book reviews

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Murder, murder, and more murder. What more do you want! (Less death obviously, but then how would the true crime sliver of my heart be fulfilled?) Mindhunter has just that, giving insight into the minds and methods of the most notorious criminals, known for committing some of the most despicable crimes in recent history. Ed Kemper, BTK, the Atlanta child murders, Charles Manson, to name a few, are some of the more prolific cases that author John E. Douglas analyzes. As a member of the Investigative Support Unit in the FBI, Douglas documents his first hand knowledge and experience in working these heinous cases. Working not just as an investigator, Douglas was instrumental in developing special profiles to help identify the criminals who have committed some of the most brutal offenses.

Go inside the minds of both the investigator and the investigated. The commonly played out TV narrative that has detectives drawing up potential profiles of offenders owes its existence to the countless years of work, research, and first-hand experience that Douglas walks the reader through in Mindhunter. Definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart, Mindhunter does not hold back on dishing out the gory details of the most violent and gruesome crimes. To balance out some of the more macabre anecdotes, Douglas weaves in tales of his personal life that, while not outrageously cheerful, do well to add humanity to stories of events that are significantly lacking it. 

Mindhunter is not the bedside read to help you fall asleep at night, unless you intend to stare at the ceiling for hours wondering if every little creak and thud is a serial killer on his (yes, they are usually men) way to murder you. But if you are like me, and the part of you that loves true crime and mysteries, that wonders why people do the terrible things they do needs some answers, then read on. This book certainly kept me up at night, yet I couldn’t help but flip fervently through the pages wanting to learn all the inside scoops and secrets about these infamous cases.

The fascination continues when you consider that even though Mindhunter was written nearly twenty years ago (1995), some of the cases remained a mystery at the time of its publication and have now been solved and referenced in the newer addition. More frightening, perhaps, then even the killers themselves is the contemporary relevance, the closeness, of these crimes that scares the reader even more, yet makes it all the more exciting to read about. 

For bringing on the spook factor, and for doing so in way that I, a non-FBI agent reader, could understand, I give Mindhunter four stars.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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