The Vidocq Society is named for Eugène François Vidocq, the ground-breaking nineteenth century French detective who helped police by using the psychology of the criminal to solve "cold case" homicides. Vidocq was a former criminal himself, and used his knowledge of the criminal mind to look at murder from the psychological perspective of the perpetrator. At meetings, Vidocq Society Members (VSMs) listen to local law enforcement officials from around the world who bring in cold cases for review.
VSMs are forensic professionals; current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners who use their experience to provide justice for investigations that have gone cold. Members are selected by committee invitation only, pay a $100 annual fee, and commit to attend at least one meeting per year.
The Society was formed in 1990 by William Fleisher, Richard Walter, and Frank Bender. It solved its first case in 1991, clearing an innocent man of involvement in the murder of Huey Cox.
Vidocq will only consider cases that meet certain requirements: they must be unsolved deaths more than two years old, the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity such as prostitution or drug dealing, and the case must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency. The Society does not charge for its services, and pays for the travel expenses of the law enforcement agents who come to present cases.
The Society was featured in several cases of America's Most Wanted TV series, and was also a plot point in the finale of the 2007–08 season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2010 it became the subject of a book, The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo.
While reading the book is not for the faint hearted, I found it quite interesting. The clues of numerous horrific and unsolved murders are not skipped over. Still it gave me some insight into the subject that frightens and frustrates people when murderers appear to get away with their crimes. The new forensics popularized in many recent televisions programs. The subtitle of The Murder Room is The Heirs Of Sherlock Holmes Gather To Solve The World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases. The reference to Sherlock Holmes is appropriate indeed.
Finally, like many of the cases references in this book, the details are scattered and seemingly unorganized. In a word the book needs some serious editing. The author skipped between cases with other topics in between. It all made for interesting but very conflusing reading. Yuk!