Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
I must be in hell.
He has hunted some of the most notorious and sadistic criminals of our time: The Trailside Killer in San Francisco, the Atlanta Child murderer. He has confronted, interviewed and researched dozens of serial killers and assassins, including Charles Manson, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and James Earl Ray – for a landmark study to understand their motives. To get inside their minds. He is Special Agent John Douglas, the model for law enforcement legend Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris’s thrillers Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, and the man who ushered in a new age in behavorial science and criminal profiling.
For some reason, serial killers are fascinating. The way their mind works, what they do and how to catch them, it’s interesting stuff so I was really curious when I picked up this book by one of the foremost profilers.
We would later realize that this childhood trait of cruelty to small animals was the keystone of what came to be known as the “homicidal triad,” also including enuresis, or bed-wetting, beyond the normally appropriate age and fire-starting.
For the most part, the book really delivers. It follows the life and cases of John Douglas, who was one of the earliest profilers for the FBI.
However, the book also felt a bit disjointed at times. It jumps back and forth between different times, all interspersed with accounts of the author’s personal life. I just wish there had been a bit more focus at times.
Nonetheless, there are some fascinating insights into the psychology of hunting serial killers: the way their minds work, how the FBI came up with the different aspects of it that seem so familiar to readers now after shows like Criminal Minds and the like: the serial killer’s signature, victimology, categories of serial killers, from organized to unorganized.
Another time, he found an injured sparrow that had flown in through one of the broken windows and nursed it back to health. When it was healthy enough to stand, he tied a string around its leg and had it perch on his shoulder.
At one point, a guard told him pets weren’t allowed.
“I can’t have it?” Speck challenged, then walked over to a spinning fan and threw the small bird in.
Horrified, the guard said, “I thought you liked that bird.”
“I did,” Speck replied. “But if I can’t have it, no one can.”
Fascinating look at the beginnings of profiling.