Rummanah Aasi

Description: 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.

Review: From time to time I like to dip into true crime stories although there are times when I will have difficulty sleeping after finishing them. The premise of The Midnight Assassin pulled me in quickly and it reminded me much of Erik Larson's blockbuster title The Devil in the White City which is soon to be a movie. The United States had its first serial killer in the 1880s in Austin, Texas which predates the Jack the Ripper killings in 1888 in London.
  There is a lot of unknown information about the Midnight Assassin which heightens the suspense, hysteria, and paranoia surrounding the perpetrator. Sometimes terrorizing without resorting to violence and sometimes brutally murdering the women with an ax, the culprit was never found. The women that were first attacked where the help of predominate wealthy families and so the authorities sought and tried black men, but all were able to provide their alibis and prove their innocence. Next the murderer went after notable socialites, but nothing but their family's dirty secrets were revealed. Suddenly the attacks stopped as just they abruptly started, and the city eventually got over their fears and moved on. Since the killings happened so close to those of the Ripper's many thought the killer moved to London, targeting prostitutes.
  The author does well in theorizing what may happened and subtly introduces it in such a way that it seems almost obvious that the killer has been pinpointed, but ultimately, there is no real resolution, which will annoy some readers but it kept me glued to the pages. It is amazing to see how far we have come with forensics and detecting techniques today and how frustrating it is for those of the era to not have it or even think of it. Clearly the killer had the advantage. Even with hindsight being 20/20 there is not a whole of lot evidence unearthed and the identity of the Midnight Assassin remains unknown.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence and the bodies of the victim are described in graphic details. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, The Killers of the Flower  Moon by David Grann
3 Responses
  1. I had no idea this happened. I am totally intrigued. It is frustrating though that we don't know to this day who the killer really was.

  2. True crime really can be difficult to read. I feel like I've been dealing with this quite a bit lately as the mother of a high school classmate of mine was the victim of a serial killer in the early 1980s when we were in high school. The FBI has reopened the case so there's been lots of discussion about it.

  3. Kindlemom Says:

    I've never tried true crime, probably because sometimes regular thrillers can leave me up all night but this does sound really good and I don't know, I might have to try it if you liked it so much.

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