In the early years of 19th-century France, Eugene Francois Vidocq turned from criminal to criminologist, effectively becoming the world’s first private detective. In 1990 Philadelphia, his name was used to form a club of modern-day detectives, pathologists and other crimefighters to champion the pursuit of truth: The Vidocq Society.
Once a month, Society members meet for lunch and murder, focusing exclusively on unsolved homicides. As time goes by, they begin to offer their services and advice to anyone with a murder investigation that is at least two years old, and, eventually, their collective fame grows worldwide as they help solve some very difficult, very cold cases.
This book chronicles a number of the higher-profile cases, while describing the life history and individual motivations of the Society’s three original founders. At first, this style seems abrupt, and the chapters do not flow smoothly. Fortunately, these men are absolutely fascinating as individuals, and the unbelievable cases they take on as Vidocq representatives help to smooth over the rough transitions.
All of the heroes here are dedicated, some to the point of purposefully sacrificing all opportunities for family and home life so that they can focus on “getting the killer.” As their relationships develop over time, they come to see the power in working in small teams and are thus able to spread their collective talent in order to help more suffering individuals. They also come to realize that their abilities are not limited to simply fingering perpetrators; their skills also naturally cross over into the realm of counseling and consoling the families of murder victims. These were the most touching (and unexpected) descriptions in the entire book. The reader nearly weeps with compassion as a Vidocq member turns from unflinching arresting officer to tender-hearted attendant simply by moving to a different room.
At times, these accounts are so incredible, they read like fiction. And they are dark. Very, very dark. The criminals at issue in these proceedings are not your classic dime-novel killers; these men and women are absolutely ruthless and completely without feeling. Many times, their hunters are equally remorseless, and reading the details of their crimes (and subsequent investigations) is both painful and riveting at the same time.
Rated: High. Honestly, for some readers, this book could be DIRT. The language is as diverse as it is foul, and although the author does not embellish the illustrations of the villainy, even the superficial representations are not for the weak-stomached. However, this work plays a role in providing insight into the minds of the depraved among us, and readers wishing to understand these souls may indeed find what they are looking for.