Cover Image: Helltown


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Member Reviews

*I received both an audiobook and e-book copy* I loved listening to this audiobook! The narrator had the perfect tone, and everything was said clear and concisely. I'm a big fan of serial killer stories and learning more about them, their life, and all details leading up to their incarceration and ultimate demise.

I had no idea who Tony Costa was before this and have definitely looked into him a lot more since I have finished this book. I did have to stop a few times while listening, for how detailed some of the killings were described. But it made me feel as if I was really there in that moment as a detective getting all the information. So for that reason, and that reason alone, I had to bump my rating down from a 5 star to a 4 star. I can not wait to pick up a finished copy of this to put onto my serial killer shelf in my library!
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Thank you netgalley for letting me review this book.

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I really liked reading about a serial killer I did not know anything about. This book was hard to read at certain times, but I did enjoy all the details of the crimes. 

#netgalley #Helltown
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I am a true crime fan but really struggled through this one. I am not a fan of the written dialogue. If I’m reading true crime I want facts not speculative dialogue. If you want a true crime nonfiction that reads like fiction, then you would probably like this one.

Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read for review.
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This book was so hard to get through. Like it took me months. Partly because of the format of the book partly because of the story. I really would love to give it another shot, maybe audiobook next time.
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“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” emits from handheld radios on the beaches of Cape Cod while young people full of hope (and high on LSD) make each other crowns of hydrangeas. Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer, rival authors both in the midst of writing seminal pieces of their career, become obsessed with local serial killer Tony Costa. Costa, a known drug dealer and police informant, is a hometown cult figure, always followed by his groupies, many of whom the town believe are witches. Costa would go on to commit gruesome atrocities against many young women in the vacation town of Provincetown, MA located at the northern tip of Cape Cod. Before there was Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders, Costa driven by his alter ego Cory Devereaux, would hunt young women and use his knowledge in taxidermy and anatomy to perform cruel acts upon their lifeless bodies. This was a book I couldn’t put down! I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this case before, but Manson came right as these events went to trial. Costa was even jealous and would speak about Manson during his time in jail. It’s interesting to hear the impact this case had upon the work of Mailer and Vonnegut as well. As you can imagine, extreme trigger warning for violence and SA. The one aspect that kept me from giving the full 5 stars is that I felt like it was a bit too long with the chapters about the 2 rival authors. I understand that it was building interest and insight into why they wanted to write about the case, but some of that I found to be a little dry.
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Wow!  The 60’s were just a time of drugs, love, and serial killers.  In Casey Sherman’s book, Hell Town, they recount the story of Tony Costa, the Cape Cod serial killer.  Tony Costa is a charming young man which causes women of all ages to flock to him.  In fact, he quickly became the image of their counter-culture movement.  But Tony is hiding a deadly secret.  

It isn’t long before women start disappearing around Cape Cod.  It is the 60’s and all.  While he was overlooked in the beginning, even Tony Costa’s charisma can’t protect him from the consequences of his own actions.  It isn’t just the police though that are after Costa.  Two of America’s greatest writers are also looking to finger him for his crimes, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman  Mailer.  

If you are looking for all the gory details, then pick up this book.  If that is not your thing, I suggest you proceed with caution.  Read the trigger warnings and some background on the original crimes so that you are prepared when you pick this book up.  I am a huge true crime fan.  I read a lot of different genre’s but my go to is either horror or true crime.  What threw me off with this book, is the writing style.  If you read a lot of true crime and nonfiction books, there is a writing style that you expect to see.  This book is written in a different way.  Sherman’s storytelling quickly transports you to Cape Cod in 1969.  He does it with a fiction-esque style.  It was a different type of writing for a true crime novel.  Sherman did his best with recreating different dialogues throughout the story with key players.  

I would recommend this book to someone who doesn’t traditionally read true crime/nonfiction.  
Thank you Netgalley, Sourcebooks, and Casey Sherman for providing me this ARC in exchange for my honest unbiased review!
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(Thank you very much to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.)

Prior to this book, I had actually never heard the horrific story of American serial killer Tony Costa. His obsession with cutting women up like taxidermy projects, these details are not for the faint of heart. A truly sadistic man.

The author does a phenomenal job not just telling you about Tony and how he became aware of the victims and the details of the murders, he also digs deep into the lives and stories of the victims, the journalists covering the stories, families, friends, etc. so you really feel you are getting to truly know the story. You aren't missing a thing.

A truly fascinating dive into the sadistic mind of a despicable man and his unfortunate victims who had so much more life left to live.
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Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks for a copy of Helltown by Casey Sherman in exchange for an honest review. 

Helltown: The Untold Story of Serial Murder on Cape Cod is a nonfiction, true crime story about the 60's and Tony Costa who was the most dangerous man on 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."

This book did make me want to look more into the crimes of Antone “Tony” Costa. The only thing that put me off about this novel is the author writing out dialogue that more than likely did not occur between the real life people the book is written about. The fictional elements threw me some, but other than that, still a fascinating read.
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This case was already pretty familiar to me but I really enjoyed how the author put her own unique take on the story! She was eloquent and i really enjoyed her writing style!
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Helltown is a good true crime novel about a serial killer I had not heard about. It is a chilling read, and the setting really adds to the mystery.
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DNF @ 10%. The story focused too much on extraneous stories (Vonnegut, Mailer) and I hadn’t yet felt pulled in to the rest of the plot.
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This book was very interesting as I have never heard of this killer and I am live close to the area where this took place.  The book did go back and forth from the murderer to historical events happening at the same time and focused on two famous authors who lived in the area.  This added some VERY interesting local facts it also could be a distraction from the story.  Many times I had to reread what was happening with the characters in this story after it would jump to what was going on locally at the same time.
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I love me some true crime and this was no different. I have not heard of Tony Costa and this story was interesting to read about.
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As disturbing of a story this was, I did enjoy the book.  It was interesting to read a story on Cape Cod since I have never been there.  I loved how the author brought in so many historical events of the time period.  Would definitely read other books by this author.
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I never understood the deal with Mailer and Vonnegut. This story has alot of unnecessary details. It did feel like it was fiction more than true crime. Maybe it would've been better without speculations oh what the victims were feeling and without the unnecessary writing about the friction/feud between the authors and more on the history/biography of the killer.
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A definite purchase for libraries with a strong True Crime Reader Base, an interesting look at a lesser know serial killer
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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

Series: N/A

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Pages: 468

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.
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This book surprised me with how graphic the details were of murder. The writing was intriguing and captivating. I was very immersed in this story!
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Story of the book-

Provincetown, Massachusetts, has a thriving hippy community. Tony Costa is in the center of the long-haired adolescents who are preaching love and peace while strumming their guitars as they wander the streets. He is known as Sire to a select number of enamored young ladies. He is the charismatic head of their counter-culture movement and gives out hallucinatory substances like candy. But a dark, uncontrolled hatred that lurks underneath his amiable exterior is just waiting to erupt. No one on Cape Cod is safe from Tony Costa, who is the most dangerous person there.

Costa’s inherent charm and excellent looks first shield him from suspicion when young ladies start to vanish. However, when more deaths are found, the police zero in on him as the prime suspect. While Tony Costa and the drug-soaked hippie culture he represents are their next promising subject, local authors Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer, two of the greatest American writers, are locked in a desperate race to secure their legacies as great literary icons. They each launch their independent investigations that fuel their rivalry.

My review-

Helltown is a groundbreaking true crime story that transports us back to the turbulent late 1960s, reveals the secrets of a notorious serial killer, and unravels the connections between Costa, Vonnegut, and Mailer in the seaside city that played host to horrors unlike anything ever seen before. It is immersive, unflinching, and shocking. Beginning with two authors—Vonnegut and Mailer—and finding ties to Tony Costa, I must admit that I thought these connections were unnecessary. Helltown was intriguing from a real crime perspective, however, the author took considerable artistic license by rewriting the possible conversation between all participants.

I just wasn’t into this book. This novel felt way too fabricated to me as someone who enjoys actual crime. When it comes to guessing the emotions of the murderer and victims, the author took a lot of liberties. As a result, this had a considerably more literary tone than a non-fiction book. This did not work for me since what I like about true crime are the facts and specifics rather than the sentiments. The killings and the trial occur, but a lot of the other information seems to be fake. A lot of the relationships, personal thoughts, and speech are made up, along with the clichéd banter. This is stuffed to the brim. To be fair to the author, I just don’t read real crime the way you do. I prefer my true crime to be factual, and clinical, and to have a glossy section full of mildly salacious images sandwiched in the center.

Additionally, HELLTOWN moved about from one character to another, apparently unconnected character, and their tale, and it just got confusing and superfluous, with the parts barely coming together by the end. There may be fewer serial murderers today than in earlier years because of how murders are handled today, which is very different from how they were probed in the 1960s and 1970s. This was a work that combined elements of fiction and non-fiction, making it an excellent real crime book. These killings were described in a graphic manner that did not leave much room for the imagination. I adore real crime novels, so I felt a little let down by this one. I believe that the two authors’ blending of factual and creative elements only changed the course of the book.
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I have decided to read books this year (2023) that are either true stories, based on true stories, or about real people.  This will include reading some books about real serial killers, like this one.  Helltown tells the story of Antone "Tony" Costa, who was convicted of murdering 2 women in Provincetown, located at the tip of Cape Cod.  He murdered more but there was not enough evidence to support those murders.

Be forewarned - this book is graphic.  The author very graphically describes the murders of these two women.  I actually had to skip over those parts.

Tony Costa's murder spree took place in 1969 and 1970.  He was a drug dealer in Provincetown but also snitched to the local cops as to who else was dealing drugs in town.  He was called "Sire" by his followers in town and had even drawn the attention of authors Kurt Vonnegut, Jr and Norman Mailer.  The chapters that included these 2 authors was not necessary, in my opinion, but I kind of see why the author included them.

There is a brief mention of the Sharon Tate murders and Chappaquiddick as these events both take place during the timeframe of this book.
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