I’m currently reading The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases, by Michael Capuzzo. I’ve been a fan of murder mysteries, true crime, and legal dramas for as long as I can remember, going back to Nancy Drew in girlhood. I will choose to bury myself for hours in a whodunit any day rather than read something edifying. (Whodunit. Now there’s the most obvious of etymologies!)
Murder Room is the story of the Vidocq Society, a group of esteemed investigators and forensic scientists who banded together in the early ’90s with the intention of closing some of the most heinous cases they’d encountered over the course of their careers. Prominent in the narrative are the actions of an uncannily gifted profiler and a forensic reconstructionist who seems to work magic. The book takes the reader through a number of cases that these detectives worked over the years.
The book could definitely have used a stronger editing hand. There are several repetitious passages, seemingly moved from one place to another without being deleted in the original locations. And some of Capuzzo’s prose is so over the top that it detracted from the story for me. Witness this introduction to his account of a meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children: “As the lights dimmed in the Texas ballroom, the faces of the dead appeared [in a slideshow], larger than life yet so young and small, to soft music accompanied by a staccato of gasps and sobs from the audience. Each child’s face brought another cry from a banquet table, another candle sizzling in the dark, until the great hall glimmered like a concert—a hushed and otherworldly concert where parents implored fate or God for an encore.” I personally think that murdered children are dramatic enough, making unnecessary this type of narrative.
Though it has a few faults, I’ve enjoyed the book and would recommend it to true crime fans. Naturally, in the course of reading it, I picked up a couple of new words. Enjoy.
Cenotaph—a sepulchral monument erected in memory of a deceased person whose body is buried elsewhere
from Latin cenotaphium, ultimately from Greek keno (empty) + taph (tomb)
Borborygmus (adj. borborygmic)—a rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the intestines
from Neo-Latin, ultimately from Greek borborygmos, intestinal rumbling