they exchanged, conversations with other officers and Browne’s terrified ex-wives. A loner with a history of drug use, violence and robbery, Browne made no secret of his disdain for women but never illuminated his reasons for murdering what he, at one point, claimed were 48 victims. The lack of hard evidence to corroborate most of his confessions is another letdown, though the book offers a thorough examination of the challenge police face in following up on old crimes.

Meticulous but one-dimensional.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-425-21727-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2007