The Killer of Little Shepherds

The Killer of Little Shepherds
Douglas Starr

Douglas Starr uses the story of Joseph Vacher, a murderous vagabond who wandered about rural France opportunistically killing a number of young people at the end of the nineteenth century, as an entry point for an account of the rise of modern forensic science and police investigation techniques in this accessible mix of true crime and social history (think The Crimes of Paris, only without the theft of the Mona Lisa). Vasher, billed by contemporaries as the French Jack the Ripper, was a colourful, self-dramatizing psychopath, but the book’s greatest interest lies in the debates between early criminologists over the definition of a criminal type, and the development of new ways of understanding violent behaviour.