Incendiary

The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling
Narrated by: Peter Berkrot
Length: 9 hrs and 50 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.3 out of 5 stars (147 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Long before the specter of terrorism haunted the public imagination, a serial bomber stalked the streets of 1950s New York. The race to catch him would give birth to a new science called criminal profiling.

Grand Central, Penn Station, Radio City Music Hall - for almost two decades, no place was safe from the man who signed his anonymous letters "FP" and left his lethal devices in phone booths, storage lockers, even tucked into the plush seats of movie theaters. His victims were left cruelly maimed. Tabloids called him "the greatest individual menace New York City ever faced."

In desperation, Police Captain Howard Finney sought the help of a little known psychiatrist, Dr. James Brussel, whose expertise was the criminal mind. Examining crime scene evidence and the strange wording in the bomber's letters, he compiled a portrait of the suspect down to the cut of his jacket. But how to put a name to the description?

Seymour Berkson - a handsome New York socialite, protégé of William Randolph Hearst, and publisher of the tabloid The Journal-American - joined in pursuit of the Mad Bomber. The three men hatched a brilliant scheme to catch him at his own game. Together they would capture a monster and change the face of American law enforcement.

This program includes a prologue read by the author.

©2017 Michael Cannell (P)2017 Macmillan Audio

Featured Article: True Crime—The State of Serial Killers, New York


It's interesting to think that while New York is home to the largest city in the United States, it doesn't have as many serial killers as several other states. If you were to ask a stranger to list famous serial killers from New York, they might be able to name David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam. That's probably the only New York case brought up when people discuss American serial killers. But that doesn't mean New York doesn't have a lot of them.

What listeners say about Incendiary

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    5 out of 5 stars

16 Years NYC Held Hostage

Where does Incendiary rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I had pre ordered this several weeks before its release. I wasn't disappointed! The story develops quickly after some historic background. I've been enthralled with Criminal Profiling going back to Silence of the Lambs, books by John Douglas and Robert Ressler and even its use after the fact in setting a psychological print. Cases like Columbine, for example.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Incendiary?

The highlight moment came after the background chapters as still "unsub" status George Metesky's spree progressed and law enforcement began to develop his profile. Public fear and the bombings effects.

What about Peter Berkrot’s performance did you like?

Peter Berkrot's narrative was perfect. Pleasant voice, easily understood, good pace. I was able to get into the story without being distracted. And without mouth noises that seem to show up more in audio books. Which indicates good engineering, I think.

A strong True Crime effort, with good production values and good narration!

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

That Metesky went on for 16 years before caught. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber had as long of a criminal career. Domestic bombing is difficult to solve. Even today.

Any additional comments?

Combines True Crime, in the context of social history and development of a major field of law enforcement. Add good research, writing and excellent narration and quality production. Incendiary has it covered!

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Rambling, redundant and anti-climactic.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No. Most of the words in this book served as padding. The actual info imparted could have been distilled down to a few chapters.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Eliminate unnecessary expeditions down tangential story lines, like the overly detailed descriptions of peripheral characters. Heavily edit or omit the lengthy story about the eventual demise of the NY City newspaper that corresponded with the Mad Bomber before his capture. There's the preface in which the author declares that all quotes in his book are genuine, except of course the actual thoughts of the bomber, which the author attempted to recreate. Turns out that a good portion of the book consists of these author-generated thoughts, which gave me a sense of fiction more so than of genuine insight. Most of all, the book leads to the edge of but does not explore in detail criminal profiling as it exists today. This was a topic where more words could have made for a better book.

What three words best describe Peter Berkrot’s voice?

A bit snide.

Did Incendiary inspire you to do anything?

Almost inspired me to stop listening. One sign of a poor book is its inability to hold my attention. During this one, my mind wandered often. Other times, especially when the author indulged in lengthy detours of subject matter and character description, I deliberately skipped ahead until the action resumed. The eventual discovery of the bomber's identity was less than thrilling, a let down more than anything else. The most interesting aspect of the story was the application of early profiling techniques by a uniquely imaginative, perceptive psychiatrist.

Any additional comments?

I'm returning this book to Audible.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliantly researched and written book

Epic and fascinating story about pursuit of notorious NYC bomber and the birth of criminal profiling. Rich descriptions of hard boiled bomb squad detectives, and news men, and the many colorful politicians and prosecutors are totally entertaining. A great period crime yarn!

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Incendiary is fantastic

The story is not only right on but the narration is one of the best I’ve heard so far. Sometimes history can be dry, but Peter Berkot did an awesome job with keeping the listen engaged. Highly recommend.

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great listen.

Very informative to the history behind criminal profiling. Also, a great look into the history of the mad bomber. Well told and exciting.

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Mind blowing

I thought this was going to be a quick listening to fill time as I travel to and from work. I couldn't stop listening to it when I got home.

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Well written and well told.

Excellent from start to finish. Well researched and expertly told piece of history. I strongly recommend.

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this is one you wont put down

What made the experience of listening to Incendiary the most enjoyable?

I really liked the writers style and his ability to make this book want to be read. He didn't dwell on needless details but kept it captivating

What other book might you compare Incendiary to and why?

Devil in the White City

What about Peter Berkrot’s performance did you like?

He did real well and caught the accents perfectly

Any additional comments?

I hope he writes more soon.