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The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  665 ratings  ·  92 reviews
From 1910 to 1919, New Orleans suffered at the hands of its very own Jack the Ripper–style killer. The story has been the subject of websites, short stories, novels, a graphic novel, and most recently the FX television series American Horror Story. But the full story of gruesome murders, sympathetic victims, accused innocents, public panic, the New Orleans Mafia, and a mys ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published March 1st 2017 by Chicago Review Press
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Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Axman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis is a 2017 Chicago Review Press publication.

I thought I had heard about most serial killers, recent, past or distant past, but I never heard about this case. I understand this story was even featured on ‘American Horror Story’, but I don’t want much television, so I missed out on that.

This case is utterly fascinating and so absurdly strange, it’s impossible to believe some of the things that happened back then.

Starting in 1910, a seri
Laurie  |  LOHF
I am DNFing this book. For a story about the axeman, it is so incredibly dull and lacking in focus. The author has clearly done her homework but she's included too many sidelines that have nothing to do with the murders. If I wanted to learn about the origins of the Italian Mafia in New Orleans I would've picked up a different book.

This story was also one of the subplots in American Horror Story’s season of “Coven”. The "axeman" is the guy Jessica Lange gets cozy with. The gals over at MY FAVORI
Sean Chick
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to rate. Davis does some good research, debunking myths about the Axeman and making good suppositions about events, such as the Mumfre thesis as well as Besumer's status as victim. She is good as a straight historian. Her background information on New Orleans, the Mafia, Louis Marrero, and the rest is welcome. Her theory that the Axeman moved west has legs; her theory that he was "the Cleaver" of 1910 less so. Yet, the writing is sloppy. Davis sometimes tries to tell a story, ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now that was a good read. This book will help you remember to lock your doors at night but not help you sleep or feel safe in your own bed. All I know is people sure did sleep soundly back in the day. This guy could chisel his way through a door and no one wakes up. If one of my cats fart in the middle of the night it wakes me up. I'm jealous....of the sleeping soundly part, not the getting brained with an axe in your sleep part. Anyway, a really good book. ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
A waste of paper. No answers, just 262 pages of what-ifs and maybes and armchair psychology. Save your money.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Nothing great. Kind of a weak telling of this early 1900s event.
Oddly enough I've never heard of this particular serial killer in US history. This seems to be the USA's own Jack the Ripper style case, with just as much over the top detailing and even more of a kill count. Mrs. Davis does a great job of breaking down the case, and any murders/attacks related to it. She presents a fascinating and well researched challenge to the accepted to conclusion as well, arguing her case well. This is one those true crime books that will settle under your skin, mu
Mar 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
You’ll find my copy of this book flagged with post its. This was research for a future serial killer novel. Not only did I find the book educational and insightful I learned the Axe man of New Orleans was nothing like he is portrayed in any movie. He was a serial killer, and that idea was still alien to those in the early 1900s. He escaped and likely continued his terror elsewhere. I recommend the read for those interested in the reality. My note taking was heavy at first and then as the truth m ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
DNF @21%
2017; Chicago Review Press

Tried a few times to get into this one, but the writing style is not for me, and I tried to research the case to get some interest but even that didn't get me into this book.

***I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.***
I had never heard of the Axeman of New Orleans until he was a character on AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN (which I contend is by far the best AHS season of all time). I hadn't felt terribly compelled to check him out beyond that show, but when he was covered on MY FAVORITE MURDER I was intrigued again. And THEN my boss at work was ordering books and said 'hey, have you heard of these murders that took place in NEw Orleans?' and I was like 'YOU MEAN THE AXEMAN !?', no doubt living up to every perce ...more
Molly Mirren
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Totally gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I could not put it down. Well-written and researched. Kind of reminded me of an Erik Larson book. Highly recommend if you’re a fan of true crime. Just don’t read it at night!
Jun 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Went off on a lot of tangents the didn't really have much to do with the overall subject. ...more
Lisa Williams
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing and quick read. A must for lovers of New Orleans, true crime and history.
Jill Crosby
Feb 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely AWFUL. While the premise is promising, the author does very little to deliver. The Axeman? In New Orleans? How can you screw this up?

1. By writing two long and detailed chapters about the rise of the Mafia in New Orleans, and La Cosa Nostra doesn’t even play a part in the actual narrative, so you basically get a 65-page footnote on organized crime in The Big Easy;

2. At least half of each chapter is devoted to the corruption in law enforcement and judicial system of 1910-1920 New Orle
Riding  Reviewer
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jeepdiva
I’ve always loved reading different genres of books but lately everything I read is romance. The Axeman of New Orleans was a nice departure, taking me back to true crime.

Miriam Davis has done an amazing job researching this book. The amount of detail she provides for a century old crime is incredible. Using quotes from multiple newspapers, police reports and archive photos, Davis supplies more than enough evidence to support her premises on various murders. Some she is able to discount as work o
Vel Veeter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
For a book about someone killing people with axes, this isn’t the most interesting book I’ve read….this week. This is the story of a New Orleans serial killer who targeted primarily Italian shopkeepers in the early 20th century.

This book is drenched with a time in the country in which anti-Italian sentiment was pretty strong, and this book investigates that aspect of these crimes. But it oversells the “racial” dynamic of these crimes. As weird and sad as these crimes are, the real miracle is tha
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Warning spoilers!!!!

The axeman of New Orleans has never been that well known. Kind of an obscure case, only recently has the case gained some notice. As a true crime fanatic I was course had read about him but there was never that much info to get really into the case. Info made public. I must also add that for several years now the photo of serial killer Jake Bird has been commonly associated with the Axeman in terms of the internet. In fact if you look up "The axeman of new orleans" his photo
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I was hoping this would be a page turner and have me on the edge of my seat. Ms. Davis is an academic and that shows in this book. It tends to come across a bit dry. Added to the fact that she leaves us without a finger to point at a real perpetrator, I could only give give it 3 stars. It is obvious that the book was well researched. Definitely worth a read if you are fan of unsolved murders and/or the history of New Orleans.
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As far as true crimes book goes, I didn't really like this one. The story jumps from one thing to the next. I had never heard of The Axeman, so appreciated the historical detail that added context to the crimes. But some of those details were irrelevant or cluttered the narrative.

TL;DR The historical aspect is good, the storytelling not so much
Kim Nix
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Well-researched and well-written book about a serial killer in New Orleans in the early 1900s.
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Today's nonfiction is on The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis. It is 320 pages long and is published by Chicago Review Press. The cover is black and purple street view of New Orleans. The intended reader is someone who likes true crime, unsolved mysteries, and historical accounts. There is mild foul language, no sex, and descriptions of violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- From 1910 to 1919, New Orleans suffered at the hands of its very own
Jeff Jellets
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it

"They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether which surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a fell demon from hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the axman."

Miriam C. Davis’s The Axeman of New Orleans is an engaging and thorough documentary of a series of murders and maimings that began in 1910 and continued for nine years by a serial killer who preyed upon the Big Easy’s Itali
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm surprised by how polarizing this book is. I guess it's a difference in what people were looking for.

I was introduced to the Axeman from Buzzfeed Unsolved, so I knew going in that this case is not going to give satisfying answers. If you want a self-contained true crime book filled with compelling evidence, this isn't the work for you. That isn't the author's fault--the evidence, in all likelihood, simply does not exist. However, if you want an Eric Larson-esque analysis of a community and t
Kieran Healy
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-non-fiction
There's an interesting story in here, but unfortunately it's got nothing to do with the Axeman. The trial of Frank Jordano is the most fascinating part of the book, to me. But he's not who this book is about. He and his father are falsely accused of one of the murderous attacks. There are really interesting ideas about faults and problems with early 20th century American jurisprudence and criminal investigation, but they are never specifically tied to the murderer.

The overall layout of this boo
Sandra Frey
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've noted in other reviews that I am not a fan of the "nonfiction novel" style, and I was nervous that this would be that. It dabbles in that kind of narrative license, but it's not overwhelming. New Orleans is one of those locations that amplifies any true-crime story set there, and this one is such a creepy mystery on its own. It's definitely the kind of crime spree that could never be replicated today (for starters, the axeman would use families' own axes and then casually leave them behind) ...more
Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -
First off, I could have sworn that I've read a book about this before, yet can't find it in my read lists and am only seeing cheesy looking ones that I'd most likely never read when I do a google search. If you remember a serious one, shout out the title, please and put my poor brain out of its misery.

That being said, there was little earth-shatteringly different about this one except I appreciated that Davis followed each person's story to the end of their lives to show the effects, if any, the
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Disappointing, perhaps inevitably so, given that the titular subject left too little of a trace to identify him. The clues that remain are spare, disjointed and don't add up to a tantalizing whodunit in the same way that the Jack the Ripper case engendered. So at the end of the book, you haven't really learned anything about the subject except 1) a better understanding of his methods, 2) that his warning to play jazz music to keep him away was a contemporaneous hoax in bad taste, and 3) a last-p ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Axeman of New Orleans, Miriam C. Davis

First and foremost, I would like to thank Miriam for giving the victims of this murderer, and potential other murderers, the respect that they deserve. This is the book that they deserve as well, and hopefully they get the justice that the public demanded. The true justice. And also thank you for treating the other victims - the accused but innocent - with respect as well.

This is my first book about this particular crime - I’ve only heard about it throug
Alex Andrasik
In the early 20th century, an ax-wielding fiend terrorized the Italian immigrants of New Orleans. In a bizarre case involving false accusations, German spies, and Jazz music, it's the injustice and the mistrust of the age that stands out, as well as minor advances in the criminal justice system and the science of investigation on the cusp of the modern era.

This slim, true-crime history starts off slow but picks up nicely as it goes along. The author seems to find her footing in terms of the dram
Jordan Anderson
Even though it’s well researched and well written, Axeman will probably never reach up there with some of the other great “true crime”’reads.

I think the biggest issue I (and many others) seemed to have with Davis’s nonfiction look at what is essentially America’s version of Jack the Ripper, is that it’s just too long and has far too many points where the main focus drifts from the titular character.

The book works as a good historical look at 1917 New Orleans, and a brief expose of policing in t
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“Finally, he could stand it no longer: “How could you think I could kill my own brother?” he demanded, his voice choking on tears. “He sent us the money to come to America. He supported us after our father died in Sicily. Joe was like a father to me since I was eleven years old. I know a man isn’t supposed to cry but . . .” and slumped over, his face in his hands, sobbing.” 0 likes
“An exemplary son of Sicilian immigrants, he worked hard and made big plans. At seventeen he was already an insurance agent and engaged to Josie, a sweet local girl; he anticipated a flourishing American life, a happy family, a prosperous business. But three nights after Mardi Gras, Josie had a dream. She dreamed that evil was about to descend on the neighborhood. She was prescient. Frank’s life was about to become a nightmare.” 0 likes
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