Cover Image: Helltown


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Member Reviews

Overall, I liked the idea of this true crime story and think it is one that not a lot of light has been shed on in recent years, but I didn’t fully enjoy how the book was written and at times it bored me. I think if you really enjoy true crime, this would be a book for you. It was interesting but slightly more than what I like as far as gruesome details.... however.... the story, the crimes, the murders, they truly were gruesome so the author was simply telling things as they should be told. Just wasnt for me. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!
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First sentence of the Author's Note at the end of the book: "Helltown is a work of fact told with elements of fiction storytelling." I really wish the book had led with this because one of the things I hated most about this book was that it seemed to try to hold itself out as nonfiction, but it was very clearly not based entirely in reality or any sources. It really gave it an overly sensationalized and tabloid-esque feel, which I don't care for. If I'm going to read about people who were brutally murdered, I care more about the investigation and how the killer was caught than some weird fantasy story about the killer's imaginary alter ego. It was so distracting that I actually stopped reading at one point to Google to make sure this serial killer was a real person. I wasn't confident whether I was reading fiction or nonfiction. Although the serial killer is indeed real, I'm still not really sure how much of the story was based on facts.

The author states at one point: Vonnegut did not believe that he had to color in the lines of true journalism. He was sure that Capote had used poetic license while writing his true crime masterpiece, In Cold Blood. The made-up details about Edie's supposed relationship with the accused killer were aimed at hooking the reader, and hook them he did.

If this is even true, the author obviously took this to heart, and it says a lot. If it's not true, it just shows the reaching for justification of what she did in this book. Either way, it didn't exactly hook me though. I actually found it quite off-putting. I struggled to finish the book at all.

I do not understand why the author went into such graphic detail about exactly how he sliced apart his victims. GRAPHIC. Detail. Multiple times. I wound up skipping over those parts. I find it in poor taste to go into such details about things like that. It's totally unnecessary to understanding that what he did was horrible, and it just robs the victims of dignity. Again. It would've been sufficient to say something along the lines of, he cut her up before he buried her. Or that he used her to practice what he read in this taxidermy book. That paints a vivid and tragic enough picture on its own. There were certain sections of the book that read like murder porn. Gross.

I'm confused why there's so much focus on Kurt Vonnegaut and Norman Mailer. I get they wrote articles about the murders, but why is that such a huge focus? Why did it matter at all? And why did it start so far in advance of them actually doing anything? Did we need to hear so much about Mailer trying to make a movie, for example? Why was half the book about them? If you needed so much filler material, maybe you needed more research on the actual topic. Or a new topic.

Also, why did the book include such long descriptions of so many other events? Surely if it was meant to set the reader into a frame of mind of what else was going on at the time, you could simply mention the moon landing. Everyone knows it in pretty explicit detail. We didnt need a play by play. Surely you could mention Chappaquiddick. It didn't need it's own chapter. Why are we getting into almost a whole chapter on the Manson Family now? The book seems so unfocused.

The whole thing at the end about this supposed disciple of Costa murdering her lover in the dunes, and then just.. going on with her life? Working at an occult bookstore in... Salem? What? Is this serious?  If you wanted to write some weird romance/fantasy novel based around murder then do that. I find it really annoying, frustrating and disgusting that you would involve real victims and their families in that nonsense. I would have never read this book if I knew the actual tone of it beforehand.
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I have read a lot of true crime books but this didn't follow the norm it was like reading a story about what ifs.  The story kept me engaged but it wasn't exactly what I had expected.
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This is a true crime story of a serial killer I did not know much about, Tony Costa. There are a lot of side chapters related to authors Normal Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut that are not explained up front and were confusing until you learned later on they were interested in writing about Costa, but they were so detailed and almost mini biographies (especially with Vonnegut) that it was distracting and really not needed as Costa’s story is enough on its own. The author does take some liberties with dialogues and notes that at the end, which was a bit disappointing as it would have been good to know up front, and being billed as nonfiction you expect to get the facts. 

Other than that, this was a fascinating story that kept my attention. The audio for this was well done and held my attention the entire time.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the digital copy to review.
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This book is based on true crimes committed by Anthony C. Acosta starting in 1961 spanning through the states of Vermont and Massachusetts. The author actually follows the horrific crimes that Acosta committed against young women who resembled his mother. This book is not for the faint hearted. It’s very graphic with the ways the murders were committed against these women. What was the actual motive for killing these women? Why was Acosta able to constantly avoid police lockup? Why did women trust him so much to be alone with him? How many women did he actually murder? There are still many questions left unanswered regarding his crimes. The author really did his due diligence in reviewing court transcripts, autopsy reports, conducting interviews with authorities, and  investigating additional leads and information. The way the author was able to capture the antagonist and protagonist was superb. I do believe that this book could’ve been much more condensed. It was an extremely huge book to read, and at times, it was almost too much to get through.  The ending was a little confusing for me with the Unidentified Female Body’s grave. At one point, it seemed like they should’ve been able to find out who it actually was, and then the author just stated that it was the Unidentified Female Body’s grave. That’s how the book ended.
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A very creepy tale of a real life serial killer in the Cape Cod area. Told in a manner that reads like historical fiction which makes this book both more readable, as well as less credible. From what I could tell, the most important details are accurate. It's that filler stuff used to make the book sound like a piece of real life history that blurs the edges between reality and fiction. 

There were minor details often reported, such as what song was playing on the radio while a victim was on their way to some location. In most cases, there was no way the author could know that. An unimportant detail describing the event, but it does serve to help set the scene within the time and place. If left to factual details alone, such a book can easily turn into reading like a police blotter. Embellishing with minor frill helps to fill out the scene with possible scenes that could have played out that way until the various subjects align with what was known to actually happen in real life. 

We get to know the killer early on, along with the trail of events and circumstances leading up to each gruesome murder, as well as his final outcome. Also noted, and with great detail, are two well know authors who happened to live in Cape Cod at the time and became very familiar with the impact of the killings within their community. Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer had their own dynamics and intrigues during this time, all helping to give us more insight into what may have played out at the time of these horrendous serial killings. Really not important to the telling of the story, but interesting in its own right for those who appreciate the world of books.  

As long as you are not a stickler for exact historical details, this does make for an interesting book. You need to go into this as though you were watching this play out in a movie where the director needs to fill in the gaps between how everything might have played out in real life. A worthwhile read if you are open to such telling of this tragic part of Cape Cod's history..
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I tried really, really hard to get into this book. I just could not do it. The premise seemed super intriguing, but this just fell flat for me. I was disappointed that it didn’t hit the mark for me. 
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book. I’m just so sorry it didn’t do it for me.
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This book was interesting story of a series of murders in Cape Cod. Reading about the killers thoughts and motives throughout the murders and trial were an interesting look into the murders and gave a different perspective on things, although this was embellished for the book. I did not like that the author included the stories of two characters who in my opinion, had nothing to do with the story. I found the sections that detailed about the two authors boring and thought the book could’ve done without it.
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While marketed as a non-fiction, true crime novel, Helltown is actually a mix of truth and artistic liberty. Having read The Babysitter, I was aware of serial killer, Tony Costa, and his depraved crimes but this book provided a lot more information about who Costa was and what drove him to commit his heinous acts. The part of this book that I found distracting and unnecessary was the connection the author attempted to make between Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, and Costa. There was a lot of information about Mailer and Vonnegut’s pasts and their rivalry with each other in addition to their connections to the Costa case/trial. It was almost like a completely different book. The information about Costa was fascinating but I wish that the author had stuck to actual timelines and not adjusted things for the stories sake.
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Unfortunately, I DNF this one.  I tried to get into it but just couldn't get drawn into the story.  Maybe I will try again later.
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Helltown is a true crime story about serial killer Tony Costa who terrorized Cape Town in 1969. He was only convicted of 2 murders (and there were more) and sentenced to life in prison x2. 

This book was gruesome. It took me over a month to read this because I had to keep putting it down and walking away. I also didn’t like the way this book was presented. I’m a facts person, just give me the facts and give them to me straight. This felt like an “as seen on tv true crime shows” recreation with added dialogue and tangents. I much would’ve preferred the author present this book without the added flair.  This read like a fiction novel instead of a true crime novel and I didn’t love it like I thought I would.
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This book was interesting and very well-written. I would likely want to read more from this author and will recommend this to friends. I can see why this book is so highly regarded.
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I ended up listening to this one on audio and it was a tough one.  I didn't enjoy it too much and it was a bit graphic, but understandable given the subject matter.
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I was excited to read Helltown based on it being a story about a Cape Cod serial killer. However, this was one that took me a bit to get into and actually want to finish. I’m a fan of imagery and descriptive writing, but this one was just a bit too wordy. I felt like instead of the story being enhanced the book was just using more words than necessary to hit a word count quota. Sadly, it just distracted me so much I could only read this a few chapters at a time and it took me a while to finish. By the time I’d go back to read more, I’d at times had forgotten what was happening in the story. Not my favorite.
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Thank you NetGalley, Sourcebooks, and Casey Sherman for this arc in exchange for my honest review.

I absolutely love true crime and this was a story I didn't know much about so I was very excited to read this book! While I had a hard time finishing this one, it was a little wordy for me at times, I did learn a lot!
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A serial killer with charisma!

Casey Sherman writes about a Serial Killer on Cape Cod in Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod. I am a fan of true crime stories. This is the first book written by this author that I've read. It's 1969, the height of the hippie era, and it's all about peace and love in Massachusetts. Well, not for all. Meet the twisted Tony Costa, he set his sights and terror on young women. It's interesting how writers, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer are caught in a competition for the next best writing subject, and then, here comes Costa. This book was written very well. It was detailed and terrifying, especially because of the truths in the story, and it is not just about Costa, but his victims, and the men who want to tell the story. Costa became one of Massachusetts' infamous serial killers, and this author has definitely been able to narrate the story in a way that shows the depth of each person, and how lives are intertwined. Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod is a definite recommendation by Amy's Bookshelf Reviews. I read this book to give my unbiased and honest review. I look forward to reading many more titles by this author. Amy's Bookshelf Reviews recommends that anyone who reads this book, to also write a review.
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Genre: True Crime
Format: Kindle eBook and Audiobook 
Date Published: 7/12/22
Author: Casey Sherman
Publisher: Sourcebooks & RB Media
Narrator: Casey Sherman
GR: 3.47

I requested a digital advanced readers copy from NetGalley and Sourcebooks & RB Media and providing my opinion voluntarily and unbiased.

Synopsis: Tony Costa is the leader of their counter-culture movement. 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, as the bodies are discovered, the police close in on him as the key suspect. Local writers Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer 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. While a notorious serial killer, he was only convicted of 2 murders due to forensic evidence. 

My Thoughts: The way the author portrayed this novel was unique. Dialogue was created as if the characters actually said these things, which we do not know for sure, it did add artistic flare and was not received well by all readers. The two author narratives seemed tangent and unnecessary, I skipped over these parts. The author did do extensive research to write this book, so that felt authentic, realistic, and appreciated. The ways murders are investigated today is much different than they were investigated in the 60’s and 70’s, which is why there maybe less serial killers today, than in previous years. This was a work of fictional and non-fictional attributes, which makes for an impressive true crime novel. The telling of these murders was gruesome and did not leave much to the imagination. I love true crime books and was left a little disappointed by this one. I think the two authors mixed with fictional aspects just turned the novel in a different direction.
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In 1969 in Massachusetts the hippie culture is alive and well, and found within it all is Tony Costa, also known as Sire to the women that swoon over and take drugs with him. Hidden behind this hippie facade, however, is a dangerous man intent on murder. When women begin to disappear, some of whom are connected to Tony, the police begin to zero in on him as their suspicions about him begin to grow. Can police prove Costa is the killer before another woman falls victim to his murderous rage?

Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer desperately wish to make their marks on the literary world, and to do so before and more effectively than the other. Both believe that the Tony Costa case may be the ticket to that literary immortality as they begin their own, individual investigations into Costa. Little do they know their obsession with these murders may lead to some negative consequesnces for both men.

Helltown has a lot going on within the pages. The reader is taken on multiple journeys as they experience events in the lives of Tony Costa, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer. While I appreciate the connections between these three men, I really would have been happier if there had been less time devoted to the two writers and more to the killer, his crimes, and his victims. The novel flowed well, even with the jumps between the major players, and was quite interesting. I felt that Sherman presented these crimes in a respectful, and not sensational, way.

If you are a fan of true crime, or one who wishes to know more about Vonnegut or Mailer, you should consider reading Helltown; it is enjoyable and informative.
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As a true crime fan, I often love the raw, real retelling of events. Helltown focuses on Tony Costa and the havoc he caused in Cape Cod. Unfortunately, I was not able to get through the entire book, but I appreciate having the opportunity to provide my review.
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This was a difficult one for me to review.  I like true crime books, but this was closer to creative non-fiction than an actual account and the fiction and embellishments are less great.  I understand it for dramatic effect, but I did feel that the plausibility was a bit pushed.
It was still an ok read, but just not what I was expecting.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in return for my honest opinion.
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