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Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit Hardcover – October 31, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0684803760 ISBN-10: 0684803763 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684803763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684803760
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (251 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mindhunter enters the minds of some of the country's most notorious serial killers to tell the real-life story of the Investigative Support Unit (ISU) -- the FBI's special force that has assisted state and local police in cracking some of the country's most celebrated serial murder and rape cases. The unit specializes in understanding the chemistry and mechanical workings of the brain's of these serial criminals, and did its homework by interviewing such murderers as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam). John Douglas, who worked for the FBI for 25 years, is an authority on the unit, and his book combines the best of nonfiction with that of a murder mystery. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

One of the first to develop the specialty of "criminal-personality profiling," Douglas has written a readable, popular version of his earlier Sexual Homicide (Lexington, 1988). He discusses how FBI profilers, working from crime scene evidence, predict the type of personality who committed a serial murder. Accurate profiles-such as that of Wayne Williams, the Atlanta child killer-can help focus on likely suspects. Profiling can also suggest proactive steps for luring the culprit into contacting the police. Unfortunately, a profile is apt to "fit a lot of people." As the unsolved Green River Killer case attests, it cannot substitute for hard evidence. Although profiling has limitations not emphasized in this semiautobiographical account, Douglas is justifiably proud of its success. Recommended for true crime collections.
--Gregor A. Preston, formerly with Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This is John Douglas' first profiling book.
P. Brown
As an author, this book gave me a host of ideas on how the good guys and the bad guys work.
Michael J. Tresca
I look forward to reading the follow up to this book.
Kel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By P. Miller on February 3, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first of Douglas' books I've read. After having read Robert Ressler's 2 books, I found this to be more of the same serial killer profiles, with a different spin on the same cases that Ressler reviews in his books. "Mind Hunter" has more of Douglas' personal & professional journey woven into his case studies. It's somewhat boastful of his accomplishments, and, at times, self congratulatory, but still very interesting. The book achieves a good level of insightfulness into the minds and psychopathology of the serial killers profiled. The disappointment lies, however, in that Douglas casually glosses over exactly how his profiles are derived and constructed from the particular facts of each case. Little to no analytic methodology is presented. (I mean, it's not as if readers are gonna run out and take his job away from him if he reveals too many tricks of his trade). In fact, Douglas presents his ability to profile as if he's a magical psychic, pulling personality theories out of his hat. Low and behold! - once the investigations are complete, he ends up with an accurate profile, and people are amazed by him! Nonetheless, it's an enjoyable and very interesting book. If you're intersted in criminal profiling, it's worth a read, but it's not as in-depth as say, Michaud and Hazelwood's "The Evil that Men Do".
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is a great start to those who are interested in behavioral sciences, the subject profiling or life in the FBI. The book is detailed in the techniques John Douglas developed and is very easy to read for a person who is not familiar with psychology.
The book starts off with Douglas' early life, entry into the FBI, and the struggles he endured to get profiling on the map. Then, Douglas procedes in showing the reader how success in famous cases thereafter solidified profiling as a real, if somewhat imperfect, science. Douglas goes case by case, pointing out what he looks for in determining the type of killer responsible, and the clues needed to single out the offender.
If you are interested in profiling, John Douglas will show you how he and others like him have done it for years. Unlike the previous reviewer stated, Douglas DOES show you how a trained professional would profile a criminal, but the reader should not expect to be able to profile someone themselves because it takes years of experience and training. He shows the reader what type of physical and behavioral evidence he looks for when creating a profile. In one chapter, he even decides to take you step by step in detail on how he developed a profile for a killer.
Profiling is a behavioral science technique and while Douglas integrates psychological theory, it does not get at all technical or something that the reader will not understand. Douglas and Olshaker made sure this was a book that anyone could read.
John Douglas covers a lot of cases in this book and while they may not be detailed to every piece of evidence in the case, the book overall succeeds in showing the reader how the cases were solved, a general idea of FBI life, profiling, and the criminal mind.
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72 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Tresca VINE VOICE on December 29, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, for research purposes. I'm writing a book about playing the "good guys" who hunt typical movie slashers, and this book seemed like a good introduction into how the ESCU works to catch the bad guys. What I got was something else entirely.

John Douglas is a very scary man. He's someone who has seen far too many horrific crimes, such that they affect him personally-when his kids scrape their knees, Douglas recounts tales of children torn in half by a murderer. When his wife cuts her finger with a kitchen knife, he points out how the spatter pattern would tell a story about what happened. Ultimately, this sort of exposure leads to a divorce and Douglas is upfront about the damage his profession did to his job.

The book starts out with Douglas in the hospital, the victim of being overworked and without enough manpower to help him. Near death, he recounts the creation of the ESCU and his struggles in making the profiling of serial killers (he invented the term) a legitimate profession. But it does not go into much detail as to how the ESCU works. In fact, it's more about Douglas and about the murderers themselves.

And what a ghastly rogues gallery it is! We have serial killers who invent vigilante groups to cover their tracks, we have killers who like to fly prostitutes out to woodlands and then hunt them down like deer, killers who believe God is telling them to kill people, and killers who strangle, rape, drown, and stab.

I read "Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies" at the same time and found an odd juxtaposition between the two books.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Profiler on March 16, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What many reviewers of John Douglas and Mark Olshaker's book seemed to have overlooked is the tie-in between the biographical information and the profiling techniques John helped to develop. The story of John's mother inquiring into his sex life leads directly to his 'everybody has a rock' theory. The story of betting on raindrops clearly shows why criminals continue to commit crimes: because they can.
John's other biographical stories help illustrate how diffcult life inside the FBI can be. The list of victims in a murder isn't limited to the one murdered; they include the family, neighbors, friends, investigators working a case and Federal law enforcement officers and their families. Anyone considering a career in law enforcement or with the Bureau, should take this into consideration before signing on.
In the context of writing, there are two ways to tell a story; telling vs showing. Mark and John chose to write this book by showing the reader how profiles are constructed. No, you won't find a step-by-step instruction manual within these pages, but you will find the method fully illustrated. An example is the Trailside Killer profile. Carpenter approached his victims in isolated areas and used a blitz attack from the rear to disable them. John Douglas wondered why and took the reader through the steps; the killer didn't attempt to lure or trick his victims as had Bundy. Instead, the killer felt the need to take the victims by surprise even in isolated areas of Tamalpais Park. This told John the killer felt awkward, possibly had a handicap. A physical impairment or disfigurement would have been noticed by others in the park at the time of the murders. That left a speech impediment. The rest of the reasoning behind the profile is detailed quite clearly.
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