Description (from cover): “Before Charles Manson, there was Tony Costa–the serial killer of Cape Cod.
1969: The hippie scene is vibrant in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Long-haired teenagers roam the streets, strumming guitars and preaching about peace and love…and Tony Costa is at the center of it all. To a certain group of smitten young women, he is known as Sire–the leader of their counter-culture movement, the charming man who speaks eloquently and hands out hallucinogenic drugs like candy. But beneath his benign persona lies a twisted and uncontrollable rage that threatens to break loose at any moment. Tony Costa is the most dangerous man on Cape Cod, and no one who crosses his path is safe.
When young women begin to disappear, Costa’s natural charisma and good looks initially protect him from suspicion. But as the bodies are discovered, the police close in on him as the key suspect. Meanwhile, local writers Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer are locked in a desperate race to secure their legacies as great literary icons–and they both set their sights on Tony Costa and the drug-soaked hippie culture that he embodies as their next promising subject, launching independent investigations that stoke the competitive fires between two of the greatest American writers.
Immersive, unflinching, and shocking, Helltown is a landmark true crime narrative that transports us back to the turbulent late 1960s, reveals the secrets of a notorious serial killer, and unspools the threads connecting Costa, Vonnegut, and Mailer in the seaside city that played host to horrors unlike any ever seen before. New York Times bestselling author Casey Sherman has crafted a stunner.”
The 1960s and 1970s were some of the most prolific decades in American history for serial killers. Serial killers seemed to roam the great American landscape throughout these decades in a more prominent way that we don’t really see in future decades. While there are still serial killers these days, the 1960s and 1970s really shaped how investigators profile and hunt these vicious killers. A lot of the methods that were introduced during this time period are still in use today. Some of the famous serial killers from this time period include Charles Manson, the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy, and the Boston Strangler just to name a few. While you don’t hear much about Tony Costa, this book is his story. In 1969, Tony Costa is living in Provincetown in Cape Cod. He is a hippie, he is a drug user and dealer, he seems to be charming and has amassed a following of teenagers. These followers call him the Sire and he is their leader. While not essentially a cult in the true sense of the word, his followers believe in him and support him in everything he does.
This book tells the story from Tony’s point of view and also from the investigators as well. While this is a “true crime” novel, there is some fiction as the author provides commentary from Tony himself and what he was thinking as he viciously murdered four women. This book takes the reader briefly through Tony’s childhood and leads the reader up to the moments before the crimes, during the murders, through the investigations, and ultimately to Tony’s trial. While some of the fictional narrative of Tony seems a little overdone, the rest of the book and how everything weaves together was very well done. True crime is a hard genre as the author has to tell the story in a way to entice the reader, but stay true to the known facts. Sherman has nailed this and this book is good read if you are looking for something that is not overly fictionalized but well versed in the facts of the cases.
While in some parts of this book, I found the story dragged a little, I was fascinated to learn more about a serial killer that I knew nothing about. Serial killers, the investigations and profiling of them, and the mechanics that cause and encourage them to kill has long been an intrigue of mine. I have always wanted to learn more about why serial killers kill, why they choose the victims they ultimately murder, and what causes them to commit these atrocious crimes. While the side stories of Vonnegut and Mailer seemed a little excessive, this book was a great read. Sherman has several other true crime novels out there that might be worth checking out as well if you are into true crime like I am.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
Author: Casey Sherman
Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Genre: Nonfiction/True Crime
Get It: Amazon
Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.