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The Midnight Assassin

Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer
Narrated by: Clint Jordan
Length: 9 hrs and 5 mins
4 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Summary

A sweeping narrative history of a terrifying serial killer - America's first - who stalked Austin, Texas, in 1885.

In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas, was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London's infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class.

At the time the concept of a serial killer was unthinkable, but the murders continued, the killer became more brazen, and the citizens' panic reached a fever pitch. Before it was all over, at least a dozen men would be arrested in connection with the murders, and the crimes would expose what a newspaper described as "the most extensive and profound scandal ever known in Austin". And yes, when Jack the Ripper began his attacks in 1888, London police investigators did wonder if the killer from Austin had crossed the ocean to terrorize their own city.

With vivid historical detail and novelistic flair, Texas Monthly journalist Skip Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life. The introduction and epilogue are read by the author.

©2016 Walter Ned Hollandsworth (P)2016 Macmillan Audio

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Profile Image for 6catz
  • 6catz
  • 08-04-16

A Fascinating Cold, Cold Case

Any additional comments?

I find books about historical murder cases fascinating, the best of its kind being "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larsen, which happens to take place in roughly the same time period as this case does. Like Larsen, this author goes to great lengths to contrast the technological growth spurt and hopeful high spirits of the people of Austin in the late 19th century with a series of truly horrible crimes that knocked its citizens for a loop.

Although Hollandsworth spends a bit too much time in the setup and is not the literary magician that Larsen is, this long lost tale of horror obviously haunted and obsessed him for some time, and the product of his obsessive research is worth reading.

The comparisons with the Jack the Ripper case are tantalizing, and the fact that future of forensics, psychology and even public lighting were influenced by the details of this forgotten case is amazing. Took some patience in the beginning, but I was glad I stuck with it by the end.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 20-06-16

Amazing Literary Accomplishment...

An enthralling true crime story of America's first documented serial killer. An absolute must for the true crime lover!

1 person found this helpful

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  • DyeaT
  • 25-05-16

Not Very Interesting

It had a lot of facts about Austin, Texas during that time period but I was expecting much more suspense and excitement.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-05-16

Mind numbingly boring

The author mostly writes about rich white Austin residents unrelated to the story. He has very little to say about the people who were actually at risk of being killed. Obviously what was important was how having their servants killed affected Austin society.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Fred
  • 03-06-16

it's Okay if you need to fill a few hours

I know the author put a lot if work into this book. it is very hard to make a book about conjecture compelling. Nice try.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Patricia Holdiman
  • 25-04-16

History of Austin

This book is more along the lines of a "history of Austin" that just happened to include a murderous mystery.
Well written but I prefer more information on the serial killer and the murders.
Just felt dry.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Buzz Smith
  • 25-06-19

I used to think I knew Texas history...

From New Year's Eve, December 31, 1884 until Christmas Eve, 1885, the city of Austin, Texas was terrorized by a killer. Possibly the first serial killer in the country. The victims, in the beginning, were black servants of white families. The police, the newspapers and the white population of Austin assumed the killer was a "bad black," or a gang of "bad blacks." The murders were horrific, in their violence. Even children were not safe, as was seen when an 11 year old daughter of a servant woman was butchered. By modern standards, the lack of urgency shown by the white officials would have been a scandal. If it had not been for the fact that the murders were occurring in or near the servants' quarters, located on the property of the white employers, one wonders if they ever would have had the focus of the authorities. Then, on Christmas Eve, two prominent white women were butchered, in separate incidents, across town from one another. Austin was living in fear and the history books seem to have forgotten these killings ever happened. Skip Hollandsworth has written a great account of what is known of the killings and sets the scene with lots of background information of those days. You can easily get lost in time and feel you lived in Austin back in the late 19th century. Before reading this book, I'd walked the streets of Austin at night and visited some of the locations mentioned in the book. It will not feel the same, the next time I do so.
A great book!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-03-19

pleby of Austin history

was good but focused more on Austin's history than the murders. extra four words here.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • MTTexas
  • 23-11-18

Review

Mostly enjoyed the Texas history of the city of Austin. The narrator did not pronounce pecan correctly and used an "Old South" (i.e., Georgia) accent when speaking as a Texan.

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  • silencedogood
  • 23-09-17

great story

great story that doesn't get much discussion and a cool history of Austin as well. Only issue at all was the pronunciation of "Seguin."