Homicide is always on the menu at this exclusive dining society where some of the world’s greatest crime specialists gather each month to solve grisly, cold case killings. Ed Pilkington joins them.
Members of the Vidocq Society in Philadelphia hear about the unsolved murder of ‘Sally’
In a banqueting hall lined with mahogany panels and lit with chandeliers, in the august surroundings of the Union League, an imposing civil war-era building that occupies an entire block of Philadelphia, about 100 men and women are sitting down to a very good lunch. The starter of squash soup is followed by chicken breast smothered in parsley sauce with creamed potatoes, and a rich cheesecake. But as I’m tucking into the dessert, a woman at my table leans over to me and says: "I’d go easy on that, if I were you. It may not agree with the presentation."
The comment is puzzling. But when the plates are cleared away, coffee served, and the real business of the lunch gets under way, it quickly becomes clear what she means.
The presentation begins with a giant photograph projected on to a screen a few feet away from my table. It shows a woman lying on her back, wearing a blue sweatshirt, her head turned slightly to one side. Her face has become a strange shade of purple. Blood has congealed around her nose and mouth and a pool of it has collected behind her tussled ginger hair.
The blow-up of the dead woman, and the cheesecake now sitting heavily in my stomach, make decidedly awkward companions.