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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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  • 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.

7 people found this 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!

2 people found this 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.

2 people found this 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.

2 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn Beaver
  • 01-09-2021

A wonderful history of old Austin.

Though some simple but distinctly Texan words were badly Mis pronounced poorly I nearly gave up on this book. But I kept going and was well rewarded with a great read.
Seriously, who provinces Seguin as San Gwen?!?! They’ve never been to Texas for sure!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-07-2021

great true crime saga

well written and well performed. skip hollandsworth has always done good work in short(er) form, and it has translated well to long form. highly recommended.

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  • greg potts
  • 14-06-2021

Great book

I am a big fan of Skips work and if you love Texas history it doesn't disappoint.

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  • Jimmie Hughes
  • 24-05-2021

I Love Lost History

This is a Texas story I had never heard. The author did a wonderful job of sprinkling the historical references throughout. Every Texan should read this book.

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