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The Crimes of Josef Fritzl [Paperback]

Stefanie Marsh , Bojan Pancevski
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Aug 2011

The only inside account of the Fritzl case – Josef Fritzl's horrific incarceration of his daughter in a windowless dungeon for 24 years and the seven children he fathered with her – from the journalists who helped to break the story.

Until April 19 2008, Josef Fritzl seemed like an upstanding member of the community in the Austrian town of Amstetten: an ideal father and successful businessman who had worked his way up from humble beginnings to become a role model of respectability.

Yet for over two decades he had been living a double life of unimaginable and unparalleled horror. In 1984 he had drugged his 18-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, and dragged her into a purpose-made prison under the house that he had spent five years preparing. He held her captive there for 24 years and raped her frequently. Fritzl initially kept his daughter chained to a bed and forced her to re-enact scenes from pornographic films he projected in the cellar. Three months into her incarceration Elisabeth miscarried what would have been her first child. Over the next 18 years in the cellar she bore her father seven children - six of whom survived. Lisa, Monika and Alexander were taken 'upstairs' to live with their grandmother. Michael died after birth. Kerstin, Stefan and Felix were never to see daylight, trapped with their mother in the five-room cellar.

This bold and forensically-researched study sheds new light on the mind and the psychological development of the man who became one of the most unique and frightening criminals in history. It includes new information on the bizarre formative experiences that shaped his pathology and argues that his crimes, though unthinkable, were in many ways inevitable.

Stefanie Marsh and Bojan Pancevski were the first English-speaking reporters to break the case and were there as the police uncovered the dungeon. They draw on previously unreleased testimonies from the trial as well as exclusive interviews and documents including confidential official files on the case to give the only complete and authoritative account of the forces that drove Fritzl to create another world, far from the light, in which his fantasies of control could be played out.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Element (5 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007300557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007300556
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


You won't need reminding of the case. But if you want to understand how and why it happened, this book is the one to get. It is no cuttings job - the authors are respected journalists who spent a year in Austria dedicated to the case.
--London Paper, 26th May 2009

I was up with (this) excellent and calmly written book till one o'clock in the morning and am still feeling the after-effect.
--Libby Purves, Midweek, 10th June 2009

I was up with (this) excellent and calmly written book till one o'clock in the morning and am still feeling the after-effect.


I was up with (this) excellent and calmly written book till one o'clock in the morning and am still feeling the after-effect.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars suprising page turner 16 Jun 2009
I've not really read any crime books before and I was amazed at how engrossing a biographical account can be. I couldn't put it down. What really drew me in was the way in which the authors draw this clear psychological portrait of Fritzl. The book isn't salacious or demonizing, it's just cold accounting of his rationale for doing these terrible acts. And that's the terrifying part, you really start to understand the dysfunctional family dynamics. Dynamics that started way before Elizabeth, that were born out of the atrocities of Nazi Austria and his horrifying one-eyed mother. This is a really great read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too tabloidy for my tastes. 24 May 2010
This is a readable and comprehensive review of the Fritzl case, but, in common with other works of this nature, where speed to market is of overwhelming importance, it has a number of quality issues.

The text has a "thrown together" feeling. It contains too many proof-reading errors, and inconsistencies in facts between paragraphs (they're not married, they're married, they're a common-law couple; they live on the same floor, they live on a different floor, and so on). The book itself also demonstrates well that thrown together feeling - my copy fell apart in my hands within a couple of days and now needs holding together with an elastic band ...

At the start of the book, covering Fritzl's childhood, there is a little too much hearsay, a little too much gossip. There are no references to show where information comes from - some things presented as fact could only have been known to Fritzl, and he didn't contribute to the book. For my taste it's a little too tabloidy and a little too over-padded with background fluff so that one must constantly be filtering what is fact, what might be fact and what is likely to be fantasy.

But overal an interesting work, especially with the background information on Fritzl's own upbringing.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It made me cry 1 Jun 2009
Finally I feel as if I sort of understand how this horrible thing happened - the authors dig back not just to Josef's mother, but to HER mother and the whole twisted "family values" - love and hate seem to intertwine and blend. But when he drags Elisabeth into the cellar, the writing is so vivid that I almost felt sick, and found tears running down my face. This is the only book that goes all the way through the trial, so has closure that the others don't.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good account of a remarkable case 25 Jan 2010
I have read a lot of true crime books and this is one of the better ones. I imagine everyone knows the story of Josef Fritzl and the horrendous crimes he committed - or at least we think we know the true story. In fact, having read this book, I feel I have a much clearer idea of what actually did happen and how the crime came about. There is a lot of detail in this book which I have been unaware of before, such as Fritzl's own abusive family history, how he came to the idea of locking his daughter in the cell, how he managed to go unnoticed for so long and how the crime was finally uncovered. The book also looks into the pyschology of Fritzl, all of which is very interesting. However, you never feel the book is salacious or "tabloidesque" in its style which is to be admired as there has been a lot of fabrication and hype surrounding this story.

In places I found the book slightly repetitive, though this is probably a consequence of having two authors. Whilst the authors clearly had some good sources, I felt that there was little original material in terms of the authors having secured their own interviews with those involved e.g. some of the family, the legal teams involved. Most of those they have interviewed are rlatively distant from the crime, and the quotes from those more closely involved do not seem to be from interviews they have personally conducted (I could be worng). Those are only two minor criticisms but overall this is a very informative and worthwhile book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violent Incestuous Depravity! 11 Nov 2011
By A. McGrath TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Kidnapped, Raped, Tortured and Brutallized. 18 year old Elizabeth would endure this treatment for the next 24 years at the hands of the THING she called father. During which time she would give birth to 7 of his children, 3 of which would also be imprisoned in the dark, claustrophobic dungeon her "father" had created for them. Not an easy book to read, one's thoughts are constantly with Elizabeth, Kerstin, Stefan and Felix. Indeed the whole tortured family. The authors have followed Fritzl's odd life from his grandparent's history to almost present day (2009), to produce an interesting, if difficult, informative book.
A similar and equally shocking case that may interest is 'Le Silence des autres' (The Silence of Others), the case of Lydia Gouardo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read 11 Oct 2011
A very good in sight to a sad situation,and background of the country. Well written, Well researched .
A Quality Read. If disturbng!!
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