June 20: Nantucket Book Festival, 10 a.m., Atheneum Garden
July 15: Nantucket Atheneum, 8 p.m.
On the Media, NPR, 11 July 2014
Crowdsourcing Criminal Investigations In The Digital Age
On Point, NPR, 1 July 2014
Book Review: 'The Skeleton Crew' by Deborah Halber
The Wall Street Journal, 16 July 2014
"In her brilliant book The Skeleton Crew, Deborah Halber explains why local law enforcement often fails to investigate [John and Jane Doe] deaths … While the population of the anonymous dead receives only scant attention from the police or the media, it has given rise to a macabre subculture of Internet sleuthing. Ms. Halber chronicles with lucidity and wit how amateur investigators troll websites … and check online databases looking for matches between the reported missing and the unidentified dead.”
"A lively study that's part whodunit, part sociological study. . . . The result is eminently entertaining and will be devoured by armchair detectives."
“The Skeleton Crew is a carefully crafted account of an intriguing new opportunity for arm chair sleuths. Thanks to the Internet, anyone with a computer, curiosity, patience, and a passion for justice can enter the dark world of missing persons and unsolved homicides. It’s fascinating to learn how such matches are made and heartening to witness the growing cooperation between law enforcement and ordinary citizens whose persistence can sometimes crack the code in cold cases that have languished unresolved for years. I loved it.”
"Halber writes vividly and engagingly about long-ago crimes and the modern-day detectives who breathe new life into closed cases… With Halber they have found a loving home, where they are portrayed as larger than life characters and lauded as heroes."
"Halber weaves together a half-dozen cold cases, and delivers brief profiles of scores of tangential characters. She’s an engaging, artful writer, which helps as the narrative threads start to get tangled."
“In all of the cold cases I deal with, the victims are identified. …I never once thought about a case where someone stumbles upon a pile of human bones in their backyard and the victim needs to be identified. The book opened up a new world to me, someone who thought they had seen it all. I look forward to more from Deborah Halber.”
“A fascinating look at the crossroads of information availability, serious dedication, and the spark of human intuition that no machine could replicate.”
"An interesting, easy to read book that will inspire my fellow writers for sure, written by a true crime writer that Vance Custer would look up to."
"Death be not proud: Against all odds, the web sleuths are succeeding in providing tips crucial to solving cases, some decades old, and demonstrating that the persistence and power of crowdsourcing can alter the way law enforcement has traditionally interacted with the public. The Skeleton Crew is an engrossing foray into a most curious treasure hunt."
“Halber tells the story of these fascinating web sleuths, both humanizing the searchers and the unidentified remains, some of which, like the Lady of the Dunes, remain unidentified by the book’s end, and the scientific research and clear explanations resonate with a general audience.”
“The book is written so compellingly, I couldn’t put it down, so be warned and realize that you may want to carve out some serious time for this one.”
“This was not a ‘light’ read, but it was an easy and fascinating read for someone like me who really enjoys these true crime stories.”
"Here’s a book that will tickle the fancy of amateur crime solvers everywhere."
"Deborah Halber’s absorbing look at a very odd corner of our world..."
"[Halber] is good at bringing out the personalities of some peculiar loners and competitive cranks who are, in a strange little way, benefiting their communities."
“True crime readers will enjoy The Skeleton Crew, following the hobbyists’ detective work which leads to real-life mysteries solved.”
"When it comes to your Books to Read pile, The Skeleton Crew is one that shouldn’t be missing.”
"If you like tales of discovered body parts, heads in concrete in buckets, corpses whose hands have been cut off, decomposition, decay and death, then this fascinating, riveting book is for you.”
"If you’ve ever wanted to use your Google-stalking abilities for good instead of evil ... this pulpy nonfiction book will seriously inspire you."
“The book caught my interest right away. I found Halber viewed things and perhaps became acquainted with people much like a cop would classify them.”
"[Halber's] bang-on descriptions and recondite details are riveting.”
“ As a first-time author, Halber has produced a masterpiece in the odd and sometimes macabre world of online sleuthing.”
”Halber follows stories of other volunteers through a handful of exceptional cases, most still unsolved. Many of the details are gruesome and the search for justice inconclusive, but the journey is fascinating. Mystery and true crime readers will especially enjoy this book.”
"I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those books that gets under your skin. …I know of no better guide for navigating this multifaceted world than Halber's book."
“As promised by its subtitle, [The Skeleton Crew] is all about ‘how amateur sleuths are solving America’s coldest cases.’ It’s about the internet and obsession and the incredible feats of crime-solving that everyday people have pulled off with a little help from Google. And it’s so great! You needn’t be into the cold case thing to find these people and stories utterly fascinating.”
“From home-computer screens to a new national database, join The Skeleton Crew for a page-turning behind-the-scenes look at the world of Internet sleuths who give names to the men and women who have died without identity. For the first time ever, readers are brought the real-life cases of missing persons, the unidentified dead, and the network of people that gives them their names . . . proving once again what I said at the conclusion of every episode of America’s Most Wanted: ‘One person can make a difference.’”
"Both charming and disturbing..."
“A compelling glimpse into a little-known subculture inhabited by a colorful cast of the idiosyncratic, the quirky, and the downright weird.”
"This isn't the most pleasant book to read, but not because it isn't well written. It's the subject matter; it brought tears to my eyes."
“In this highly addictive story-within-a-story narrative, Deborah Halber skillfully exposes the complex Internet subculture of amateur sleuths. The people who obsess over the fates and identities of Jane and John Does are puzzles in themselves, which adds a fascinating layer to this captivating book. The Skeleton Crew will likely inspire many more case resolutions.”
"These days, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes like Sherlock Holmes; all you need is a computer connection and an unwavering obsession to solve the coldest, most macabre of cases. Author Deborah Halber follows these obsessives and finds out what drives their curiosity."
“Exploring the world of amateur sleuths, Halber proves to be the perfect guide: unflinching, perceptive, wry. I was hooked from page one.”
“An integral component of NamUs is the group of responsible, dedicated volunteers who scour case details in an effort to match long-term missing persons to unidentified decedents. In The Skeleton Crew, Deborah Halber follows the journey of some of these volunteers who have made it their mission to assist criminal justice professionals in resolving those cases.”