Book Review: The Man from the Train


What happens when a sports writer tries to solve a series of unsolved murders that occurred over 100 years ago, all across the country? This book.

Between the 1890s and the 1930s, there were numerous ax murders of families occurring across the United States. Not that many, but perhaps more than could be explained by mere coincidence. The Man from the Train details author Bill James’ theory that many, if not most, of these murders were committed by the same man.

 

The book details the facts that are known about each murder, which is often very little after so much time has elapsed. Then he explores the commonalities among the murders, and then determines whether these commonalities fit the pattern. If so, they were part of the series of murders all committed by one man.  Neatly wrapped up – case closed.

Never mind that these murders occurred hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles away from each other, in a time when most people didn’t travel far from their homes. Never mind that he had absolutely no evidence to tie the murders to the man he accuses, who was only suspected, and never prosecuted, for one ax murder.

Never mind that his murderer would have had to have been murdering families for decades without ever being caught. Or that traveling around the country would have been expensive and time-consuming, and these murders didn’t have money stolen from the scene of the crime.

The book was interesting because it detailed what is known about many of the ax murders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, I don’t agree with his theory about a freight training hopping serial killer who eluded capture for 30 years. Just because the crimes were similar is intriguing, but not necessarily a smoking gun (or bloody ax). I just couldn’t get there…

2 stars.

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