Book Review: Hunting Minds of Murderers, Mindhunter By John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

After a friend of mine introduced me to the Netflix series, ‘Mindhunter’, based on the novel by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, I found myself wanting to know more, and a google search just wouldn’t suffice. I wanted to know more about Ed Kemper, Charles Manson, the BTK killer and more despite how sickening their crimes had been and how much it made my stomach twist. Inside the FBI elite serial crime unit, Douglas and Olshaker show us the non-filtered, harsh truth of the ins and outs of these serial killers and their inhumane criminal acts.

Luckily for me, I’ve found many others to be intrigued by the inner workings of psychotic minds like Ted Bundy who has been portrayed by Zac Efron in ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’, a man known for his good looks and charm (Efron, not Bundy). Although the two share similarities in that respect, only one of them is of course responsible for the cruel torture and murders of over 20 victims. We are disgusted by their crimes, but obsessed with their why’s, and how, how could a human being who once walked among us be capable of carrying out such torturous, callous acts?

Psychologist Dr Meg Arrol, interviewed by the Telegraph in 2019 on our interest in true crime, commented “As humans we want to understand the darker side of our nature… True crime stories allows us to explore that in a safe way, from a safe distance”. True crime has become a source of escapism for many with true crime documentaries highlighted on Netflix and podcasts accessible via Spotify and YouTube.

Statistically, females tend to make up a large percentage of true crime content consumption claimed social psychologist and professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, Amanda Vicary in a Forbes article. In her study, Vicary found that whilst men were more likely to read books about war, women had a tendency to review true crime books.

It makes sense that we are fascinated by those who walk among us who are cognitively wired differently. We are constantly craving and seeking out answers to understand how the thought of blood on our hands makes the majority of us want to throw up, yet is the same source of sexual gratification for a minority. She concluded, “Research shows that women fear crime more than men, since they’re more likely to be a victim of one. My thinking is that this fear is leading women, even subconsciously, to be interested in true crime, because they want to learn how to prevent it.”

Not all victims highlighted in Mindhunter are necessarily female, but they certainly sit in the majority. Douglas provides the reader with a true, up close and personal insight into the incredible work the FBI have done and continue to do, including the darker challenges such as coming to terms with the fact that some cases will go unsolved despite best efforts to catch the killers and serve justice to the victim’s family. The special agent takes us along his journey from academic studies right through to post retirement. He is illustrative throughout which proves to be both good and bad, just make sure your stomach is strong enough to withstand some of the gore and shocking tales of these incarcerated individuals.

The book takes a lot of focus to read and so it is best to dedicate some time to settle down with a blanket, a cup of tea and perhaps a furry friend! You can find it here on Amazon.

Ciao for now x

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Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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