Helltown, the Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod, by Casey Sherman is a true crime/partially fictionalized story of the serial killer, Antone (Tony) Costa, who terrorized Provincetown/Ptown/Hell Town from 1964 til his capture, and indictment in 1970.
Antone Costa was a charismatic, almost godlike figure for the lost. He was well read, articulate, and engaging. He had a knack for drawing people together as a family unit. He also had a very dark side.
The “family” he brought together included hippies, drug addicts, misfits, and those seeking a father figure. His favorite author was Herman Hesse, and his favorite book, Steppenwolf. He fancied himself as “the wolf of the Steppes.”
He was a drug addict and handed out drugs to his disciples, and family members like candy. He especially enjoyed LSD which he believed to heighten his senses.
Costa had a large Marijuana patch in the Truro woods, which would prove to be a crucial part of his murderous plan. He was also a novice taxidermist, the impetus for the killings.
Tony believed that his so-called “family” could surpass the Manson family in notoriety, and depravity. Get better goals, people!
Casey Sherman weaves a vivid narrative that takes the reader along on Tony’s wild killing spree, his capture, and the circus-like atmosphere of the trial. At the time several famous novelists were living in Ptown at the time of these murders, and the author allows the reader to see how this case relates to each of them.
The author also highlights other historical events that may have been connected to the case. The rest of the characters you meet in Hell Town are the officers, victims, and victims’ families.
The fictionalized portion deals with self-speak, and the timeline of events that took place within the book. It does not detract from the true crime aspect of the story.
The most startling portions of Hell Town are true. I am not easily made nauseous by true crime, but this was brutal.
Casey Sherman’s writing style and description of the events are brilliant and nightmare-ish.
I remember hearing of these murders when I was young. There was coverage of both Costa and Charles Manson in the local Newspaper/TV. I was mesmerized by these crimes.
I became so invested in the story that I had a few nightmares. It was frightening, riveting, and exhausting to hear what people could do to each other.
I love true crime novels, and gory tends to be the language of the genre. However, Hell Town takes the gore factor to a whole new level.
If you are squeamish, this book is not for you. Otherwise, true crime buffs will thoroughly enjoy this well-written, in-depth look at “the wolf of the Steppes.
If you like more suggestions for books to read check out these reviews.
Sue Cook lives in Freeport, Illinois with her husband Randy and two dogs. Her passions include assistance dogs, rescue dogs, music, acting, theater, poetry, and Doctor Who. She’s been in both film and theater and is a regular cast member of the podcast Doctor Who’s Line is it….Anyway? Sue is an advocate for the use of Service Dogs to assist their disabled handlers to maintain their independence. Quigley’s Quest, her first children’s book, addresses how a dog becomes a Service Dog.