The Axeman of New Orleans by Miriam Davis

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: I guess this guy didn’t like Italian food.

Quick synopsis: A true crime story from the early 1900s. The Axeman murdered 6 people and assaulted 6 more while they slept in New Orleans from 1918 to 1919 (maybe as early as 1910).

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The Axeman sent a letter saying he loved jazz music and anyone who played jazz during the night he specified would not be murdered. Dance halls were packed that night.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: The Axeman is very interesting for criminologists because his signature was very consistent but the reason for his killings is elusive. He murdered mostly Italian grocers as they slept with an axe or a razor. Profilers can’t decide whether he was a sadist, Mafia hitman, or just a regular psychopath.

My Take: I like my historical true crime to give me some very specific elements. First, I need to be able to feel what it was like to be in that time period. Second, I need to feel the terror which each crime solicited. Finally, I need to feel like the criminal can be identified, even if it is just a best guess.

Davis does all of those things in this book. You feel what it is like to live in New Orleans (pardon me, N’Awlins) during a vicious crime wave. Davis is also meticulous in laying out the crime and the crime scene after so that you feel like you are actually part of the investigation. Finally, she posits some very possible if not probable answers to who the Axeman actually was.

If you like true crime but may not know if you’d like historical true crime, then this is the book to start with. It’s relatively short, sticks to the important details, and immerses you into the time period. Check it out!

Verdict: This is really good historical true crime. Read it!

If You Liked This Try:

  • Simon Baatz, The Girl in the Velvet Swing
  • Skip Hollandsworth, The Midnight Assassin
  • Gregg Olsen, Starvation Heights
  • Douglas Starr, The Killer of Little Shepherds
  • Hallie Rubenhold, The Five
  • J. Robinson, Mystery on the Isle of Shoals
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The Axeman of New Orleans by Miriam Davis
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