American Detective


American Detective

Behind the Scenes of Famous Criminal Investigations

Thomas A. Reppetto

312 pages
20 photographs, index


June 2018


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2018


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2018


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

From the Roaring Twenties to the 1970s detectives reigned supreme in police departments across the country. In this tightly woven slice of true crime reportage, Thomas A. Reppetto offers a behind-the-scenes look into some of the most notable investigations to occur during the golden age of the detective in American criminal justice.

From William Burns, who during his heyday was known as America’s Sherlock Holmes, to Thad Brown, who probed the notorious Black Dahlia murder in Los Angeles, to Elliott Ness, who cleaned up the Cleveland police but failed to capture the “Mad Butcher” who decapitated at least a dozen victims, American Detective offers an indelible portrait of the famous sleuths and investigators who played a major role in cracking some of the most notorious criminal cases in U.S. history. Along the way Reppetto takes us deep inside the detective bureaus that were once the nerve centers behind crime-fighting on the streets of America’s great cities, including the FBI itself, under the direction of America’s “top cop,” J. Edgar Hoover.

According to Reppetto, detectives were once able watchdogs until their role in policing became diluted by patrol strategies ranging from “stop and frisk” to community policing. Reppetto argues against these current policing systems and calls for a return to the primacy of the detective in criminal investigations.

Author Bio

Thomas A. Reppetto is a former commander of detectives in the Chicago Police Department. After earning a doctorate from Harvard University he served as professor, dean, and vice president at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. From 1979 to 2005 he was the head of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City and was named New York State Governor’s Law Enforcement Executive of the Year in 1986. His books include American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power and Battleground New York City: Countering Spies, Saboteurs, and Terrorists since 1861 (Potomac Books, 2012), among others.


“Anyone who likes a good detective story will be captivated by the suspenseful and chilling yarns Thomas Reppetto weaves in American Detective. And, most compelling of all, his exciting stories are true!”—Howard Blum, New York Times best-selling author of The Last Goodnight and Dark Invasion

“Tom Reppetto probably knows more about American policing than anyone else alive. American Detective, which involves celebrated cases from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, reflects this knowledge. Whether it’s the Lindbergh baby kidnapping or Judge Crater’s disappearance, readers will learn things they never knew before.”—Leonard Levitt, author of NYPD Confidential and Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder

“Tom Reppetto has given us another comprehensive and well written account about law enforcement in American Detective. From the early days, when the art of detective work was pioneered by the likes of private businessman Allan Pinkerton and NYPD inspector Thomas Byrne, to the changes wrought on policing in the twenty-first century, Reppetto has woven a tapestry about great investigations that should be required reading for all aspiring police officers.”—Anthony M. DeStefano, author of The Last Godfather and The Big Heist: The Real Story of the Lufthansa Heist, the Mafia, and Murder

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Snapshots from the Lost World of Detectives
1. The Rise of American Detectives
2. Italian Squads: The Cops Replace the Private Eyes
3. Murder in Hollywood and the Real Los Angeles Detective Bureau
4. The Hall-Mills Murders, the “World’s Greatest Detective,” and the Power of the Press
5. The Big Squads Roll: The Chicago Detective Bureau
6. Eliot Ness Pursues the Butcher, the Ups and Downs of Dr. Sam, and Lone Wolf Gonzaullas Stalks the Phantom
7. The Inspectors Bureau in the City by the Bay
8. New York Mysteries: The Rubel Robbery, the Disappearance of Judge Crater, and the Elusive Willie Sutton
9. The Real Crime of the Century: The Kidnapping and Murder of the Lindbergh Baby and the Rise of Director Hoover
10. America under Assault: Wall Street, a Day at the Fair, and the Murder of Carlo Tresca
11. The Black Dahlia Murder and Parker’s Police
12. The Brink’s Job and the St. Louis Blues
13. A Death in Dallas and the Disintegration of American Detective Bureaus
14. Twenty-First-Century Policing: Reorientation and Restoration

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