The Black Dahlia case. The Manson murders. The Zodiac Killer. The slaughter of JonBenet Ramsay. These killings, among many others in Bill James's astonishing chronicle of the history of American crime, have all created a frenzy of interest and speculation about human nature. And while many of us choose to avoid the news about gruesome murders, Bill James contends that these crime stories, which create such frenzy (and have throughout history), are as important to understanding our society, culture and history as anything we may consider to be a more 'serious' subject. The topic envelopes our society so completely, we almost forget about it. James looks at the ways in which society has changed by examining the development of how crimes have been committed, investigated and prosecuted. The book takes on such issues as the rise of an organized police force, the controversial use of the death penalty, the introduction of evidence such as fingerprinting and DNA, and the unexpected ways in which the most shocking crimes have shaped the criminal justice system and our perceptions of violence.