Cover Image: Helltown

Helltown

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Member Reviews

Last year I read another account of the saga of Tony Costa entitled "The Babysitter". Helltown does what The Babysitter could only dream of. Casey Sherman brought these murders into the forefront, telling them in all of their gruesome details. Not especially a fire burning page turner, but more of a slow build up, readers won't be sorry if they take this journey that Sherman leads us on. Several holy shit moments ties the whole book together. I especially enjoyed that Sherman included the murder of the still unidentified Lady of the Dunes. Well done.
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I found this book to be … all over the place. I didn’t love the flow, or the side story of Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer. I found it unnecessarily gory and it is not a book I would recommend. 

I gave it two stars because it was well researched.
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An excellent look at an horrific crime, and one that doesn't seem to be as well-known all these years later as certain other crimes from the same period. I really enjoyed the parallel stories of the crime and it's detection, alongside the stories of Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut, at two very different points in their careers, coming together in a strange and weird ways to write about the case of Tony Costa. It's well-researched and well-constructed, and I appreciated the author's note about his processes at the end, as well.
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3.5 stars - I grew up in Massachusetts, but was unfamiliar with the story of serial killer Tony Costa on Cape Cod. The case ties in historic people and events, such as writers Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to the story, that occasionally overwhelmed the narrative. However, it was interesting to learn about a true crime case from my home state that is so gruesome, it's hard to imagine I hadn't heard about it before.
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Definitely a must read for New England true crime buffs. 

I really enjoyed how this book married the real events of Tony Costa’s murders throughout Cape Cod, the passion both Vonnegut and Mailer had for the case, the true events around the world that ground this in the time in history, along with the fabrications necessary to create a full story. 

As I read this, I found myself thinking a lot about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and realizing just how much better this was than the book about the Golden State Killer. 

The only thing for me that kept this from being a 5 was that there were parts that felt like they jumped around a bit for me. The book also felt a bit like details were added just for length. Also, the ending felt a little like it was included as a theory just to leave a cliffhanger. 

All in all, this book was good and worth the read if you’re into the true crime world.
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Amazing story that is well written and the plot line was good. The characters were easy to love and wanted to read more.
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Unfortunately, I was not a fan of this book and did not finish it. Advertised as a true crime story, the storyline seemed disjointed and was often overshadowed by the context, with Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut receiving more attention than the serial killer and his victims in the first quarter of the book. The style of writing was often flamboyant and over-the-top, which contrasted very badly with the descriptions and excerpts from Mailer and Vonnegut, both masters of prose. This was particularly noticeable when  the author attempted to combine the two.

> Rome was burning, and Vonnegut was more than a thousand miles away from its smouldering embers, a literary eunuch with no impact or personal observations to add to this historic event. “So it goes,” he whispered to the television screen.

In the end, I found the tangled threads of narrative to be distracting rather than adding to the story, with the result that I did not care to continue. Perhaps it is just not for me.
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I thought I knew all the big true crime stories, but I'd never heard of Tony Costa! This compelling and tightly paced story reminded me of "In Cold Blood" - a very high compliment! It wasn't just straight facts, but was woven into the context of a larger story. Highly recommended - 4.5/5.
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I’ve loved true crime forever, however I had never heard of this case before so I was beyond interested upon finishing this and found the book to follow along nicely!
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What a gruesome killer this Antone “Tony” Costa was! I like everything about this book, the time period, the hippie era, even the two dueling authors in the area wanting the story for themselves. Back in those days, I can just imagine how shocking these murders were. Grittier than the Manson killings of that time. This story definitely needed to be told. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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I have been an avid reader of true crime books since I was a teenager but I don't recall ever reading or hearing about Tony Costa. The story is written much like most true crime books, however, the parts with Vonnegut and Mailer were just distracting and added nothing. To me the book would be better served without it. Thank you to Netgalley, the author and publisher for an e-arc in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Compelling, well-researched true crime story in the vein of "In Cold Blood" or "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." I had never heard of these events at all, so it was all new information to me, presented in a fairly clear, mostly chronological timeline. The "B-story" about Mailer and Vonnegut was interesting and the sidebars about other events in 1969 - the moon landing, Chappaquiddick, and the Manson murders - provided relevant historical context to the overall atmosphere of the era. The only negative was that some of the dialogue in the first half of the book was very stilted and formal (people talk using contractions!) before the author turned to official reports and transcripts that sounded more realistic.
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I was very interested in this from the description. I enjoy true crime and want familiar with Tony Costa or the Provincetown murders, oddly, so thought this would be right up my alley. Imagine my surprise and irritation then, when it turns out that more than half of the book is not actually about him but about Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer and their back and forth as writers... It's a weird duality and one I found distracting and disjointed. I am not a fan of either of those authors, and the ridiculous over the top behavior of Vonnegut was particularly irritating. It completely destroyed my connection to the underlying story, which I did otherwise find interesting if gruesome. It felt like a bizarre way to tell both sets of stories and was a difficult and not very enjoyable read for me as a result.
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Sherman has managed to find a true crime case that hasn't been on every podcast and streaming service! I hadn't heard of Tony Costa before and I was compelled by the history of Cape Cod in the 60's and all of the research put into this book. I think people might be unhappy about the story about Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut since it takes up a big chunk of the book and may be disappointing to people who just want the true crime aspect.
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As this book is located in our state, I was excited to read it. But I've found having Vonnegut as a "character" here to be too distracting for some reason. It didn't feel authentic to me. I wasn't able to stick with it, unfortunately.
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I don’t read a lot of true crime because I have a fundamental issue with books that blur the line between fiction and non-fiction, dramatizing events and incorporating fictitious dialogue to flesh out scenes and drive a narrative based a true story.  Helltown offers well-researched insights into serial killer Tony Costa, his horrific crimes that are laid out in visceral detail, and his subsequent trial.  In addition, the book also tracks the experiences of real-life authors Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer who were tangentially connected to Costa’s story and ended up writing about the case.  Their dedicated chapters, while interesting, never failed to take me out of the story.  Nevertheless, if serial killers are your thing, this book does deliver an absorbing account of one of Cape Cod’s most notorious murderers.
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Say the phrases “serial killer,” “Cape Cod,” or “1960s” and I’m sold. BONUS POINTS if they’re in the same sentence!!! So one can imagine my excitement when I read the synopsis for this book. I’m typically very knowledgeable when it comes to true crime, however I was completely unfamiliar with this case. It was so interesting to read about the ins and outs of it. It was disturbing at many different points, as fans of true crime have come to expect in stories like these, but very well written. The only thing I didn’t enjoy, was the secondary storyline of Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer. It felt unnecessary  and even somewhat random. This was just my personal opinion though, and I’m sure many others will love this layer of the story! 3.5 stars from me! Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest review!
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Bizarre. Weird asides and random bits of I fo that have no real bearing on the main story. Do not recommend at all.
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DNF @14%

This was just not for me. Two things:

One: I don’t at all care for the story about Mailer and Vonnegut. At this point the chapters about the time period and these two authors are two times as long as the actual true crime story. And I’m not enjoying it.

Two: I don’t enjoy the writing style. The book has run-on sentences with way too much uninteresting details and it is written in a kind of fiction format, with dialogue and thoughts of people. But some of these people are actually dead, so how do we know that that’s what these victims were thinking? No one, besides our serial killer, who’s high half the time, could have possibly known about these conversations. Let alone the actual thought of his victims. I just prefer more a more fact-based story, if you will.

It just didn’t work for me, personally, while it might work for others. And even though I always push through on an arc so I can give an honest review, life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I’m moving on to books that are more my speed.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I have a difficult time rating this because of the story being told in this book. At first I thought this was a fictional story, when I did further research and saw that this was a real case, I was kind of shocked. Nothing has been sugar coated about the gruesome murders done by Tony Costa. Besides feeling sick to my stomach for most of this book, the story was interesting and I wanted to finish this book. I hadn’t heard about this case before, and that also made me want to finish the book. There were times where I had to collect myself before continuing to read due to it being very graphic, detailed and extremely disturbing. With that being said I advise you: Do NOT read this book if gory details makes you uncomfortable. Because you will be uncomfortable reading this book.
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