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Publisher's 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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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • 6catz
  • 08-04-2016

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 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 20-06-2016

Amazing Literary Accomplishment...

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • DyeaT
  • 25-05-2016

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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-05-2016

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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Fred
  • 03-06-2016

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 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia Holdiman
  • 25-04-2016

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 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • silencedogood
  • 23-09-2017

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."

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  • Curtis Mitchel
  • 11-03-2017

fantastic experience,

great narrative , it was a page turner. Free up in Austin Texas never even heard anything about the murders

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  • Jessica Smarr
  • 24-01-2017

A New True Crime Classic

Any additional comments?

Full disclosure: I live in Austin, I love true crime, and I've been a Skip Hollandsworth devotee for quite some time now. I was predisposed to love this book.

That being said, I can't recommend it enough. Skip Hollandsworth gives the entire book the same kind of care and dignity that he gives his longform pieces for Texas Monthly. It's the best kind of true crime - the facts are presenting in an intriguing and complex way doesn't make the reader/listener feel voyeuristic or like they're exploiting tragedy for entertainment. It helps that Hollandsworth does a phenomenal job taking the reader to the Austin of the late 19th century. The societal reactions to the murders and the assaults were probably the most fascinating part of the book to me.

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  • R. G. Shalhoub
  • 26-10-2016

Serial Killer True Crime in early Austin TX

If you could sum up The Midnight Assassin in three words, what would they be?

Fragile readers beware!!!

What other book might you compare The Midnight Assassin to and why?

Devil in the White City. Another early American serial killer who went undiscovered for years...I don't want to "spoil" book w more details...

What about Clint Jordan’s performance did you like?

He didn't do corny accents

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

America's Jack the Ripper who preceded London's