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The Man from the Train Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

Using 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 20th 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.

©2017 Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James. All rights reserved. (P)2017 Simon & Schuster Audio. All rights reserved.

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    mrs_v 13/10/2017
    mrs_v 13/10/2017 Member Since 2017
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    13
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating unknown story."

    Really interesting, frightening and atmospheric book about a series of axe familcides across North America at the beginning of the 20th century. Well researched and perfectly captures rural, small town life in the US at that time. Very frustrating at times, partly down to lack of available information and the attitude of law enforcement at the time. I also think there is too much repetition, I get it for linking the crimes, but certainly phrases or information was unnecessarily repeated again and again. However this was a fascinating story and I couldn't stop listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • chicagogirl89
    10/10/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting Story Mangled by the Author"

    I was intrigued by the premise of this book having seen a documentary on the tragic murders in Vallisca, Iowa that occurred in 1912. This really could have been an interesting story. However, the author's smug, ham-handed handling left me more irritated than enlightened.

    The author is simply not a good writer. His attempts at humor come off as snarky at best and horribly insensitive at worst. Yes, the crimes discussed in the book occurred a very, very long time ago, but the victims were still human beings. Turning their deaths into bad puns that appear to have been leftover from a failed Vaudville act is just in poor taste.

    What I found most irritating though, was the author's frequent use of the breaking the the fourth wall trope. Directly addressing the reader/listener without flatlining the story is difficult. Since he just isn't clever enough to pull it off, he comes off as condesceding and snarky. It's like having to listen to an unfunny, creepy, bachelor uncle on Thanksgiving who doesn't realize his jokes stink.

    Since so much of the book consists of...I will tell you this- show you that, this is why everyone else missed... the author appears to thinks he's the smartest guy in the room but his conclusions are quite a stretch and his solution to the crimes falls flat.

    I agree with another reviewer that the author's handling of the racial issues of the time (and ours) also fails.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Branson
    09/10/17
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    Performance
    Story
    "worth reading"

    the voice actor was good.

    the book is worth a read, there is a convincing case made in the book which leaves you certain that there was and axe murdering serial killer at the turn of the century. my only complaint is that the author seems to have included a lot of information that should have been left out, and wrote the book in a very scatterbrained fashion bouncing all over the place. It would have been nice to stick to a timeline and to only speak about things that were relevant. I hope to see more work of this type from this author and I hope that they are able to work out some of the Kinks that kept this book from having a nice polished finish.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amy L Bruce
    04/10/17
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    Performance
    Story
    "Wow!"

    This was a very well thought out book about a series of murders I've never heard about. Although the layout is at times rather disorganized, I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of what life was like in that time period - how news papers and literacy were linked, the way policing worked, etc.

    Assuming their research is solid and they didn't cherry pick facts to fit their narrative (I'm too lazy to do the research myself), I think their conclusion is pretty solid. And I got epic goosebumps when I listened to the last tidbit about where the murderer probably ended up.

    I need to listen again and take notes and make diagrams to try to make sense of it all. Wow!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • GCsteve
    28/09/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "It is a good 17 hours."

    This book kept me interested most of the time. The authors were very thorough spelling out the case.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • ArtieM
    27/09/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Extremely interesting"

    While I had known of the horrific 1912 murders of the Moore family in Vallisca, Iowa, I assumed with certainty it was an isolated case and perpetrated by someone known to the family. To learn of the countless similar family axe murders across the country in the same time period was astounding. Great job by the authors as far as research and telling the tale of this twisted psychopathic serial killer and how he managed to wipe out entire families for many years without ever being identified. Until this book, that is. While much of this story is extremely disturbing, it is also very historically educational. I learned so much about the justice system of the US in that era, or unjust system in many cases. For anyone who enjoys unsolved crime mysteries, this is a great story.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • samantha Wallace
    Marietta, Georgia, US
    25/09/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Awesome!"

    Well done all the way around. Fascinating and frustrating.

    Last chapter seems to skip some words at one point, but other than that it was a perfect book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • 6catz
    25/09/17
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    Performance
    Story
    "As good as true crime gets"

    Fascinating to have a sports statistician tackle this 100 year old mystery - actually dozens of mysteries that occurred in a time span around the beginning of the 20th century. The James team offers a pretty convincing case that this spate of mass murders can be tied together, and backs it up with numbers that are tough to argue with.
    A great read, creepy as hell and hard to put down.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Buretto
    23/09/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thoroughly engrossing, with some caveats"

    First of all, I was completely captivated by the story. I eagerly listened, I anticipated listening, I listened at night in bed, and I re-listened what I had missed after falling asleep. So I definitely have to give this book a positive review. However, that doesn't mean there aren't a few shortcomings.

    Typical of many books like this, is the review of being "well-researched". I suspect it was (for all I know), but it was oddly rather refreshing to hear how many times the authors said that they just don't know, or couldn't find information. It would be easy to claim laziness, but I just think that so much time had past, and rural records being so scant to begin with, it was always going to be a difficulty. They addressed it head-on, to their credit.

    They very effectively (perhaps manipulatively, considering your perspective) present the most compelling crimes to assign to the man from the train, followed by those less apparently connected, and various seeming outliers. They create a profile of the killer and skilfully build up a case against him.

    That being said, some of the conclusions edge to the sketchy. For example, most of the crimes were done with an axe, but when one killing used a different implement, the rationalization is that surely the killer, lacking an axe, would have used anything available in the madness of the moment. Any baseball fan whose ever heard a sabermetrician try to justify dWAR (defensive Wins Against Replacement), an attempt to statistically rank defensive baseball players' skills, you'll have the same rational skepticism (not the irrational skepticism the authors seem to hate). But yet again, the authors freely acknowledge that some conclusions are less convincing than others, and don't demand they all be accepted.

    And it has to be said that the attempts at folksy humor get a bit tiring. In particular, the puns on names of victims, suspects and witnesses are unnecessary. (At one point, discussing the massacre of a family named Pfanschmidt, the phrase "the Schmitt hit the fan" is used.)

    I waited for this from the moment it was introduced until it was available to be downloaded. And I was thoroughly intrigued, even with the minor annoyances. It was well worth the purchase.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Nick
    23/09/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Torture to listen to."

    if you love listening to hours upon hours of pure speculation and theory, then this is the book for you. when bill James isn't listing off all the case facts for each crime, he's reminding you how bad white people are and how backward Southerners are. complete garbage of a book.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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