The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science

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Douglas Starr
First Edition

A riveting true crime story that vividly recounts the birth of modern forensics.

At the end of the nineteenth century, serial murderer Joseph Vacher, known and feared as The Killer of Little Shepherds, terrorized the French countryside. He eluded authorities for yearsuntil he ran up against prosecutor Emile Fourquet and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, the eras most renowned criminologist. The two menintelligent and boldtypified the Belle poque, a period of immense scientific achievement and fascination with sciences promise to reveal the secrets of the human condition.

With high drama and stunning detail, Douglas Starr revisits Vachers infamous crime wave, interweaving the story of how Lacassagne and his colleagues were developing forensic science as we know it. We see one of the earliest uses of criminal profiling, as Fourquet painstakingly collects eyewitness accounts and constructs a map of Vachers crimes. We follow the tense and exciting events leading to the murderers arrest. And we witness the twists and turns of the trial, celebrated in its day. In an attempt to disprove Vachers defense by reason of insanity, Fourquet recruits Lacassagne, who in the previous decades had revolutionized criminal science by refining the use of blood-spatter evidence, systematizing the autopsy, and doing groundbreaking research in psychology. Lacassagnes efforts lead to a gripping courtroom denouement.

The Killer of Little Shepherds
is an important contribution to the history of criminal justice, impressively researched and thrillingly told.