The Adam Kaminski Mystery Series are fiction. I base the stories on some true events — historical events, for example, or crimes I read about in the newspapers, or interactions I’ve had in the past with diplomats and law enforcement officers. But in the main, the stories originate in my head. No one was hurt in the making of these books.
This past weekend, I was thrilled to once again join the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Sisters in Crime for a lecture by a local expert in crime and murder. Of the true variety.
I’m not usually a fan of true crime stories. I love reading about fictional murders, with fictional victims and fictional sleuths. Hearing about grisly murders that really took place, about a sick, twisted individual who really did kill innocents, is disturbing. Fascinating, yes, but disturbing.
Our speaker this month was Sam Cox, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Sam spoke to us about her involvement in the exhumation and identification of the remains of H. H. Holmes, commonly known as America’s first (known) serial killer.
Holmes is suspected of killing as many as 200 people. During the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, he ran a hotel just off-site that was later determined to have a lime pit and large incinerator in the basement — handy for getting rid of unwanted bodies.
Hearing Sam tell this story, I was hooked. Sam’s work was included in a recent series by the History Channel, American Ripper. Her team is featured in the final episode. I recommend it!
I loved hearing her talk about the techniques they used to dig up his grave then identify the bones they found. She told us about what was actually proven in the case and what was still conjecture. She explained how the detectives at the time tracked him and the bodies he left in his wake as he ran.
As a writer, this lecture was invaluable as a source of ideas and information. We learned about investigative and exploratory techniques that law enforcement can use in identifying victims and killers. We got a glimpse behind the scenes.
As a reader, I’m intrigued by the personalities involved. The nonchalance of the serial killer, the determination of the detective who finally tracked him down.
That said, I don’t think I’ll become an avid reader of true crime stories. There’s something comforting about murder mysteries: the killer always gets caught, the hero always saves the day (well, not for the victims, but for those who survive).
I like the feeling that once you’re done, all is right with the world. And I try not to think too much about the true killers still lurking, out there, in the real world…