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The Anatomy of Motive Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What makes people kill? Specifically, what are the motivations behind serial, mass, and spree killings? Drawing from cases such as the mass murder in Dunblane, Scotland, in which a lone gunman mowed down 16 children and their teacher, the still-unsolved Tylenol poisonings, and the Unabomber, former FBI profiler John Douglas and coauthor Mark Olshaker try to explain the unthinkable. What sets The Anatomy of Motive apart from so many of the theories about these horrific acts of violence is that Douglas and Olshaker have no obvious political agenda. They don't look for easy answers and they don't provide easy solutions. They do, however, offer some insight into the twisted kind of thinking that can lead a person to believe that the solution to his problems lies in bloodshed. They also provide some danger signs that may help to identify the potentially violent criminal before he has a chance to act out his morbid fantasies. While The Anatomy of Motive is undeniably horrifying, it is also illuminating, and Douglas and Olshaker approach their topic with grace and insight. --Lisa Higgins --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

A volume of case studies by Douglas, the former chief profiler at the FBI's legendary behavioral sciences unit, and Olshaker has become an annual event, from 1995's Mind Hunter to last year's Obsession. Here, the duo exhume the victims of Andrew Cunanan, Charles Whitman, Theodore Kaczynski and many others for insight into the killers' minds. Douglas's formula is deceptively simple: "WHY? + HOW? = WHO." But since serial killers are rarely caught through profiling, the formula is better expressed as "WHO + HOW = WHY." Douglas is tops in the field. He was among the first to suggest that the Atlanta child murderer was African-American, and he delivered a dead-on profile of Scottish mass-murderer Thomas Watt Hamilton on live TV based on preliminary news accounts. Still, most of what's here will be familiar to readers of other profiling books: the lonely white male with an obsessive sense of his own failure who tortured animals, wet his bed and played with matches as a child. Though Douglas promises to explain the differences among bombers, arsonists, shooters, cutters and stranglers, his profiles too often cleave to predictable, reductive formulations. Both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby are characterized as "paranoid losers"; Timothy McVeigh is "a scrawny, pissed-off young hick." As always, Douglas and Olshaker deliver an entertaining read, but fewer case studies presented with more depth would better inform and educate the amateur profiler. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671023934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671023935
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pajamazon VINE VOICE on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Douglas has trod this ground before, but never so well as this book. It's my favorite of his writings. Some critics claim that Douglas is unbearably arrogant about his work, but with his track record, who can blame him? Criminal profiling has got to be one of the most fascinating subjects; a science combining intuition, detective work, and common sense.

Douglas gives overviews of different types of killers: serial, mass, spree, and tells how they differ from each other. Those profiled include Andrew Cunanan and the Tylenol poisoner. Douglas also profiles two of the most intriguing killers, in my opinion, John List and Charles Whitman. Two more different people could not exist, and yet they both resorted (chose, in Douglas' opinion) to murder. Douglas main refrain is that these people, through a combination of physiological and psychological factors, environmental conditions, and situation stressors, choose to take the course they do. That is, lots of people may have a brutal upbringing and negative life situations, but do not kill people. So, it is a choice, and not a compulsion they cannot avoid (as Douglas puts it, none of these killers would murder while a uniformed policeman stood nearby).

At the end of the book, Douglas gives us four scenarios and gives us an opportunity to figure out whodunit. If you've been reading carefully, he says, you should be able to tell. I got three out of the four, so I guess I'm headed for the FBI academy!

If you like Douglas' work and writing, you will enjoy this book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Some people believe that John Douglas comes off as a bit arrogant in his writing, and I could not agree more. However, once the reader is able to get past the author's arrogance, the author compiles a very interesting read.
Douglas takes into account all of the types of killers including arsonists, assasins, poisoners, bombers, serial, killers, mass murders, and spree killers. He goes into detail to explain who is likely to commit the specific crime and what makes them snap to go on their murderous rampage. Once the author gets into a specific story it is hard to put this book down.
The final chapter allows the reader to try some profiling of his/her own on some specific case. For this reason, the last chapter is called "you make the call."
Overall, I enjoyed this book and would suggest it to all true crime fans. Just for the record, I do intend to read some of Douglas's other books in the future, based on my enjoyment of this book and the other book I have read and reviewed by him.
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By A Customer on May 17, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the third book I've read of John Douglas. Mindhunter and Journey into Darkness are the other two. If you're anything like me, you are absolutely repulsed by the crimes these creatures commit...but you're curious about it, too. I mean, HOW can any human being do things that Mr. Douglas describes in his books to another human being. As much as I am repulsed by this behavior, I am strangely fascinated by it. What makes them tick?
John Douglas helps answer this question. Straight-forward description of events, explanations behind the crimes. He describes what happens underneath the surface of these crimes and how this will help point to motive. And ultimately, that's what's important: WHY? Because when you find out HOW, you can figure out WHY, and this will help lead to WHO, as John Douglas explains in his book.
This book will interest anyone that reads suspense, thriller, or horror genres. Authors like Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, Thomas Harris, Patricia Cornwell, and the likes: If you read any of these authors, read John Douglas's books, especially The Anatomy of Motive. What it may lack in suspense (he writes these books not so much to keep you guessing "what next," or anything like that), it more than makes up for in the fact that EVERYTHING HE TELLS YOU, ACTUALLY HAPPENED!
And not that the "lack of suspense" makes this book boring. This couldn't be further from the truth. Case in point: John Douglas will not just describe a crime and an investigation into the Whodunnit, he's going to take you inside the mind of serial killers, mass killers, spree killers, assassins, arsonists, poisoners, kidnappings, and more. That's what's so terrifying: You're inside the mind of a killer, and for once you're not asking "How can a freak like this do such a thing to another human?" because it suddenly makes sense. SPOOKY!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Douglas doesn't claim that anyone is born bad. He's delved into what turns human beings into monsters, often an abusive upbringing, and in fact has often stated that programs like Head Start are the best way to prevent serial killers and rapists, and crime in general. He merely states that by the time he or other law enforcement officers get involved it is far too late to fix anything. Someone like John Wayne Gacy could have been helped while he was a child, but by the time the FBI is involved he's already learned that he enjoys killing. Douglas' job isn't to try and undo decades of mental developement, it is to render a very sick person incapable of doing further harm.
As for calling these men cowards, I don't know what else to call a man who preys on the weak to bolster his self esteem.
Douglas and Olshaker make a great writing team. Anyone who has in interest in investigation, psychology, or criminal justice should read all of their collaborative efforts.
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