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Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot

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Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is a chilling, unflinching exploration of American crimes of the twentieth century and how one serial killer managed to slip through the cracks—until now. In fall 1967, friends Linda Tomaszewski and Christine Rothschild are freshmen at the University of Wisconsin. The students in the hippie college town Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is a chilling, unflinching exploration of American crimes of the twentieth century and how one serial killer managed to slip through the cracks—until now. In fall 1967, friends Linda Tomaszewski and Christine Rothschild are freshmen at the University of Wisconsin. The students in the hippie college town of Madison are letting down their hair—and their guards. But amid the peace rallies lurks a killer.When Christine’s body is found, her murder sends shockwaves across college campuses, and the Age of Aquarius gives way to a decade of terror.Linda knows the killer, but when police ignore her pleas, he slips away. For the next forty years, Linda embarks on a cross-country quest to find him. When she discovers a book written by the murderer’s mother, she learns Christine was not his first victim—or his last. The slayings continue, and a single perpetrator emerges: the Capital City Killer. As police focus on this new lead, Linda receives a disturbing note from the madman himself. Can she stop him before he kills again?


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Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is a chilling, unflinching exploration of American crimes of the twentieth century and how one serial killer managed to slip through the cracks—until now. In fall 1967, friends Linda Tomaszewski and Christine Rothschild are freshmen at the University of Wisconsin. The students in the hippie college town Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is a chilling, unflinching exploration of American crimes of the twentieth century and how one serial killer managed to slip through the cracks—until now. In fall 1967, friends Linda Tomaszewski and Christine Rothschild are freshmen at the University of Wisconsin. The students in the hippie college town of Madison are letting down their hair—and their guards. But amid the peace rallies lurks a killer.When Christine’s body is found, her murder sends shockwaves across college campuses, and the Age of Aquarius gives way to a decade of terror.Linda knows the killer, but when police ignore her pleas, he slips away. For the next forty years, Linda embarks on a cross-country quest to find him. When she discovers a book written by the murderer’s mother, she learns Christine was not his first victim—or his last. The slayings continue, and a single perpetrator emerges: the Capital City Killer. As police focus on this new lead, Linda receives a disturbing note from the madman himself. Can she stop him before he kills again?

30 review for Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot

  1. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Oh dear. I don't usually rate a book this low. If it's that bad, I just don't review it. But this sounded like a good, solid, true crime read. The introduction was full of overblown prose, and when I say overblown, I mean in the sense that at times I didn't even know what the author was trying to say. But I figured, once we got into the story... I was wrong. There is nothing clear about this book. It's very hard to extract what actually happened and when from the tangle of big words, and oh, the mi Oh dear. I don't usually rate a book this low. If it's that bad, I just don't review it. But this sounded like a good, solid, true crime read. The introduction was full of overblown prose, and when I say overblown, I mean in the sense that at times I didn't even know what the author was trying to say. But I figured, once we got into the story... I was wrong. There is nothing clear about this book. It's very hard to extract what actually happened and when from the tangle of big words, and oh, the mixed metaphors. "Sure enough, he soon cut to the chase as though he'd been waiting for the chance--chomping at the bit to spill the beans." Watch out, this guy has the bit in his teeth and he's heading out to open sea! Before I gave up, I skimmed toward the end, to see if maybe things got better. Maybe something actually happened. But in the end, it looks like it didn't. It's sad, because I think maybe there really was a story there. If only the editors at Amazon actually, you know, edited, maybe something could have been made of this. So disappointing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Robbins

    I’m a huge true crime fan and I grew up 45 minutes from Madison, so this seemed like the perfect book for me. This could have been a really good book. I almost never DNF a book, but I just couldn’t get through this one. I only made it about halfway through. The writing was boring and incredibly hard to follow. There are several issues I had with this book. 1. I had a major issue with the story/plot line. What story was this author actually trying to tell? At times it seemed like the story was ab I’m a huge true crime fan and I grew up 45 minutes from Madison, so this seemed like the perfect book for me. This could have been a really good book. I almost never DNF a book, but I just couldn’t get through this one. I only made it about halfway through. The writing was boring and incredibly hard to follow. There are several issues I had with this book. 1. I had a major issue with the story/plot line. What story was this author actually trying to tell? At times it seemed like the story was about Linda and her search for the person who she thought killed her friend. At times it seemed to be about all of the random unsolved murders in Madison. At times it read more like a textbook on serial killer psychology and methods. Any of those could have been interesting books, but the hodgepodge way they were put together in this book made it too convoluted. 2. The author used a lot of unnecessarily big words. I consider myself to have a pretty big vocabulary and I found myself using the dictionary function on my Kindle several times. 3. This entire book is full of speculation. The murder of Christine Rothschild is an unsolved crime. No conviction has ever taken place, yet the author constantly speaks of Jorgensen implying he is definitely the killer. He claims Jorgensen killed his brother but gives no supporting evidence that he did it. In one of his many tangents about serial killers, he states with certainty the Jack the Ripper was a fictional character and there were multiple killers. While this is a possibility, it’s by no means an absolute known fact. Those crimes also remain unsolved. 4. The overall writing wasn’t great. The author massively overused dashes within his sentences. Occasionally this is fine, but there would often be many sentences per page. There was also a lot of repetitive writing, both words and paragraphs. One example is “…a group of otherwise passive students sitting passively-albeit disruptively-on the university grounds…”. Although I didn’t care for this book at all, I can see a little good in it. The author clearly did a lot of research on the crimes discussed in the book. He’s also done a lot of research into serial killers and their psychology. It’s also great to bring attention to all of these cold cases. By putting them back in the public eye, maybe some new information could be brought to light. I just wish he’d done a better job of getting them out there.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joey R.

    Felt like I was reading a rough draft! I came up with a 3- star rating the following way: 5 stars--the amount of research done for this book is amazing -- Also, the author's knowledge of the subject matter and access to information is as good as a non-fiction book gets.... 1 star-- in school when I would write a research paper I would put all the information I knew about a subject down on paper first and then organize it and rewrite it several times before turning it in. I feel like the author just Felt like I was reading a rough draft! I came up with a 3- star rating the following way: 5 stars--the amount of research done for this book is amazing -- Also, the author's knowledge of the subject matter and access to information is as good as a non-fiction book gets.... 1 star-- in school when I would write a research paper I would put all the information I knew about a subject down on paper first and then organize it and rewrite it several times before turning it in. I feel like the author just plopped down all his research on paper and never organized it or even hired an editor to make the book flow. In fact it might be the worst stream of consciousness writing style I have ever read ... yet I still finished it because the subject matter was so thoroughly covered = 3 stars -- if it was edited and organized into a coherent book I would have definitely given it 5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fishface

    This was a very interesting story -- VERY interesting -- but I couldn't give it more than 3 stars because the writing really needed work. The story was well constructed and edited well, unlike so many books out there today, but nobody's ever told this author about the importance of keeping his sentences short and clear. He seemed intent on cramming as many words and images as possible into every sentence. The subtitle of this book should really be "When Mixed Metaphors Attack." The way this book This was a very interesting story -- VERY interesting -- but I couldn't give it more than 3 stars because the writing really needed work. The story was well constructed and edited well, unlike so many books out there today, but nobody's ever told this author about the importance of keeping his sentences short and clear. He seemed intent on cramming as many words and images as possible into every sentence. The subtitle of this book should really be "When Mixed Metaphors Attack." The way this book reads kept me from knowing until the very end whether this was a novel based on the author's own theories or a true story. (Not a spoiler: This is a true story after all.) None of that stopped me from finishing this book! It's a valuable reminder that talented, determined amateurs are sometimes better at crimebusting than the professionals. The book could even serve as a bit of a how-to manual.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    From my editor's letter: When author Michael Arntfield first described this book to me as a love story, I was floored. How could a story about a serial killer who manages to slip through the cracks be described as such? But Mad City isn’t just about the gruesome string of deaths that the Capital City Killer leaves behind—it’s also about the deep friendship and love between Christine Rothschild, the victim, and Linda Tomaszewski, who would spend most of her life tracking down the murderer in a slo From my editor's letter: When author Michael Arntfield first described this book to me as a love story, I was floored. How could a story about a serial killer who manages to slip through the cracks be described as such? But Mad City isn’t just about the gruesome string of deaths that the Capital City Killer leaves behind—it’s also about the deep friendship and love between Christine Rothschild, the victim, and Linda Tomaszewski, who would spend most of her life tracking down the murderer in a slow-burn game of cat and mouse. The story begins in 1968, a time of peace rallies, hippies, and free love, and Linda and Christine are freshman roommates and best friends at the University of Wisconsin. When Christine’s bloody body is found in a gruesome tableau on campus one morning, her murder sends the entire school and sleepy neighborhood into shock. In the ensuing years, seven more women will be murdered and mutilated on or near the university—all unsolved cases. While law enforcement is left bewildered, Linda knows better. For the next forty years, she follows a dark odyssey, dedicating her life to finding—and catching—Christine’s murderer. Mad City is an expertly crafted and harrowing true story of Linda’s diligent chase and the strides detectives and forensics have made in the years since the murder. It is a compelling narrative that I couldn’t put down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Very dry writing style. I felt like I was reading a textbook. The book has way too much focus on extraneous crimes and not enough cohesion for the main topic. It felt very scattered at times. There is little character development, nothing to give the reader a reason to care. The topic is interesting, so it should be easy to write a book that is gripping, that makes me feel something: anger, sadness, disbelief. Instead I only felt like I would rather be doing anything else rather than reading thi Very dry writing style. I felt like I was reading a textbook. The book has way too much focus on extraneous crimes and not enough cohesion for the main topic. It felt very scattered at times. There is little character development, nothing to give the reader a reason to care. The topic is interesting, so it should be easy to write a book that is gripping, that makes me feel something: anger, sadness, disbelief. Instead I only felt like I would rather be doing anything else rather than reading this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Nummerdor

    This was bad, guys. The overblown prose, the rambling, incohesive descriptions. Big words for the sake of big words. Having to trudge through all that to get to the actual story was just too much. Where was the editing? Is this like, a rough draft? Bad. Skip. Avoid. Run.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book is so badly written that it's comical. Such an interesting crime, but this needed editing. it seems more likely that it was written and somebody told the author, "you've got a story here, but if you add three sentences every time one sentence is needed, we might have a book!" Every sentence and every phrase repeats. Oh my, it's just terrible. This book is so badly written that it's comical. Such an interesting crime, but this needed editing. it seems more likely that it was written and somebody told the author, "you've got a story here, but if you add three sentences every time one sentence is needed, we might have a book!" Every sentence and every phrase repeats. Oh my, it's just terrible.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda Cork

    Fascinating Not written to be entertaining, but educational. Nevertheless, it was hard to put down. An eye-opening, decades-long journey in search of justice for a friend, thoroughly researched and documented.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Don't get this book! I chose this book because it sounded like it was a nonfiction book in the vein of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. It turned out to be nothing like it at all. I actually didn't finish reading this book as it got too bogged down in the details of setting up the background for Christine's murder. This book used fancier language than I think was necessary. It had the potential for being a really good book but it turned out to be more like a textbook for a serial murder cla Don't get this book! I chose this book because it sounded like it was a nonfiction book in the vein of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. It turned out to be nothing like it at all. I actually didn't finish reading this book as it got too bogged down in the details of setting up the background for Christine's murder. This book used fancier language than I think was necessary. It had the potential for being a really good book but it turned out to be more like a textbook for a serial murder class than a captivating story that the reader cared about.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Gruen

    Fascinating history As a UW grad growing up in Madison I was shocked to learn of the events of this book. It was well written and well researched and made me realize how little we were able to learn about crime in our own home town before the age of social media, and aggressive journalism. I would recommend to anyone interested in true crime and injustice. I all ready sent a copy to my sister.

  12. 4 out of 5

    J.M.

    The opening is overwritten and I couldn't get past it. I'll set it aside for now and maybe get back to it later. The opening is overwritten and I couldn't get past it. I'll set it aside for now and maybe get back to it later.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn West

    I think this was an ARC from Netgalley or was free on Amazon. Either way it was a fascinating read. As a UK probation officer by qualification (a very different profession to that by the same name in US), forensic psychology, criminology and neuroscience are part of my work life. The author lays out a raft of cold cases with clear explanations as to MO vs signature, true linkages etc and also tells the story of a friendship that transcended decades and death.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Professor Arntfield teaches at the university up the street from me and much like "Murder City" this reads like a textbook for one of his classes. I bought it because he is local (and at an independent bookstore, on Small Business Saturday) but that doesn't mean that I have to enjoy it. :-) Professor Arntfield teaches at the university up the street from me and much like "Murder City" this reads like a textbook for one of his classes. I bought it because he is local (and at an independent bookstore, on Small Business Saturday) but that doesn't mean that I have to enjoy it. :-)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jo Jenner

    The first chapter was so confusing I didn't know what decade we were in never mind what was happening. This book promised so much and failed in the first 20 pages and so it is not surprising that these were the murders America forgot. The first chapter was so confusing I didn't know what decade we were in never mind what was happening. This book promised so much and failed in the first 20 pages and so it is not surprising that these were the murders America forgot.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ted Freemon

    This book was unreadable. Got to the 8% mark and finally gave up.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    Verbose and self-satisfied; also a complete waste of time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ida Simonson

    I was a junior at UW Madison when Christine was murdered and found. I was in the pharmacy program and her body was found next to the Pharmacy building. What a shock for all of us. Campus issued a warning about women going out alone after dark. We were advised to travel in groups. Incredible how the investigation was bungled. However, this was a very depressing read and not for the faint of heart.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    Excellent true crime A teenage girl's killer is doggedly pursued by her friend over the course of 40 years in this fascinating book. It details many of the serial killers of the day as background and later delves into the phenomenon of crowd sourcing as a way to catch a killer. I enjoyed this look into the heart of depravity and the insight on police work. Good book. Excellent true crime A teenage girl's killer is doggedly pursued by her friend over the course of 40 years in this fascinating book. It details many of the serial killers of the day as background and later delves into the phenomenon of crowd sourcing as a way to catch a killer. I enjoyed this look into the heart of depravity and the insight on police work. Good book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian Koeller

    Interesting While there are some very interesting points in the book about various serial killers, this also sometimes takes away from the main point of the murders in Madison. However, those interested in the topic should enjoy it, and the mission of the author to spread the word and hopefully get a cold case or two solved has merit.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Five stars for content. Four stars for structure and writing style. I will never look at Madison the same after reading this book. Some of my favorite landmarks are now associated with unsolved murders. Very thorough (albeit biased) reporting. I learned so much!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kirby

    The writing in the prologue is very painful to get through -- trite true crime writing -- but the rest of the book is pretty interesting. It's definitely weighted down by lots of flowery writing, repetition, and unnecessary information, but the Linda's journey is compelling and the commentary on the problems in the criminal justice system is informative and important. The writing in the prologue is very painful to get through -- trite true crime writing -- but the rest of the book is pretty interesting. It's definitely weighted down by lots of flowery writing, repetition, and unnecessary information, but the Linda's journey is compelling and the commentary on the problems in the criminal justice system is informative and important.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    This book was a sobering reminder of how media coverage changes how people act, what they think and how they act; bringing out the worst most of the time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Mahan

    New author for me, I did like it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Shirey

    More than True Crime It is a wonderful read. I was captivated! It was like I was taking a psychological criminology course with a very passionate professor and a woman's personal journey to reconcile a true injustice with a driven need to correct it while it being just out of reach due to factors because no one had been to the psychological criminology course. Both sides of the book interweaving was like time jumping, all the while seemingly growing further apart, was actually on a collision cour More than True Crime It is a wonderful read. I was captivated! It was like I was taking a psychological criminology course with a very passionate professor and a woman's personal journey to reconcile a true injustice with a driven need to correct it while it being just out of reach due to factors because no one had been to the psychological criminology course. Both sides of the book interweaving was like time jumping, all the while seemingly growing further apart, was actually on a collision course that needed that collide. I appreciate the author naming the victims,as that is what is most important, and leaving out some less undesirables that should receive no acclaim. I am also hopeful that the new insights into locating deviant criminals will be helped by this and not keep up the status quo that caused many mishaps from cases long ago and into the future.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mmbell

    Written in the style of an old time murder reporter, "Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot" didn't flow like a novel due to it being largely the reporting of facts -and a heap of opinion by the author. Having been a freshman at a nearby college and hanging out on weekends in Madison, WI at the same time as the first murder took place gave the book a fascination for me. I don't recall hearing anything about murder at the time or any buzz about being cautious, so the Written in the style of an old time murder reporter, "Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot" didn't flow like a novel due to it being largely the reporting of facts -and a heap of opinion by the author. Having been a freshman at a nearby college and hanging out on weekends in Madison, WI at the same time as the first murder took place gave the book a fascination for me. I don't recall hearing anything about murder at the time or any buzz about being cautious, so the 'authorities' did a good job of keeping it quiet, almost under the table. An interesting book for me due to my proximity to the events and also very informative on serial murders!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Meh Got this as a kindle first on prime. I love true crime and I am a forensics junkie. So I thought I would enjoy reading about a case I hadn't heard before. The problem is that most of the book is just spitting out more interesting cases. Mad City and the Capitol City killer are intriguing ideas over there was not enough to give it a book. I thought he would give more evidence of this shared hysteria of an imagined killer. Instead it was just a bunch of descriptions of unsolved murders. Then a w Meh Got this as a kindle first on prime. I love true crime and I am a forensics junkie. So I thought I would enjoy reading about a case I hadn't heard before. The problem is that most of the book is just spitting out more interesting cases. Mad City and the Capitol City killer are intriguing ideas over there was not enough to give it a book. I thought he would give more evidence of this shared hysteria of an imagined killer. Instead it was just a bunch of descriptions of unsolved murders. Then a well researched archive of other serial killers ( better done in serial killers A-Z) . The parts inbetween the cold cases and verbatim serial killer descriptions. The autor puts far more if his personal opinion in , than is needed in a non fiction book. How he felt the murders should have been unvestigated in the 70's. Even is opinion on the rebooted Point Break film. The part with Linda and her pursuit of Jorgensen seemed unrelated and necessary to the story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    There is a heroine of this book, Linda Tomaszewski, who spent her life tracking the man who killed her college roommate, Christine Rothschild. Unfortunately, Arntfield never really makes her come alive for the reader and explains her dedication beyond she made a promise. At times Arntfield seems to want to turn the book into a screed against the sloppy police work the he believes has led to the abysmal resolution rates for murder in most American cities. While the book's main focus is the killin There is a heroine of this book, Linda Tomaszewski, who spent her life tracking the man who killed her college roommate, Christine Rothschild. Unfortunately, Arntfield never really makes her come alive for the reader and explains her dedication beyond she made a promise. At times Arntfield seems to want to turn the book into a screed against the sloppy police work the he believes has led to the abysmal resolution rates for murder in most American cities. While the book's main focus is the killings of young college women in Madison, Wisconsin, it includes information about most of the identified serial killings in twentieth and twenty-first century America. The killing and ritual display of Christine Rothschild is a paradigm both of sexually motivated killers and the ineptitude of police departments in dealing with them, especially in the 1960s. Christine had actually talked to the university police about a man who was stalking and spying on her. Police tracked him to New York, as he left Madison almost immediately after the killing. He promised police officers to show up for a lie detector test, but when he didn't, according to Arntfield, nothing further was done. I was a graduate student in Madison when one of the episodes occurred; the young woman survived the attack. Arntfield, probably accurately, discusses the reasons why college campuses would go to great lengths to cover-up such attacks and killings on their campus. Arntfield also discusses the tendency of small town police forces to see even students at their own college as outsiders. This is a work of journalism, but I wish it had veered more into creating real and believable characters of everyone. The most vivid character ultimately is the most evil. I got this book through the Amazon Prime free new books for Kindles.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    Not Much of a Main Story While the writing is professional, the background information, at times multiple levels away from the main subject, takes up a majority of the book. There is little to no historical feeling in the book for how things were outside of short anecdotes - it can sometimes come across as a wholesale indictment of all law enforcement without examining their side of things. The resolution is disappointing. Big hat - No cattle.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Croushorn

    Mad City is more like Mad Country I thought this book was about the Campus Murders in Madison. They are addressed, but the author gives off on tangents about murders and murderers from all over the country and different time periods. The author will talk about the campus murders for a bit, go off on something else, and eventually get back to the murders for a while before going off again. Drove me nuts. Just tell me the story.

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