The Vienna Woods Killer | Granta

  • Published: 01/07/2008
  • ISBN: 9781847080455
  • 130x20mm
  • 400 pages

The Vienna Woods Killer

John Leake

In 1991, four women disappeared from Vienna’s red-light district, their bodies found later in the Vienna Woods. In the ensuing media frenzy, one reporter – the flamboyant writer and freelance journalist Jack Unterweger – distinguished himself for his hard-hitting interviews with the Chief of Police and Vienna’s prostitutes. Despite months of investigation, the police failed to find a suspect. Then they considered a theory that at first seemed too far-fetched: the ‘Vienna Woods Killer’ was Jack Unterweger himself. But was he really the killer? The dapper writer was not only a literary celebrity, but also Austria’s greatest example of criminal rehabilitation.Sixteen years earlier he had murdered a girl, but in prison had discovered literature and been remarkably transformed. His children’s stories were read on national radio, and his acclaimed novel Purgatory was made into a film. The Austrian establishment campaigned for his freedom, and in 1990 he was released amid a blaze of publicity. In search of proof, Austrian and American investigators traced Unterweger’s movements in Europe and southern California, where women had been murdered in a similar way. Meanwhile, the lead investigator looked for clues in the suspect’s novels, plays and diaries, as well as in the disturbing secrets of his mysterious past. With privileged access to Unterweger’s diaries and the cooperation of those who knew him well, John Leake has written a penetrating book about history’s only recorded example of a transatlantic serial killer – described by the FBI as ‘a uniquely high-functioning psychopath’.

This book reads so much like a thriller that you must keep reminding yourself it isn't fiction

Christopher Hudson, Daily Mail

A classy piece of true crime ... a horribly engrossing study of a horribly damaged human being

Toby Clements, Telegraph

The Author

John Leake was born in Dallas, Texas, and studied at Boston University. After winning an academic fellowship in Vienna, he lived in the city for eight years. He has spent four years studying the life and crimes of the serial killer Jack Unterweger.

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