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Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

December 30, 2017


This book recalls some of the creepiest moments of Silence of the Lambs, when Clarice Starling interviews Hannibal Lecter at the Baltimore mental institution. Only here it’s real life.

John E. Douglas made his name profiling serial killers. He pioneered the now-common practice of using limited clues to develop a picture of a killer and his (usually) motives, then using that profile to predict his next move. It was a kind of method acting of investigation.

He developed the practice by conducting in-depth interviews with the most notorious serial killers of the time—Charles Manson, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Ed Kemper, Richard Speck, etc. It was an outlandish idea trying to understand the minds of these sociopaths, but he was able to develop a methodology and eventually built a specialized department at the FBI. Much of the modern practice of criminal profiling is based on his work, and Hollywood owes him a debt as well (Jack Crawford, from Silence of the Lambs, is based on Douglas).

This book is most interesting when it sticks to the topic of profiling and the serial killer cases. At times it veers off into other cases or more tangential biographical stories, but for the most part it’s a very interesting, if disturbing read. I picked it up when I heard that David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac) would be directing the series for Netflix. The first season of Mindhunter is very good as well.

Related Reads:

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry


4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2017 1:13 am

    I haven’t read this book but saw the series on Netflix. Thought is was pretty slow moving but interesting none the less. Will you be watching the second season? Happy New Year.

    • December 31, 2017 7:11 am

      I liked the show. Ironically, I thought the side stories kept it interesting, the opposite of what I thought about the book. I was hoping for a little more from the first season, but I’ll watch the second. I saw Fincher’s Zodiac in the theater years ago and thought it was very slow. May just not have been in the right mood.


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