As you might have noticed I'm a bit of a true crime buff and I couldn't pass up the chance of reviewing a new book in a new 'True Crime Collection' from Hoffmann Books. The Axeman of New Orleans is currently one of three offerings in the collection and tells the events of 1918-1919 in New Orleans that left residents in a state of panic.
The city was gripped by a series of horrific attacks and murders, where an unknown man or men broke into people's houses while they slept and bludgeoned them with an axe. Whilst several suspects were arrested, the true identity of the Axeman was never discovered and the crimes stopped as suddenly as they started.
The book covers the key points in the case, and has a very professional and easy to read narrative. It goes through the murders 'as they happened' and discusses possible suspects and briefly covers how the police and justice system handled the investigation. However perhaps due to a lack of solid case material (as the murders happened nearly one hundred years ago), the book is incredibly short and lacks the kind of insights these books usually have, either from victim accounts or from speaking to detectives involved. There are also quite a few instances where events are not clear, for example, there is uncertainty over whether one of the victims survived the attack. Not necessarily the fault of the authors, but detracts from the book's credibility and overall reading experience. The book also fails to include a key suspect included in many other accounts of the case. I can see no reason for this, as the name and details of this suspect can be clearly found in earlier accounts of this case, but is absent from Hoffmann's offering.
Unfortunately for The Axeman of New Orleans, it suffers because of the age of the material it is addressing. Whilst the material Hoffmann books has got is presented very well and makes an interesting read, it is lacking in the real detail needed to make a true crime book a success. As with most true crime accounts the same material can be found in numerous places on the web, although The Axeman of New Orleans does provide it in a much more accessible format and is arguably better written. This book would be perfect for someone wanting a quick overview of the case, or as part of a bigger collection should Hoffmann Books extend their offering.
The Axeman of New Orleans is available from Amazon for £1.96, but can be borrowed free if you have Prime.
[A review copy was provided by the author]