Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod

Sourcebooks. Aug. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9781728245959. Tr. CRIME
Sherman (coauthor, Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph over Tragedy) delivers a confusing, fictionalized portrayal of the crimes committed by killer Tony Costa, interspersed with the story of a rivalry between Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer, both of whom were set on immortalizing Costa’s story in print. Costa is believed to have killed eight young women on Cape Cod in 1968, though he was convicted of only two of the murders. While in prison, he wrote his own account of several of the murders in an unpublished manuscript he called “Resurrection,” which Sherman relied on to write his book. “Resurrection” included interviews with others involved, though the dialogue in Sherman’s work is uncited and apparently invented, making it very much not a work of nonfiction, despite the author’s claims. Sherman explores how Costa tried to explain away his apparent guilt—in his prison manuscript he blamed the murders on one of his split personalities, an alter ego he calls Cory Devereaux—and details his arrest and trial.
VERDICT The book is hard to follow and full of references to drugs and 1960s counterculture that will confuse many readers. Moreover, the lengthy treatment of the Vonnegut-Mailer dispute doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. Not recommended for true crime readers.
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