*Originally published on Goodreads*
Like most people who have come to this book in recent months, I read this based off my enjoyment of the ‘Mindhunter’ series that is currently available on Netflix. Told from the perspective of author John Douglas this book is more of an explanation about the need of the FBI’s behavioural unit rather than a gruesome tell all of his more horrifying cases, instead using the tales of the criminals and the atrocious acts committed by them as explanations for certain choices.
Douglas has a wonderful way with words, despite this technically being Non-Fiction it flowed beautifully with Douglas effortlessly describing interviewing some of history’s most notorious serial killers. His affinity with the subjects, plus his presence throughout the defining interviews that allowed the Behavioural Unit to flourish into what it is today, gives Douglas a unique perspective on the world, one he is not afraid to get across. At several points throughout the book he happily states how the world is better off now that several of these people have faced the death penalty. I suppose hearing about their work first hand does keep you awake at night.
The book is presented in a non-linear fashion and I feel that it is a detriment to the story as a whole. Rather than give us the step by step account of how the Unit flourished Douglas chooses a topic and includes the relevant cases to help explain it, no matter if the cases mentioned happened at different points in time. I can see why he has done this yet because of it I found it hard to follow along with certain story threads. With each new case we are barraged with information of who was involved from the unit, the murderer, the victims, the victims families, names of possible suspects, and dates that jump from anywhere between the early 70’s and the late 90’s. Often I had to skip back a few pages to remember who the person was who had been revealed to be the murderer.
Also, through no fault of Douglas, the last few chapters become somewhat laborious. The reason this is not Douglas’s fault is because, as the book details, each case follows a certain pattern, one that allows the FBI to find the people who caused the horrible crimes described within. So by the later chapters we are reading about behaviours that have now been told to us several times throughout the book. In essence we have learnt how to profile the murderer based on the tools provided by Douglas’ words.
Another thing that didn’t really strike a chord with me, and once again is no fault of Douglas, is how Douglas himself comes off within the pages. Yes, it is told from his perspective, but a lot of what happens comes across as rather self-aggrandising. However this is the whole point, without him a lot of the good that came about might not have happened. It just felt a bit masturbatory in places. Imagine if throughout the entire Harry Potter series Harry went on about how he was the chosen one, it was like that.
Even with the somewhat repetitive ending (as horrible as it is to say) and Douglas’ narrators bias the book as a whole was fantastic, it is easy to see why the Netflix adaptation has come about and why Douglas is such a master in his field.
This is not Douglas’ only book and it will not be the only one of his that I read.