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Check It Out: The Man from the Train by Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James

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This is Kelsey Patterson with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today I’m recommending The Man from the Train: Discovering America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer by Bill James. Written with help from his daughter Rachel McCarthy James, this Edgar Award finalist for Best Fact Crime is one of the best pieces of true crime I’ve read in a long time. Applying his analytical acumen and using interesting sleuthing techniques, celebrated baseball statistician Bill James conducts an open-eyed investigation to crack an unsolved century old mystery involving a spate of axe bludgeoning deaths across the country from Iowa to Louisiana. Between 1898 and 1912 families across the country were murdered in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villisca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But most of these incidents went almost unnoticed outside the communities in which they occurred. Few people believed these crimes were related. And even fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station. When 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 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 and uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America. I found The Man from the Train to be crazy suspenseful, super interesting to learn about their investigation process and the book’s conclusion was defiantly persuasive. Check out The Man from the Train and other great works of true crime like it at the Sioux City Public Library. For even more book recommendations subscribe to our podcast The First Fifty Pages. Available on Google Play, Stitcher and iTunes.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.