BTK is one of those True Crime books about serial killers that spends more time on those involved in apprehending the killer (law enforcement and media, mainly) than on the motivations and personal life of the serial killer, and for those looking to dwell in the dark and murky details of the deviant murderer’s inner mind (not that that’s a bad thing, mind you), this can be somewhat of a disappointment. Those expecting to spend excessive time on BTK’s origins and double-life as a sex crime serial killer and beloved father and respected member of the community will find themselves instead delving deep into the lives and relationships of those members of the police force and news media that spent decades documenting his crimes and tracking him down. This is not a knock against the book, which is expertly researched and presented, but rather a warning for those looking to become more “intimate” with BTK.
The book follows the history of the BTK saga chronologically – with the occasional flashback – starting with his first kill, and to the book’s credit, the murders are described in full as they occurred, so the reader is not left to puzzle over the crime scenes along with the detectives and reporters. There are probably other books out there that focus more on the killer and his acts, but the attention to the law enforcement side offers greater detail to the extent of the manhunt, the obstacles it had to overcome, and most importantly, gives a greater appreciation as to why it took decades for them to finally track down a killer who turned out to be far less intelligent than most assumed. The book is detailed without dwelling masochistically on those details, and the occasional sidetracks the narrative takes lend a human depth to the perception of the side of the story that receives less of the spotlight. A great read that manages to be informative without descending into morbidity. Bonus points for a brief but rather unflattering behind-the-scenes cameo by John Walsh and his America’s Most Wanted sideshow.