Becky’s Sixty-Fourth Book Review: “The Murder Room” by Michael Capuzzo

I tend to have different reactions when I finish reading books depending on if the book is awesome and if it is part of a series or if the book was mediocre but I felt the need to finish it anyway. I just finished reading “The Murder Room” by Michael Capuzzo and now I have that empty feeling when you’ve become so attached to the characters in the novel that you just want to keep reading about them. But the book is over, so you can’t. What is really ridiculous is the fact that I’ve owned this book since April and only just got around to reading it a few weeks ago. I would have finished it sooner if it wasn’t Christmas time because I’ve been rather busy with all the Christmas stuff and didn’t have as much time to read. Plus, when I had time off I wasn’t riding the train twice a day so my usual 40 minutes a day of reading wasn’t there. Anyway…

“The Murder Room” is a very unique novel in my opinion. The book is about the Vidocq Society (which I’m still not sure how to pronounce, so if someone knows they should tell me). The Vidocq Society is a real crime-fighting ‘secret’ society. It was formed with the goal of solving cold cases. They have certain standards in what they will investigate, but the Vidocq Society works strictly probono and is made up of a collection of retired and active FBI agents, police detectives, criminal profilers, forensic specialists, private eyes and so on. In order for a case to be considered by the Vidocq Society, it must have been cold for at least two years (they are very strict about not interfering with police investigations), the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity (i.e. drug dealing or prostitution), and it must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency. The society was founded by Bill Fleisher, Richard Walter, and Frank Bender and meets the third Thursday of every month for lunch and cold cases. This all occurs in Philadelphia which made this particularly interesting to me. The cases that they worked on and discussed in the book were ones that had occurred right around when I live so it was very interesting to have a link (albeit a morbid link) to the book.

I felt that “The Murder Room” gave a unique insight into the process that the Vidocq Society follows and also an in-depth look at the founding members. I personally found Richard Walter the most fascinating and according to the internet, he is still working today so I’m hoping to randomly run into him on the street when he is wearing a name tag so that I can identify him and become friends with the loner profiler who smokes kools. That is probably unlikely, but you never know. At least I live in the city he visits monthly. The two people who were featured the most in “The Murder Room” were Walter and Frank Bender. While I found Bender to be an entertaining individual, I’m pretty sure if we were to have met he’d been a little weird even for me. I mean the guy would boil skulls in his kitchen (he was a forensic artist). But he unfortunately passed away from a rare form of cancer.

Would I recommend reading this book? Yes, definitely. But the book would not be for the faint of heart. It is a true crime novel and Michael Capuzzo dives deep into the cases that the Vidocq Society tries to solve. Some of the cases are very upsetting like ‘The Boy in the Box’ and some are rather gory. Not everyone would enjoy this novel, but I definitely did and now want to get my hands on more true crime novels. I find them entertaining, and also I’m working on being a mystery writer myself, so when I’m reading these types of books I can say that I’m researching.

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