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Absolute Madness: A True Story of a Serial Killer, Race, and a City Divided

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Absolute Madness tells the disturbing true story of Joseph Christopher, a white serial killer who targeted black males and struck fear into the residents of Buffalo and New York City in the 1980s. Dubbed both the .22-Caliber Killer and the Midtown Slasher, Christopher allegedly claimed eighteen victims during a savage four-month spree across the state. The investigation, a Absolute Madness tells the disturbing true story of Joseph Christopher, a white serial killer who targeted black males and struck fear into the residents of Buffalo and New York City in the 1980s. Dubbed both the .22-Caliber Killer and the Midtown Slasher, Christopher allegedly claimed eighteen victims during a savage four-month spree across the state. The investigation, aided by famed FBI profiler John Douglas, drew national attention and biting criticism from Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders. The killer, when at last he was unmasked, seemed an unlikely candidate--a quiet, well-liked, church-going young man--to have held New York in a grip of terror. His capture was neither the end of the story nor the end of the racial strife, which flared anew during circuitous prosecutions and judicial rulings that prompted cries of a double standard in the justice system. Both a wrenching true crime story and an incisive portrait of dangerously discordant race relations in America, Absolute Madness also chronicles a lonely, vulnerable man's tragic descent into madness and the failure of the American mental health system that refused his pleas for help.


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Absolute Madness tells the disturbing true story of Joseph Christopher, a white serial killer who targeted black males and struck fear into the residents of Buffalo and New York City in the 1980s. Dubbed both the .22-Caliber Killer and the Midtown Slasher, Christopher allegedly claimed eighteen victims during a savage four-month spree across the state. The investigation, a Absolute Madness tells the disturbing true story of Joseph Christopher, a white serial killer who targeted black males and struck fear into the residents of Buffalo and New York City in the 1980s. Dubbed both the .22-Caliber Killer and the Midtown Slasher, Christopher allegedly claimed eighteen victims during a savage four-month spree across the state. The investigation, aided by famed FBI profiler John Douglas, drew national attention and biting criticism from Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders. The killer, when at last he was unmasked, seemed an unlikely candidate--a quiet, well-liked, church-going young man--to have held New York in a grip of terror. His capture was neither the end of the story nor the end of the racial strife, which flared anew during circuitous prosecutions and judicial rulings that prompted cries of a double standard in the justice system. Both a wrenching true crime story and an incisive portrait of dangerously discordant race relations in America, Absolute Madness also chronicles a lonely, vulnerable man's tragic descent into madness and the failure of the American mental health system that refused his pleas for help.

30 review for Absolute Madness: A True Story of a Serial Killer, Race, and a City Divided

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maggies Daisy

    True crime author Catherine Pelonero presents the facts in what has become an all too typical occurrence in our society when individuals have fallen through the mental health wormhole of our nation to become serial killers or mass murderers. From page one I was intrigued by how the story unfolded from the first murders in Buffalo where the suspect used a .22 caliber gun and on into New York City where he stabbed several unarmed men to death. It was like a puzzle unfolding how the Police were abl True crime author Catherine Pelonero presents the facts in what has become an all too typical occurrence in our society when individuals have fallen through the mental health wormhole of our nation to become serial killers or mass murderers. From page one I was intrigued by how the story unfolded from the first murders in Buffalo where the suspect used a .22 caliber gun and on into New York City where he stabbed several unarmed men to death. It was like a puzzle unfolding how the Police were able to piece together who the suspect might be even though he did not resemble his wanted posters in any way. While the killer targeted blacks, he felt that he was not a racist while many believed he was. If Joesph Christopher had received treatment when he asked for it would his victims still be alive? Why are we still having these problems of individuals in our society not receiving help? Get your copy today! I received this hardcover book from #Goodreads in exchange for an honest review of this novel published by Skyhorse Publishing November of 2017.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    A deeply researched and thoughtfully written book that told me a great deal about Joe Christopher that I never knew. A tragic picture of the ways a competency exam, performed by an incompetent evaluator, can make justice go wrong. It also makes clear that finding the right psychiatric answers and talented lawyers doing everything they're allowed to do may not be enough to bring a just result. Very well written. Highly recommended. A deeply researched and thoughtfully written book that told me a great deal about Joe Christopher that I never knew. A tragic picture of the ways a competency exam, performed by an incompetent evaluator, can make justice go wrong. It also makes clear that finding the right psychiatric answers and talented lawyers doing everything they're allowed to do may not be enough to bring a just result. Very well written. Highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Micky Lee

    a crazy story of a young man turned killer it is about racism and mental health issues I truly believe Joseph Christopher was mentally ill and was before he started killing but no one saw the signs a good but sad story for the people he killed and for him

  4. 5 out of 5

    C

    I won this book on Good Read giveaways for my honest opinion and I honestly really enjoyed it. Once I got into it, I didn't want to put it down sometimes even while my stomach growled, that's how bad I didn't care about much else. I thought that the writing was superb and the facts were timely investigated. There weren't many chapters but in between it didn't matter as the book had my full attention. I liked the ppl in this book and felt sorry for the victims and their families. I almost felt a I won this book on Good Read giveaways for my honest opinion and I honestly really enjoyed it. Once I got into it, I didn't want to put it down sometimes even while my stomach growled, that's how bad I didn't care about much else. I thought that the writing was superb and the facts were timely investigated. There weren't many chapters but in between it didn't matter as the book had my full attention. I liked the ppl in this book and felt sorry for the victims and their families. I almost felt a part of the story, the author sucked you in. Also, I could feel the attorneys frustration and the crimes of hysteria on the States this was happening too. I would read more by this author. I received this copy in very good condition. Thanks again Good Reads and thank you Skyhorse Publishing for the opportunity to emerge myself into this great novel. And of course the author for making all this possible. Cherie'

  5. 4 out of 5

    Harvey Smith

    Very interesting read about an unlikely white serial killer who killed blacks. The story tells of the murders, the victims, the various investigations, and ultimately how the perpetrator was discovered and caught. More interesting is a look at how the justice system worked in this case, how mentally ill the killer was, and how the mental health system failed him...and his victims. Taking a look at how mental illness claimed this individual was unsettling, but informative. Taking a look at the Ame Very interesting read about an unlikely white serial killer who killed blacks. The story tells of the murders, the victims, the various investigations, and ultimately how the perpetrator was discovered and caught. More interesting is a look at how the justice system worked in this case, how mentally ill the killer was, and how the mental health system failed him...and his victims. Taking a look at how mental illness claimed this individual was unsettling, but informative. Taking a look at the American criminal justice and how it works, and doesn’t work so well sometimes was also worth realizing. You know this ends with a mentally serial killer being put to death, but it took years of process.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    You're probably going to get far more out of this book if you're familiar with Buffalo than if you're not. On its own, it's a straightforward story of a little-known serial killer. To someone who's from the Buffalo area but wasn't born until after most of these events transpired, and whose family didn't talk about it... I knew about the city's reputation for crime and systemic racism, but this book really provided me with a huge amount of insight on a specific part of Buffalo's history that I bar You're probably going to get far more out of this book if you're familiar with Buffalo than if you're not. On its own, it's a straightforward story of a little-known serial killer. To someone who's from the Buffalo area but wasn't born until after most of these events transpired, and whose family didn't talk about it... I knew about the city's reputation for crime and systemic racism, but this book really provided me with a huge amount of insight on a specific part of Buffalo's history that I barely knew about.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    I think this is an important story of a white terrorist that needed to be told. It begs the question: why have I not heard of him before now when he killed/wounded 17 African Americans and POC in an escalating frenzy? Having said that, I think the author missed an attempt at a far more nuanced conversation about race in America. There was a lot of retroactive tone policing. Definitely wanting for a more compassionate treatment of how the African American community of Buffalo reacted to such a di I think this is an important story of a white terrorist that needed to be told. It begs the question: why have I not heard of him before now when he killed/wounded 17 African Americans and POC in an escalating frenzy? Having said that, I think the author missed an attempt at a far more nuanced conversation about race in America. There was a lot of retroactive tone policing. Definitely wanting for a more compassionate treatment of how the African American community of Buffalo reacted to such a disturbed racist killer on the loose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda M

    If you like police procedurals without ANY flowery language or creative narration, this might be the book for you. The first half is detail-oriented chronicling of crimes, and the second half is sort of an inadvertent commentary/criticism of the NYC justice system in the 80s. I tend to like my true crime books a bit more embellished.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    A look at our legal system and mental illness Three stars. The details of these crimes were examined but in a somewhat disjointed way. Sadly, the truth about why Joseph Christopher Miller may never be known. The author critiques the justice system's handling of those who are mentally ill. A look at our legal system and mental illness Three stars. The details of these crimes were examined but in a somewhat disjointed way. Sadly, the truth about why Joseph Christopher Miller may never be known. The author critiques the justice system's handling of those who are mentally ill.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    The true story of Joseph Christopher, a white serial killer who targeted black males and struck fear into the residents of Buffalo and New York City in the 1980s. Dubbed both the .22-Caliber Killer and the Midtown Slasher, Christopher allegedly claimed eighteen victims during a savage four-month spree across the state. An absorbing true crime story but needed more editing and a tighter narrative.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Ambruso

    Very detailed After reading about 20% of the book, I just didn't care any more, not about the killer, not about the victims, and not about the police. Too much dry detail. No excitement. Very detailed After reading about 20% of the book, I just didn't care any more, not about the killer, not about the victims, and not about the police. Too much dry detail. No excitement.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This was a really good read about a case that I knew very little about. It looked not just at the crimes but the effect it had on the community.

  13. 5 out of 5

    R.J. Montemayor

    A very sad story Thirteen lives lost. A very sad suspect genuinely guilty. A criminal justice system that failed. Nothing good came from this story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary E. Rollis

    Meticulously Researched The author failed, miserably, to make the crimes OR the perpetrator anything but dull. I do, in a very heartfelt manner, apologize to the family and friends of the victims! It's not at all my intention to imply they themselves were boring or dull. Rather, their lives and deaths read more like a shopping list than flesh and bones murdered victims. I don't this was the author's intent but as always, too much attention is focused on the sick bastids (puppies would totally den Meticulously Researched The author failed, miserably, to make the crimes OR the perpetrator anything but dull. I do, in a very heartfelt manner, apologize to the family and friends of the victims! It's not at all my intention to imply they themselves were boring or dull. Rather, their lives and deaths read more like a shopping list than flesh and bones murdered victims. I don't this was the author's intent but as always, too much attention is focused on the sick bastids (puppies would totally denigrate noble canines) who commit callous acts and a disproportionate less time is spent on celebrating the worth and lives of the murderer's VICTIMS.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Madona Gorney

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liska

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trudy Snowball

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lace

  20. 5 out of 5

    Catalin Stefan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Philip

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mordecai

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maria Doverspike

  26. 5 out of 5

    Henry

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

  28. 4 out of 5

    Judy Gorenc

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

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