Cover Image: Helltown


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Member Reviews

I judged a book by its cover and was blown away by the way Casey Sherman structured this book. This was everything I’ve ever wanted in a true crime novel! The author did an outstanding job researching the life of the gruesome serial killer, Tony Costa, and gave readers an inside look into the history of events that occurred in Cape Cod in the 1970’s.

The author gave us a tour of Cape Cod and took us alongside Tony Costa, who was living the hippie lifestyle. He was charming, handsome, and women trusted him upon meeting him. He was an awful man with a sick mind that preyed on women and I’ll never stop thinking about what kind of person he was and what he did to those poor women.

I had no idea who Tony Costa was upon reading this book and found myself completely obsessed with this novel. Now that I’ve finished reading, I want to go back and read it again but a little slower this time.

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Helltown takes the reader to Provincetown, Cape Cod Massachusetts in 1969. In the era of Charles Manson a charismatic young man, Tony Costa, becomes the leader of a "cult" of women. Preaching about love, he is a serial killer.
At that historical moment Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer are on the cape competing for the role of best author.
Sherman takes us into the year and the pursuit of Costa.
A spine tingling true crime story

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Whoa! What a ride. It was very fast-paced. The writing style kept me hooked and I didn't find myself losing any interest. I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters and how real the story felt. The author did a great job painting the setting, so it was easy for me to visualize the scene played out before me. I recommend giving this one a chance!

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A very graphic but informative book. Very tragic to think of those young women losing their lives. It's sickening to this that someone could murder and dismember other people.

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A probing, engrossing study of a serial murder on Cape Cod, at approximately the same time as the events at Chappaquidiick and Ted Kennedy. The author does an impressive job of juggling different storylines, while keeping us involved in the twisted passions of the murderer and the hysteria his actions caused during one eventful year.. Recommended to true crime buffs.

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Fans of Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter will feel right at home with the new book Helltown. This true crime book is written in narrative form and follows serial killer Tony Costa,  who made his name as a violent killer. Hidden in plain side as an eloquent leader of the counter culture in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  People thought he was fantastic, as he handed out hallucinogenic drugs by the handful to locals.  At the same time, women began to disappear and Tony's charisma and good looks made many people overlook him as a possible suspect.  When he becomes a key suspect, local writers Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer both race to write about Costa and launch their own investigations.

I really wanted to fall headfirst into Helltown and read all the way through, but it just didn't grab me the way books like I'll Be Gone in the Dark. Casey Sherman is a solid writer, but this book feels like fiction instead of true crime and that's just not my style. Still, folks who love the classic true crime narrative of the 70s and 80s will likely fall madly in love with this book.

Helltown is available July 12, 2022 from Sourcebooks.

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Before Manson, there was Costa - a sadistic serial killer on Cape Cod. In the times of drugs and hippies, Costa preyed on women and hacked them to pieces. This nonfiction novel is reminiscent of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood or Casey Cep's Furious Hours. I loved every second of it and couldn't put it down!

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I have an uncanny obsession with true crime so when I saw Helltown, I knew without a doubt I had to submit a request and I am so happy I did.

This was a WILD story. Jam packed with knowledge, murder, and some cool little hippie vibe. Helltown, needs to be on every true crime lovers radar.

I never heard of Tony Costa but holy crap, now I will never forget him. This whole book was just absolutely insane. Please do yourself a favor and request this book and then obsessively search google for every little detail .

Five Stars

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A serial killer is on the loose a the end of the 1960's in the area of the Cape Cod bay, south of Boston. Young girls start to disappear but at it is at the time that even the most square youth might rapidly find their ways in the hippy community, it is difficult to discern the difference between a disappearance and a youthful search for freedom. That is until corpses start to appear and the police is on the hunt for Tony Costa.

To be honest, I had to take a break from the book, as it is very gruesome and the horrendous murders are very vividly detailed. The way the story is brought is almost in a non-fiction way with very detailed surroundings, well crafted characters and vivid dialogue. I often reminded myself: how can this be non-fiction? How does the author know how these characters would have spoken? Held themselves? React in certain situations? In combination with the gruesome content, I think my mind was even more comfortable reading this as non-fiction, unconsciously trying to push away the fact that all this has really happened. And I must say that this form of storytelling made a more compelling read than straight-out stating facts that you usually get from true crime. But I feel it is also more worrying, reading about true crime in a non-fiction way, it detaches the reader from a almost unbearable reality.

From the very start, the author draws in two authors - Vonnegut and Mailer - and finds lines towards Tony Costa and honestly, I feel these connections were superfluous. I understand why the author did this, but I thought it just dragged the whole story, to a point where I skipped the parts that were about the authors all together. This is a very long book and I think it would have been better, shorter and more concise, without these references.

A sincere thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks and the author for an advance copy in exchange for an honest reveiw.

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Thank you Barnes and Noble and NetGallery for this ARC.of Helltown.The author combined three different elements into his nonfiction book of two well-known authors and a young serial killer all residing in Provincetown,RI during the 60’s.This book is well written and researched but the murders were described very graphically and grotesquely which was difficult for me to read without putting down frequently to get a fresh breath of air.I was quite interested in the two authors,Mailer and Vonnegut which I knew little about but knew of their names, books,and movies associated with them. I would highly recommend this book just based on info about those two well known authors.

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I have heard of Tony Costa, the Cape Cod serial killer, before. However, I was not aware that he was from my hometown and that he had many ties to Boston. A couple of tidbits of information I was not aware of until I read this book: Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer were also on Cape Cod during this time period and the fact that Provincetown was so involved in the drug scene and hippies (growing up, Cape Cod was idyllic in my eyes), I enjoyed the research that went into the writing of this book. Not only did I learn something about my home city/state, the information from the police departments to the landladies added to the story. I highly recommend this book., but be forewarned, it can get pretty gruesome. (But I am guessing if you chose this book to read, you were expecting gruesome.)

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Almost killed the story, and it is a great one, with all the history in the first 90 pages but then we got in to "Terrible Tony" killing it on Cape Cod and it never slowed.

Good book, push through the early pages

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In the aftermath of the Vietnam war, with so many searching for peace, love and understanding, the stage was set for damaged narcissist Antone “Tony” Costa to play to peoples fears and desires to attain cult-like devotion. The evil so shallowly under the surface, as well as the simple “wrong place, wrong time” circumstances that allowed women who trusted or loved Tony to become victims and impacted those close to them, was chilling. The juxtaposed stories of Mailer and Vonnegut provided interesting perspective but for me, crowded the narrative and interrupted the cadence of the story. The witchcraft storyline also had a similar effect. Though I lived through the 60’s, I was a child. The glimpses into pervasive misogyny in the obvious forms, physical abuse and more subtle marginalization of women, the female juror told to just keep looking pretty, was also disturbing.

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Quick Take: The 1960’s was a crazy time for crime and Provincetown, Massachusetts is no exception.

Helltown by Casey Sherman combines multiple storylines all converging in Province Town Masschussetts, also known as “Helltown.” The main storyline follows Tony Costa, a serial killer, who murdered many young women. Woven into the story is a feud between Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer. While these concurrent storylines may seem jarring at first, they are all tied together in the end by Provincetown.

On the outside, Tony Costa appeared to be a mild-mannered, local handy man and low-level drug dealer. On the inside, Tony Costa’s alter ego Cody — was looking for his next victim. Costa could only get off if a woman were harmed or dead, this is what drove him to murder young women. Unfortunately, this was the 1960’s, a time when young women ran away and disappeared with regularity. So, when several young women were reported missing the local police didn’t take it very seriously. It wasn’t until the body of a young woman was discovered in the woods that police began to investigate.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys true crime. The book was well-written and kept my attention, especially on the parts about Tony Costa. I think this book would benefit from a Forward/Introduction written by the author explaining his vision for the book. Without a unifying vision and foreknowledge of the pieces, the beginning of the book feels disjointed.

Rating: 4/5
Genre: True Crime

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Wife vs Husband. Ones accused of hiring someone to murder the other. One is ready for revenge.

Olivia is spending five years in jail for hiring a hit on her husband, that she was framed for. Now after serving her time she is ready to recover her relationship with her daughter and even the score with Dominic. She has many friends on her side, but her husband has enough secrets to keep them guessing.

While mystery writing can commonly be found to have a few twists, and a few different supporting characters, this read felt like it had more to me. And yet, it worked. It wasn't overly busy, and confusing with all of these aspects. The beginning was a bit slow, but that is common. Then the twists and turns started happening, and I read through the book quickly.

The story kept me hooked from the beginning and the twists were amazing. There wasn't just a little bit of drama, it was everywhere, and I was living for it! Great read.

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I was unable to finish this book. After skimming the first few chapters, I decided it wasn't for me. As a general rule, I enjoy reading true crime, but I simply couldn't get interested in this book and finally gave up.

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Growing up with TV shows such as: Unsolved Mysteries, Dateline specials, City Confidential, and Cold Case Files, I am certainly no stranger to True Crime. Reading True Crime, however, is a first for me and it was Casey Sherman's 'Helltown' that roped me in and tempted me to give the genre a try.

Sherman weaves fact with fiction to outline the true story of Cape Cod serial killer Tony Costa. I was not previously familiar with Tony Costa's story, but Sherman's depictions were expertly narrated to provide thorough information throughout. Admittedly, I skimmed through the more gruesome details, which should only be a testament to Sherman's masterful writing – I was truly squeamish through the parts my eyes did brush over. This was a tough read for me in the sense that I had to remind myself that it was factual, and real victims were at the heart of a book I picked up for entertainment. That reflection had me wondering if perhaps I am not a right fit for this genre for the time being. While a parallel story of two writers ran between the telling of Costa's crimes, my attention toward their place in the big picture didn't hold. I chose not to finish the book at the half-way point, finding comfort with the events I ended on. Respectfully, I reviewed the Author's Notes and References at the end of the book, which I highly valued. I found Casey Sherman's dedication to the facts and details of the real life events admirable. The extensive research he completed to format this book is again, another testament to his mastery at his craft. I may not be the right reader for the entirety of this book but, Sherman offers True Crime enthusiasts a deeper look into a serial killer's story, the mindset of the small town he lived in, and the events of the world at that time as well. "Helltown' is a True Crime read that will certainly come to life for its audience.

I appreciate both the publisher, Sourcebooks (non-fiction), and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this electronic Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Netgalley free of charge in return for an honest and unbiased review.

In all fairness to the author, this just is not my style when it comes to true crime. I prefer my true crime clinical, with facts, and with a glossy section sandwiched somewhere in the middle abundant with slightly scandalous pictures.

My impression of "Helltown" is that it is trying to evoke something akin to "The Devil in the White City" - a book that I thoroughly enjoy. "Helltown", however, ultimately misses its mark. Similar to "Devil in the White City", "Helltown" uses an alternating chapter format to set the scene of a late 1960's Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Half of the book's chapters revolve around Antone "Tony" Costa - hippie, budding cult leader? (this is touched-upon towards the end with no real evidence presented), and serial killer. While there are some facts hidden within these chapters, they are presented as a story with completely fictionalized, frankly, downright corny dialogue that never happened.

The rest of the chapters revolve around Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Norman Mailer, and the late 1960's counter-culture. These chapters are less fictionalized, but are mostly comprised of random quotes made by or about Vonnegut and Mailer which are then mashed into something that resembles a narrative. The overall effect is clunky and awkward. In my opinion, these chapters were just trying to cover more than they needed to. There was a ton of skipping around and the overall read could have been greatly improved with some focus.

The sections on Mailer were of little significance and could have been weeded out completely. I didn't mind the sections on Vonnegut as he did write about and have some connection to Tony Costa (although the interactions between Edith Vonnegut and Costa were greatly exaggerated by Vonnegut himself in the July 25, 1969 article he wrote covering the murders for <i>LIFE</i> Magazine).

I also did not enjoy where, towards the end of the book, Sherman creates this "what if" scenario involving a follower of Costa, dubbed Strawberry Blonde, linking her to a completely unrelated unsolved murder. The implication is that the Cult of Costa lives on in Provincetown. Sherman explains that this part is completely fictionalized but not until the Author's Notes in the back and, realistically, how many people even read those? What a mess.

Oddly enough, my favorite part of "Helltown" is the Author's Notes. Sherman mentions his contact with Edith Vonnegut and Avis Johnson, Tony Costa's former wife. In the end, I would have preferred a book that incorporated more of the author's research presented as facts over the heavily fictionalized account that is "Helltown".

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This book was fantastic! It was indeed dark, but the storyline was captivating and well-rounded. The doses of nostalgia, and the author's clear admiration for Cape Cod made this book very enjoyable despite the heavy topic! I have already recommended this to several family members and friends.

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A fascinating look at a series of sociopathic killings that paralleled and yet was overshadowed by the Charlie Manson Family's Tate/LaBianca murders, which occurred around the same time. While those captured the world's attention, Tony Costa's activities slipped into obscurity. They are now resurrected in an excellent narrative by Casey Sherman. Beware that this is not a truly nonfiction work as broad poetic license is taken with many of the characters, including the very real life Normal Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. Yet, the story captivates and drags you along into a dark tale of just how evil some killers can be. Tony Costa was every bit as charismatic and manipulative as Manson and had his own bevy of witchy devoted followers. Did he truly have q dual personality or was he running a game on everyone? What were his true motives? The reader will decide. Once you begin this tale you will undoubtedly squirm a bit but putting it down will not be an option.

DP Lyle, Award-winning author of the Jake Longly and Cain/Harper thriller series

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