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"I was a greedy, ravenous individual, determined to rise from the bottom to the top . . . It wasn't me!"--Jack Unterweger's final words to his jury
Serial killers rarely travel internationally. So in the early 1990s, when detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department began to find bodies of women strangled with their own bras, it didn't occur to them at first to make a connection with the bodies being uncovered in the woods outside of Vienna, Austria.
The LAPD waited for the killer to strike again. Meanwhile, in Austria, the police followed what few clues they had. The case intrigued many reporters, but few as keenly as Jack Unterweger, a local celebrity. He cut a striking figure, this little man in expensive white suits. His expertise on Vienna's criminal underworld was hard-earned. He had been sentenced to life in jail as a young man. But while incarcerated, he began to write—and his work earned him the glowing attention of the literary elite. The intelligentsia lobbied for his release and by 1990, Jack was free again. He continued writing, nurturing his career as a journalist. But though he now traveled in the highest circles, he had a secret life. He was killing again, and in the greatest of ironies, reporting on the very crimes he had committed.
With unprecedented access to Jack's diaries and letters, John Leake peels back the layers of deception to reveal the life and crimes of Jack Unterweger, and in unnerving detail, exposes the thrilling twists—both in the United States and Europe—that led to Jack's capture and Austria's "trial of the century."
Austrian Jack Unterweger was many things to many people celebrated author, well-known bon vivant and loyal friend. To prostitutes plying their trade in Vienna, he was a ruthless killer. When he hanged himself in his jail cell after being convicted of murder in 1994, Unterweger brought to a close a story of cold-blooded murder that crossed social boundaries and international borders. As told in page-turning, savagely intimate style in this debut by translator and editor Leake, Unterweger's vicious killing spree comes alive in horrifying detail. Released from prison in 1990 for an earlier murder, Unterweger quickly began killing again. Passing himself off as a journalist, he took to calling the relatives of his victims. "At 5:00 p.m. the same voice called back and said, 'They lie in the place of atonement, facing downward, toward Hades, because otherwise it would have been an outrage.' " His 1991 murder of a hooker in Los Angeles proves his undoing as the American police, working with Austrian authorities, track him down. Leake gets bogged down in the minutiae of the 1994 trial in Vienna, but this is a minor glitch in an otherwise cracking good true-crime tale that, while demonstrating respect to the victims, conjures a character in Unterweger that readers will not soon forget.