Monday, July 31, 2006

Book Review: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker is a chronicle of the development of the behavioral sciences department at the FBI. Part autobiography, part case study, the book covers some well known serial killers and how the FBI created the profiles.

I'll divide my assessment into two parts: 1. story, and 2. writing. First, the story:

From my perspective, the case studies were the most fascinating. And I certainly would have enjoyed more about how they determine profiles and less about Douglas' time in the Air Force or his family life. It's nothing personal, Mr. Douglas, I'm just here for the crime scenes.

But the profiling is fascinating (if you are into that) and the insight into some famous crimes like the Manson murders or even Douglas' take on Jack the Ripper made for a good read.

My extreme disappointment came on page 373, when I realized that while the book contained another 20 pages, I was actually in the wrap up. It seems there is an index, followed by a chapter of another book. I wanted more cases in this book, so that seriously sucked.

As to the writing, while there were no glaring errors (well done copy editors) this book really could have used an avid reader - a substantive editor - to work on the flow. Someone to read it from start to finish - because this book is disorganized. Chapters flow from one topic to another, cases seem out of order, cases are referenced in multiple chapters in a passing way that is distracting.

To sum up:
  • More cases
  • Less biography
  • Substantive editing

Rating: 3/5 stars - but still a worthy read for those into criminal profiling.


Blogger Chris said...

Believe it or not, my wife is a huge "true crime" fan (and believe you me, I sleep with one eye open), and read this book.

Her take was much the same: more cases would have made this better, with less of the personal detail behind the authors.

9:59 PM  

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