The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery

The Man from the Train The Solving of a Century Old Serial Killer Mystery Edgar Award Finalist Best Fact CrimeUsing unprecedented dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack

  • Title: The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery
  • Author: Bill James Rachel McCarthy James
  • ISBN: 9781476796253
  • Page: 404
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 2018 Edgar Award Finalist Best Fact CrimeUsing unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in thei2018 Edgar Award Finalist Best Fact CrimeUsing unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention But few people believed the crimes were related And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern Applying the same know how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, when crime was regarded as a local problem, and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.

    One thought on “The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery”

    1. The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James is a 2017 Scribner publication. A most unorthodox approach to True Crime, but interesting and fascinating. Right from the start, the author explains he mainly writes books about baseball. I know nothing about the sport or the statistics that Bill James writes about. But, whatever it is he writes about the sport, it obviously requires the ability to analyze, theorize, and puzzle out [...]

    2. This book has a great premise, to be sure -- in a 2016 article in The New Yorker Mr. James notes that " a hundred and four years ago eight people are found dead, murdered with an axe, inside this locked house, in a quiet, small town in the southern part of Iowa. It's a famous crime, and the reason that it became famous is that at the time it was obvious that it was the latest in a series of similar attacks. I had the idea that I'll bet there are others like this which have not been tied to the s [...]

    3. Years ago, I read on a website listing top unsolved murders a report of the 1911 murders of six people in two adjacent houses on West Dale Street in Colorado Springs. These murders were of particular interest to me as I once lived on West Dale Street in Colorado Springs. Both families were apparently bludgeoned in their sleep in the middle of the night. Nothing was stolen and the houses were then closed up and the murder weapon, a bloody axe, was found leaning against the wall of one of the hous [...]

    4. In the past, Freight trains thundered through most American communities, big and small, several times a day. I owned a home in a very small Kansas community in the 1990's. Coal trains would clatter through shaking the windows and making that easily recognizable, loud clack-clack whine and whistle. The trains and their noise became a regular, comforting part of life. When the trains became fewer and fewer, the lack of that sound seemed wrong and somehow disturbing. But it is also true that someti [...]

    5. This was a difficult book to put down, as Bill tells a great number of compelling stories without allowing the details to bog down the narrative. As the subtitle might suggest, one of the big selling points of the book is (presumably) that the co-authors have solved a "century old" mystery: Who was the axe murderer responsible for (probably) many dozens of murders in the early part of the 20th century? And the passage in the book on this serial killer's (presumed) identity is compelling, no ques [...]

    6. 3.75 stars Had this book not had such an effect on me I would probably have rated it higher. This is the only book I can ever remember giving me nightmares! I had to read it almost one chapter at a time to get through it. I finally finished this book. Many times I thought I would just quit reading it. I am far from the flighty, scaredy-cat type, however this book had me leaving on lights at night and double locking my doors. Never before has a book had such a visceral effect on me. Intellectuall [...]

    7. Enthralling. If you don't like true-crime books, I doubt this one will convince you, but if you think reading about a horrific series of axe murders is a pleasant way to spend a rainy Sunday, HOLD ON TO YOUR EFFING HAT. Bill James puts his laser focus and his quirky writing style to work answering the question: "Were there serial killers in the olden days?" Along the way, I learned a lot about the early 1900s in the United States, including law enforcement, media coverage, prejudice, con artists [...]

    8. I always used to wonder about all those axe murders which took place in the early 1900s in the rural areas of the United States. In fact, it seemed every time I read about 1899-1912, there was at least one murder of a Midwestern family with an axe. Very curious. I just assumed that was the murder weapon du jour for that era. It never occurred to me that the reason for so many like-minded killings was because one nutbucket was behind it all.This book takes the concept of so many multiple murders [...]

    9. I received a free Kindle copy of The Man from the Train by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James courtesy of Net Galley and Scribner,  the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, , , Barnes and Noble and my history book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the description sounded very interesting. It is the first book by the authors that I have read.The subtitle, The Solving of [...]

    10. My thanks to NetGalley, Bill James and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.The Man From the Train reads like an investigative record.e it is! The research of homicides at the turn of the last century is extraordinary. It is interesting to note how a crime is "solved" without ballistic testing or forensic work: hearsay, unreliable witnesses, gut instincts of the accusers. Lynchings were common. Guilt by loose association, and definitely guilt unless one could pr [...]

    11. Really enjoyed this one -- the author has a very conversational tone that I found engaging. He does tend to be a little repetitive, but I didn't find that overly distracting. As a reader of history and true crime, I found the book to be especially interesting, and it presented many details of life in the early 1900s that were fascinating. I've seen people comment that the author's tone seemed disrespectful to those who were killed, but I didn't find it to be so -- I felt James was extremely symp [...]

    12. Imagine sitting down in a cozy diner booth and talking for hours about murder. Not just any murder, but the murder of entire families across America by a train-hopping, axe-wielding deviant. Sounds dark, but when you do it with Bill James—brilliant, folksy, and sincere—you never want to leave! The Man From the Train is an absolutely addictive trip though old America, following the bloody footprints of what must be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Charming, creepy, and almo [...]

    13. The subject matter was fascinating and the authors clearly did a lot of research. They make a convincing case for the crimes being committed by the same person and for their hypothesis about the identity of the killer. That being said, this book was bizarrely written and I found that the writing style took away from the effectiveness of the book. I don't think that non-fiction needs to be dry and boring, and I have read non-fiction books that were both well written and humorous. This book, on th [...]

    14. GNab I received a free electronic copy of this crime history from Netgalley, Bill James, and Scribner. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I like the style of Bill James. If he is not sure of something, he will tell you so and then present his opinion for you to take, or leave. And this is an excellent look at the turn of the twentieth century crime spree from 1898 through 1912 and a bit beyond. Surprisingly an axe was the weapon of choice for killing your family members during par [...]

    15. Book received from NetGalley.Ok, the author of this book believes that he has proven that there was a serial killer riding the rails in the early 1900's. This is the first book he has written on this subject, he admits from the beginning he's a sports writer. However, something about the various ax murders during this era piqued his interest. The main reason I wanted this book was that he mentions the Ax murders of Villisca, Iowa in it. He does have quite a few facts that make you wonder if ther [...]

    16. This book was awful. It seemed to go on forever. I was listening to the Audible book which meant I couldn’t skip ahead. The author took tangents that had nothing to do with the main murders and went on for chapters. This book needed a strong editor. At times the author tried for a folksy tone that fell flat. I hated this book and wish I had not wasted my time listening to it.

    17. I was given an advance copy of the book from NetGalley in order to give my unbiased review.WOW! What a compelling read! I read this story in 4 days.d 3 of those were work days. Bill James lays out a compelling tale that was painstakingly researched and seems to have solved a centuries old mystery. It is well written and gruesomely realistic. More disturbing than the actuall brutal murders, is the reality of how poorly these crimes were handled. The horrible truth is that no one believed that the [...]

    18. Bill James introduces one of the most savage serial killers in American history. Spanning between 1898 - 1912, families living near train stations were brutally murdered during their slumber with the blunt side of an axe. The author pieces criminal patterns and disturbing facts of each atrocious scene to reveal comparable evidence. Using local press, transcripts and public records, James commits to an investigative style of writing that cuts through the euphemism and lingers long after its concl [...]

    19. I wanted to rate this book higher, but the writing style really bugged me to the point where I just couldn't. The style was too conversational for this type of book. Also, it was very repetitive at points. It absolutely drove me crazy when the author would introduce an idea and then say "but I'll discus that later" or "I'm not going to discus that now" then why bring it up? The information was interesting and the conclusions drawn make a lot of sense.

    20. This book was a marathon, not a sprint. As others have said, the premise is a good one - solving a hundred years old serial murder. And their conclusion about his identification is a logical one. It just took so long to get there. After awhile the case by case recounting became tedious. The authors sometimes seemed to reach in their conclusions that one man is likely responsible for the majority of these murders, perhaps due to their own confirmation bias. Also as others have also noted, the two [...]

    21. Billed as what can only be termed a forensic true crime story, The Man From the Train is a must-read. The style of the book is very deliberately researched and therefore leans heavily on being a forensic analysis of the available documents dating back to the period between 1898 and 1912 when, Bill James convincingly argues, a serial killer road the rails through various states killing families in a signature fashion. Bill James doesn’t sensationalize but rather he lays out his and Rachel’s r [...]

    22. I received an ARC from Netgalley. This book blew me away. It took me three days to get through, just so that I could process all of the information that the author was throwing at me. I would read a third of the book and then have to put it down so that I could process all of the information. It was so good, that I was constantly thinking about the evidence, the authors writing style, and the poor victims.The Man from the Train is the true story of a string of horrific murders that occurred from [...]

    23. Fascinating analysis of historical journalism proving the existence--and possibly, identity--of a turn-of-the-century American serial killer. Bill James (it's mostly his voice) is at his cranky, sarcastic, statistically-relevant best here. Though the structure is repetitive and there are side issues that James can't leave alone ("Apparently, I am hell on editors," he says), he makes a convincing case and makes additional points about research, racism, and the unwillingness to face unlikely unple [...]

    24. Bill James (yes THAT Bill James, the creator of sabermetrics and author of the long running Bill James Baseball Abstracts) uses his statistical superpowers to solve a 100-year old serial killer case.Good reads!

    25. I requested this from NetGalley because I find true crime fascinating and I read that the author is a baseball statistician so I was hoping that this is a book that uses data to solve the crime. Unfortunately, while the cases are extremely tragic and told in a fascinating way, the book suffers from a lack of focus.So from around 1900 to 1912, a series of murders started to take place near railway lines. All of them were senseless, cruel murders which had a few points in common - such as an axe b [...]

    26. While the premise of this was interesting, the actual execution (no pun intended) wasn’t very good in my eyes. Basically, over a twenty year or so period, a whole bunch of families were killed with an axe inside their homes in rural areas. Including the famous Vilisca Iowa axe murders of the Moore family and the visiting Stillinger girls (this house is still standing and is supposedly haunted). Anyway, I feel like there’s no real evidence to say who committed these crimes. This is partly bec [...]

    27. Bill James, of baseball statistics fame, has a no-nonsense style I enjoy, but this book can get a little tedious - good for those who don't mind one axe-murdered family after another after yet another in quick succession (early part of last century, American south and midwest). He's respectful towards the many victims in detailing their deaths - by which I mean not gruesome and not titillating - which of course is not always the case in lots of the true crime genre. (I very much enjoyed his prev [...]

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