If you love a good mystery and seeing the worst of humanity getting outsmarted by the good guys, then “The Murder Room” is for you. “The Murder Room” refers to the Vidocq Society, which is an organization of “forensic professionals and motivated private citizens who, as a public service, donate deductive, scientific and other talents for the common good.”
The society meets once a month and focuses on solving long-unsolved murder cases. The title, however, is a bit misleading because the book focuses more on the careers of the three founding members of the society — William Fleisher, Frank Bender and Richard Walter — than the society itself.
Michael Capuzzo traces the work of these three individuals throughout the years as they head toward the creation of the Vidocq Society. William Fleisher is a former Philadelphia police officer, FBI special agent, and later became the assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service in Philadelphia. Frank Bender is a forensic reconstructionist with the uncanny ability to recreate faces for law enforcement from partial and complete skulls. Richard Walter was a forensic psychologist for the state of Michigan prison system and a crime scene analyst/profiler.
The most compelling parts of this book are the cases these men worked on throughout their careers. We learn how Frank Bender helped the FBI locate fugitives who had been missing for years by sculpting busts that showed what they would look like in the present day, using what many might call psychic abilities. Richard Walter used his formidable knowledge of criminal pathology to decipher the clues left by the murderers and give the police information they simply weren’t knowledgeable enough to see for themselves.
Just as a word of warning, the cases in this book are often extremely gruesome and the descriptions can be quite graphic.