In this fascinating, in-depth account of the hunt for serial killers, Colin Wilson, one of the world's leading authorities on the subject, examines the ways they can be tracked down and caught, from the tried-and-true methods of the early 20th century to the high-tech processes in use today. Wilson examines such areas as psychological profiling, genetic fingerprinting, and the launch of the Behavioral Science Unit. He delves into the importance of fantasy to serial killers, the urge to keep on killing, the desire to become notorious, and murder as an addictive drug. He includes his own correspondence with serial killers and follows the career of FBI Special Agent Robert Ressler, the man who coined the term "serial killer" in 1977.
Including the worst murderers in Britain and America, such as Peter Sutcliffe, Fred and Rosemary West, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Paul Bernardo, this book is essential for true-crime enthusiasts. This book will appeal to anyone morbidly fascinated by these gruesome murders but especially by the techniques used to bring those responsible to justice.
©2007, 2014 olin Wilson (P)2014 Audible Inc.
Disclaimer: No Audible review acknowledges this (the Amazon ones do), but evidently this book is identical to a previous book by the same author, they just re-released it years later under a different name and didn't acknowledge it's actually a reprint. Pretty shameful on the publisher's part.
Manhunters is a very comprehensive look at different serial killers, mainly those in the United States in the 20th century (though a chapter at the end is devoted to killers in other countries). There is talk about most of the notorious killers you've heard of, plus many you'll probably be surprised to hear you haven't (Charles Ng, Fred West, Dean Corrl). It's somewhat organized, a somewhat chronological order and loosely organized into chapters based on motives or categories. The book is also threaded together by details on the development of psychological profiling and other technique to find serial killers. It's a bit odd that some mentions about killers are a very brief paragraph and others go on for a very long time and you're never quite aware of which way it will go. The author has written extensively about serial killers before and does seem fairly knowledgeable about the subject. Overall, it's a decent introduction to dozens and dozens of different cases.
From a logical side, I had some big problems though. Things seemed very...unscientific.
1) He thinks every serial killer is sexually motivated. "Every" is not an exaggeration there, he considers it a prerequisite to being a serial killer. He even assumes that a doctor that did nothing sexual and just overdosed his patients on morphine to be sexually motivated. He embraces a lot of Freud theories that are widely discredited in psychology today.
2) He doesn't really explain psychological profiling or other modern procedures at all. He always relies on it being some panacea for crime and psychological profiling is a really interesting topic to me, but he doesn't explain the logic behind it all. You hear some amazing hits that profilers have made, but there's no explanation of the reasoning. But things just feel like "cold reading", the same process that bogus psychics use to appear to talk to the dead. A profiler will say that the killer probably owns a "police-like dog" or is "redheaded" among several other details. A lot of these end up being amazing descriptions, but you get no statistics about what these people based their guesses on or how accurate they actually were. It could very easily be a case of cherry picking. I'm sure there is more logic going into the process, but you get none of that here. It just feels like a lot of gut instincts.
3) He keeps talking about serial killing being an "epidemic" in the 20th century and something that never happened in civilization before, like it's a completely unique and new phenomenon. This is a theme he touches on again and again. He never acknowledges that today: record keeping is better (so we are actually aware of repeat killers) or that police methods are better (so serial killings can actually be linked). The truth of the matter is that homicide rate is at an all-time low in society today. The Boston Strangler or John Wayne Gacy may always be oddities, but it's weird to say that people that deranged were never around during the dark ages or the wild west.
4) There are 2 things we mentions that are so ridiculously unscientific, that I would not have read the book had I known the offer believed in them. He mentions that the Gainesville Ripper claimed to be possessed by demons. The author actually believes that is true. Not like "the guy thought he heard voices and was crazy" explanation, but that the man was literally under the control of a supernatural entity. His justification? One time, the Ripper claimed to pray to the demon that possessed him and magically found a door to be unlocked. The idea that he endorses this theory is ridiculous. The other absurd thing he says is in the epilogue. He goes on a completely irrelevant rant about "biomorphic fields", which is a pseudoscience that is basically equivalent to telepathy. He says this is why we may see a decrease in the rate of serial killing in the future. It's such a nonsense idea, I wish that I knew the author believed that ahead of time so it saved me the time of listening to anything he had to say.
The narrator on Audible was decent. He kinda sounds like he always has a throat lozenge or cough drop in his mouth, which actually isn't too bad. He doesn't have to do a lot of different voices, which tends to be the worst part about narrations in my opinion.
There are real patterns to deviant behavior - it's not evil, it's not dramatic, it's just that people are fragile when they are young and sometimes it's nature but often it's just awful parenting which is monstrous and malformed humanity which we see as monsters. This book's power lies in the unadorned, factual and dry tone. The constant, emotionally overwhelming repetition of dozens of the most unspeakable acts that people commit on others takes on a very unexpected effect - a certain clarity about human nature. There is also a real sense of the genius behind the early serial killer profilers like Robert Ressler and John Douglas. The psychological picture they can paint comes from the close examination of thousands of cases, but it still seems brilliant and unexpected given their unique study.
I thought that the reader kept the recitation of the details of dozens of truly stomach-churning crimes very sober and thankfully undramatic. It really helped in not sensationalizing a subject which all to easily is rendered in a lurid or dramatic tone (The Serial Killer Whisperer is a book which does this, and made it impossible to for me finish.) Brandon Massey is terrific
Be warned - it's overwhelmingly horrific in what it describes. But it is true and needs to be known and the audiobook presents it in the most mature and sober way possible. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the subject.
All in all a very good read into the mind of the wicked. it did ramble at some points. Excellent job of delving back through the history of the people who committed such horrible crimes.
Pretty interesting. I'd like a little more detail as far as interviews go. The narrator was HORRIBLE!!! Geez. I was reminded of being in 2nd grade reading class.
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