All That Is Wicked

A Gilded-Age Story of Murder and the Race to Decode the Criminal Mind

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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 04 Oct 2022
PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons

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Acclaimed crime historian, podcaster, and author of American Sherlock Kate Winkler Dawson tells the thrilling story of Edward Rulloff—a serial murderer who was called “too intelligent to be killed”—and the array of 19th century investigators who were convinced his brain held the key to finally understanding the criminal mind.

Edward Rulloff was a brilliant yet utterly amoral murderer—some have called him a “Victorian-era Hannibal Lecter”—whose crimes spanned decades and whose victims were chosen out of revenge, out of envy, and sometimes out of necessity. From his humble beginnings in upstate New York to the dazzling salons and social life he established in New York City, at every turn Rulloff used his intelligence and regal bearing to evade detection and avoid punishment. He could talk his way out of any crime...until one day, Rulloff's luck ran out.
By 1871 Rulloff sat chained in his cell—a psychopath holding court while curious 19th-century "mindhunters" tried to understand what made him tick. From alienists (early psychiatrists who tried to analyze the source of his madness) to neurologists (who wanted to dissect his brain) to phrenologists (who analyzed the bumps on his head to determine his character), each one thought he held the key to understanding the essential question: is evil born or made? Eventually, Rulloff’s brain would be placed in a jar at Cornell University as the prize specimen of their anatomy collection...where it still sits today, slowly moldering in a dusty jar. But his story—and its implications for the emerging field of criminal psychology—were just beginning.
Expanded from season one of her hit podcast on the Exactly Right network (7 million downloads and growing), in All That Is Wicked Kate Winkler Dawson draws on hundreds of source materials and never-before-shared historical documents to present one of the first glimpses into the mind of a serial killer—a century before the term was coined—through the scientists whose work would come to influence criminal justice for decades to come.
Acclaimed crime historian, podcaster, and author of American Sherlock Kate Winkler Dawson tells the thrilling story of Edward Rulloff—a serial murderer who was called “too intelligent to be...

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Average rating from 54 members

Featured Reviews

All That Is Wicked is a true crime novel that fans of the genre won't want to miss! It's the story of Edward Rulloff, a 19th century serial killer who was actually the first to have his brain studied in an attempt to understand the criminal mind. Dawson's writing is captivating and thoroughly researched. The story is fascinating with shocking revelations. It interesting to learn about how criminal psychology began. Highly recommended to true crime fans!

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First off I would like to thank NetGalley and Putnam Books for providing me with this ARC. Thanks to this ARC I became familiar with Kate Winkler Dawson. And let me tell you something, I’m so glad that I did. I’m a fan of true crime, but I had never heard of Edward Rulloff before now. He caused extreme fear and behaved in devious ways. Not only was he a murderer, he was also a robber, a writer and a fake expert in theology. He committed horrible acts like killing several members of his family. But while he thought he would get away with all these horrendous crimes, he was ultimately caught. This story is captivating and I was amazed, not in a good way, how he got away with these crimes for so long. True crime fans will love this book. The author did a great job of doing her research and making you feel like you were a part of this book!

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I had never heard of Edward Rulloff before but he was one hell of a psychopath. All That is Wicked is about this nasty piece of work who in the late 1800s just kept killing people left and right. He somehow was both terrible at crime because he kept getting caught, but also very good at crime because he usually found a way out. At least, he usually found a way out until he didn't rather definitely. While trying to escape the death penalty, various people come to talk to him because he is clearly intelligent so therefore he must not be evil. Yes, people used to think that.

The story is a good one but the best part of the book is actually Kate Winkler Dawson's writing style. The true crime genre usually falls into one of two camps. Either the author writes in a very detached, aloof style from the crimes or the author is so informal you feel like they probably didn't do their homework. Dawson is the best of both worlds because she clearly immersed herself deeply in this subject, but she presents it like someone sitting on the couch next to you. This was a really fun read.

(This book was presented as an advance copy from Netgalley and Penguin Group Putnam. The full review will be posted to on 10/4/2022.)

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All That Is Wicked by Kate Winkler Dawson is a thoroughly researched, well-crafted, engrossing look into the actions and mind of a 19th century serial killer. Dawson deftly puts the reader in the mind of the killer and then weaves in modern serial killers in an enlightening way. It is a book you won’t want to put down. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to preview this book. #AllThatIsWicked #NetGalley

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So I am completely unfamiliar with the author or her podcast. I literally only know what I read in the book summary. But I’ll tell you this – based on what I read here, her podcast must be fascinating and I must be missing out!

While I do like True Crime, I’d never actually heard of Edward Rulloff before – and wow, what terror he wrought!

The writing style is very readable – it manages to be shocking while avoiding descending into tabloid-style scandal – and the research appears to be impeccable.

Very happy I read this and I hope the author brings us more books in the future!

*ARC via Publisher

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