Cover Image: Helltown


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Member Reviews

I received a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

I normally enjoy the true crime genre, but had a very difficult time getting into this one. The pacing felt extremely slow and most of the time I didn't know if I was reading a book that was intended to be historical fiction or biography and whether it was meant to be about Tony Costa, Kurt Vonnegut, or Norman Mailer. Any one of these people would have made for an interesting topic, but a book that continuously shifts gears and shuffles between all three was difficult for me to keep my head in.
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I am usually a huge fan of True Crime but wasn’t a fan of the way this was written. I felt that it was a little to fictionalized and the start was a little slow.
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The story of Antone Costa’s victims is tragic, but unfortunately they were not the main focus of the book.  I felt that too much focus was placed on Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut and their feud rather than on the killer or his victims. That said, I found the story interesting and well written and it has haunted my mind for days after finishing it.
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I am a fan of true crime but I had never seen anything about of heard of the gruesome murders in Provincetown. This gruesome but very well written account of the 60's drug culture, unique population of Provincetown and the grisly murders that rocked the region is a page turner even though the reader already knows the outcome.  I became totally immersed in the town and it's people.  One of the best true crime books I've read.
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As a person who doesn't usually read true-crime, I had high expectations for Helltown. It was the first book I read about a serial killer and I expected it to blow me away. However, the narrative of this book became difficult for me to empathize with due to the additional information the author added that was not real. 

The research is definitely visible within the pages of the book, but the dialogues of the characters and the scenes where the imagination of the author shines through turn this book into a fictional story about a serial killer who happened to be real. 

The description of the book promised something different. I guess I wasn't that into the way the author chose to portray the killer. But, that's on me.

The writing is good and so is the premise, but this was a three-star for me.

If you're already an avid true-crime reader, give this one a try. I'd love to read different opinions.

Thank you to Sourcebooks, Casey Sherman, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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*Thank you to Sourcebooks, Casey Sherman, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Previously published at

I rarely say this but this novel, part true crime and part fictionalization of a serial killer in Provincetown in the late 1960s, is amazing.

With the rivalry of writers, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer who lived on the same street to a bit of Chappaquidik, to a piece of the Manson murders, this book has it all. With admitting that the first chapters did not pull me in, I absolutely could not put it down after the third or fourth chapter. 

Antone “Tony” Costa was a serial killer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, who achieved notoriety, similar to Charles Manson, for the brutal murders of several woman, cutting them into pieces, removing their heads in one instance and cutting them in half, burying them in the woods in Truro. On January 24, 1969, Patricia Walsh and Mary Anne Wysocki vanished during a trip to Provincetown from their hometown in Providence, Rhode Island. They were staying in a rooming house where Tony Costa was also staying. They found their bodies when a rival of Tony, Cory Deveraux, pointed out Costa’s secret marijuana garden in the woods of Truro. While searching for Walsh and Wysocki’s bodies, they were able to uncover the bodies of Susan Perry and Sydney Monzon, also reported missing. All bodies were mutilated and in various states of decay. Tony Costa was also in possession of Walsh’s Volkswagen, which he said had been exchanged for drugs. The murders were committed around the same time as the Manson murders in Los Angeles, and the bodies were similarly mutilated. Like Manson, Costa had his own following, though smaller. 

District Attorney Edmund Dinis, running for re-election in Provincetown, gained notoriety for his garish description of the murders – “The hearts of each girl had been removed from the bodies and were not in the graves…Each body was cut into as many parts as there are joints.” He went on to say also that there were teeth marks on the bodies as well, coining the phrase “vampire killer.” Dinis was also infamous for his involvement in the incident at Chappaquiddick involving Ted Kennedy and his cover-up of certain details as to not rile the infamous Kennedy family, royalty in Massachusetts.

Rival writers Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. lived down the street from each other in Provincetown and were bitter rivals. While Mailer had no connection to the Costa murders, Vonnegut’s daughter Edie had possibly met Costa in another setting, though she “wasn’t sure it was him”. While both wrote about this case. Mailer writing Tough Guys Don’t Dance and Vonnegut’s anthologizing in Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons, Vonnegut was infinitely more successful., even writing an article for Life magazine. Sherman does an excellent job of giving interesting biographies of both prolific authors. Though I wished for more on the actual serial killer than the authors, who were at least 50% of the book. 

While Sherman took conversational liberties in Helltown, specifically the dialogue between Costa and his alter ego, Cory Deveraux, also the name of his rival in the Provincetown drug trade. The author, in his final notes, had also gained access to Costa’s unpublished manuscript, which I am sure gave him credible research. While Helltown is an amazing recount of this true crime, it is so much more. Sherman was able to flawlessly weave stories that happened around the same time. One of the best books I have read this year.
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Helltown combines an interesting mix of events in this ugly true story.  In Provincetown, MA, a serial murderer is suspected when women began to disappear. The murders were committed in the 1960s and the author used this backdrop throughout the book. Cape Cod residents, and rivals, Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut were included in this backdrop.  I got a good feel for Provincetown in the off-season. The characters were distinct. Tony Costa and his mother were the people I remember the most. Tony had some big problems that helped explain his actions. Getting to court and the trial was interesting. The book took the mix of big events from the 1960s and strung them along as part of the backdrop, but this information didn't add to the story of Tony. I would have liked to get deeper into the Mailer/Vonnegut contest. The personalities and home life were distracting from the main character, Tony. In all, I didn't find it a compelling read.

I received this advance copy from NetGalley and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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As a fan of true crime and serial killers of sort I was so excited to read this book. I will say this was not what I was expecting. No don't give me wrong this was a very well researched book and it was very well written, however while I thought this would be about crime the author added in an additional story to it to me it just really didn't make sense to go into this book based on what it was about. While I understand why he put it in there I just don't feel like I wanted to know that information and it kind of just turned me off. I really really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't get past all the back-and-forth and sadly it just wasn't for me. This was my honest review upon receiving this ARC.
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Helltown is set in Provincetown and even though I have lived in Massachusetts for 31 years, I had never heard of serial killer Tony Costa — and I know my serial killers! Costa may have murdered as many as eight people from 1966-1969.

I didn't expect to read this as a work of creative nonfiction rather than just-the-facts true crime. Casey Sherman is a talented writer, but he should have left the imagined dialogue to experts like the late great Truman Capote. Helltown is not In Cold Blood by any stretch, but it does have a trick up its sleeve: a rivalry between two literary legends, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Norman Mailer. Both authors were working in Provincetown at the time. This book is well researched with gritty details of the murders and the historical events happening at the time.

The sections involving Costa's murders are brutal and the story is fascinating. If only Sherman had kept his focus on the crimes and not EVERY other event going on at the time. Apart from Vonnegut and Mailer, readers are distracted from the killings by mentions of the moon landing, the Manson murders, and even Ted Kennedy at Chappaquiddick, The book is simply too long, and that's a shame because it could have been great.
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Could. Not. Put. This. Down. Great for true crime fans who want a fast and creepy read. I enjoyed the way the story developed and the overall structure.  Highly recommend.
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Thank you SOURCEBOOKS and Netgalley for this ARC. 

This book is out and available now. I give this book 3.5 stars. I loved her crime. I listen or watch almost daily. I've never heard of Antone Costa. I'm glad I learned about him and his crimes. I think it's important to have victims stories heard even if it is through the killer. I did feel the book was a little slow. But I did find it interesting about learning about these crimes that I had not heard about. It took me a little bit to get through. I just feel like it was a little long but overall it was a solid true crime book.
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Really loved the premise but ft there were to many subplots going on. I was fascinated by the story however as I had never heard of this serial killer and I enjoyed learning about them!
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Thank you to @SourceBooks and #NetGalley for the digital ARC. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
As a true crime fan, this book caught my eye because I had never heard of Tony Costa (I abandoned "The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer" by Liza Rodman). And I wasn't disappointed. Sherman shares the intriguing story of Costa, a charming hippie with loyal female followers who's battling his raging alter ego. Combined with the overlapping stories of Chappaquiddick, Kurt Vonnegut vs. Norman Mailer and the Manson murders (which overshadow Tony's crimes) and you've got a really great read about a turbulent time in the US.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for an advanced electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Tony Costa - the serial killer on Cape Cod. True crime: dark and unforgiving.

Was the premise interesting? Yes. Were all of the sections about Tony Costa engaging? Absolutely. However, there were so many people discussed in the story without any obvious connection. It made sense to talk about some individuals who linked to the narrative, but others made me wonder why they were included at all. It may be a case of "it will all make sense later," but I found it frustrating because it felt like it was dragging as I read it.
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The became interesting. It started out tedious and seemed to be about a feud between two writers. The novel had too many subplots going on. But eventually it got on track. Once that happened the book was  interesting.
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I had never heard anything about these events before going into this book so I can easily say that this was a wild ride from start to finish. If you listen to true crime podcasts this would be a good one for you.
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Helltown by Casey Sherman, when I first learned of this, I was super excited, thought this was a true crime novel, however there was , it seemed to me, more fiction throughout. Still not sure how I feel about that. 3 stars, I feel like the author did well with gathering information and background for this, I just couldn't immerse myself into the fact and fiction aspect of this story. Thank You to Netgalley, and the author for the complementary ebook.
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I received this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Who knew there was another Manson like serial killer in the US in the late 60's. Not me! How did I not hear of this killer like we did of Manson? 

The story started off kinda slow for me and I couldn't figure out why there was so much attention being given to Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. Like what do they have to do with a serial killer. I feel like a lot of that backstory could have gone away and not impacted the overall story. The last half of the story was much better.

Part of this are pretty hard to read and I had to take breaks so I didn't have nightmares. I can't imagine being on this jury.

While the subject was fascinating, the book was about 100 pages too long
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This is a thick book, that a thin book was screaming to get out of. 
The true crime portion of Tony Costa was FASCINATING! I had never heard of this serial killer and his gruesome crimes. I thought that the author did a great job of going over the details of how Tony lured the women to their deaths.

However, the parts with Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut was quite unnecessary and I felt that the author really editorialized what the authors was thinking/feeling.
Further the Norman Mailer connection could have been completely removed from the book and it would have been just fine. 

Another disappointing addition to the book was the addons....what I mean is that the author added on the moon landing, Mailers coverage of the moon landing, what Vonnegut thought of the moon landing, Ed Kennedy killing a lady, Charlie Manson....if something happened near the time of the Costa killings.....this author put it in. 

I almost gave up on this book at the 15% mark, when the book got bogged down on the Norman Mailer/Kurt Vonnegut the end, I am glad that I stuck with it because I learned about Tony.

I wished that the author had updated the readers on if the District Attorney who prosecuted Tony, did he seek re-election?
Did "STrawberry Blonde" really kill the lady in the dunes? OR was that just made up?

Overall this book couldn't be called True Crime, nor could it be outright fiction.
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I was intrigued by this unfamiliar true crime story, as Cape Cod is a favorite vacation spot, and I was curious about this dark period in its history. Unfortunately, the book was a difficult read with the horrifyingly gruesome details of the murders. Rather than narrative, these passages felt gratuitous and contrived in a way that was off-putting. I was expecting/hoping for more of an "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" type of treatment, but this was borderline torture porn. I did enjoy the intertwined historical context of the politically charged national climate and literary rivalry between Mailer and Vonnegut.
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