Has the answer been found for, not only the haunting and horrible murders of Villisca, Iowa in 1912, but others both before and after? Have so many deaths finally been solved? There is an excellent chance that is the case.
Another such acquaintance with a keen interest in such topics gifted me this year with a copy of the 2017 book THE MAN FROM THE TRAIN by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James. The subtitle says it all "Discovering America's Most Elusive Serial Killer." The authors start with the Villisca murders and make the links to other, all too similar, crimes noted early on in Kansas and Colorado. They soon find others and the book unfolds in gripping and oft times horrific details.
What truly sets this work apart is the criteria established to categorize crimes by their unknown man from the train from other crimes similar but significantly different. Given the hurdle of such historic research when one is faced with irregular records, non-existent records, garbled and sensationalized journalism and the tendency for police and communities to not think in terms of a truly random crime without motive or meaning, the result is impressive.
The casual writing style fits the topic, no one wants to be bogged down by academic formality when writing what is basically a true-to-life "who dun it." The chronology and organization would have been easier to follow had it been more linear. It does hop around a bit and that can be confusing. They also have an entry in Wikipedia on the work, a singular credit, given that sources often overly stringent protocols and less than evenly distributed approvals.
Do they name the man? Yes, they do and they present a more than credible argument that it could truly be that individual. And no, this column's author will not name names - read the book and enjoy the discovery for yourself.