Enter the Mind of a Serial Killer

Sep 15, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Good overview of serial killer analysis

Cons:Too much time spent on Collins case; Graphic detail

The Bottom Line: A good educational book about serial killers and how the FBI is able to find them; along with specific cases on well- known murders.


Author John Douglas is a well- known figure in FBI circles. He is one of this organizations premier investigators and experts on tracking down serial killers and bringing them to justice. He wrote this book, “Journey Into Darkness”, to summarize some of his wisdom that he has gained over the years while working in the FBI, and also to discuss some of the important abductions and murder cases that he has been asked to investigate and solve.

Basic Contents of This Book:

This 380 page paperback book is divided into 13 chapters:

1. Journey Into Darkness
2. The Motive Behind the Murder
3. Candy From Strangers
4. Is Nothing Sacred?
5. For the Children
6. Fighting Back
7. Sue Blue
8. Death of a Marine
9. The Passion of Jack and Trudy Collins
10. The Blood of the Lambs
11. Have They Got the Wrong Man?
12. Murder on South Bundy Drive
13. Crime and Punishment

In the first few chapters of the book, Douglas describes the typical characteristics of serial killers and he briefly touches on some of the personality traits and environmental factors that make these people have such a strong desire to kill. He then provides a 7- step listing of his process that he utilizes when he profiles a killer: Evaluation of the criminal act; Comprehensive evaluation of the specifics of the crime scene; Analysis of the victims; Evaluation of preliminary police reports; Evaluation of the medical examiner’s autopsy protocol; Development of a profile with the offender’s characteristics; and Investigative suggestions predicated on construction of a profile. Through this process, Douglas is able to create the profile of a suspect with very good accuracy.

In chapters 4, 5, and 6, Douglas talks about the abduction of children and the techniques that serial killers use to lure their prey. The chapter “fighting back” talks about the steps that parents can take to make sure that their child doesn’t become a statistic. Douglas even has a table, in the middle of this chapter, where he indicates what social skills that he feels a child should have at each grade level, to help ensure that he/she is prepared to handle a potentially dangerous situation, if one arises.

In the remaining chapters, Douglas talks about specific incidents that he has worked on. Many of these events made national news, while others were kept more local. We all know about the most notorious of modern- day killers, Ted Bundy, but the others that Douglas talks about are not as well known, like Stuart Knowlton, the convicted killer of Cassandra Hansen.

There is an entire chapter devoted to the O.J. Simpson murders. Douglas examines this case and his conclusion is pretty much the same as everyone else in America: Simpson committed the crime. Not only was the physical evidence overwhelming, but the way that Simpson conducted himself was just not becoming of an innocent man. Douglas feels that this was actually one of the easiest, no- brainer cases he has ever seen, yet the guilty party went home a free man.

Of all the murders that are covered in this book, the author spends the most time talking about the death of Susan Collins. This case is one that I can recall hearing on the news, back in 1985, when the murder took place. She had joined the marines at that time, and was stationed on Paris Island. She went out one evening for a jog, and never returned. Douglas worked diligently on this case, and succeeded in convicting serial killer Sedley Alley of murder, kidnapping, and rape.

The book ends with Douglas discussing crime and punishment in general, and how he feels that the death penalty does not seem to be an effective deterrent to committing murder. People who want to kill do not hesitate one bit over the thought of losing their own lives in the electric chair. They have completed their task, and if they end up dying themselves, then so be it.

Final Thoughts:

Douglas is a seasoned professional, and it shows in this book. He has extensive knowledge and many years of experience with murder investigation. The wisdom that he has gained make it very easy for Douglas to gather the evidence and construct the profile of a killer, and he does so with an excellent degree of accuracy.

This book might make some a little worried about serial killers, particularly women and children who are the primary target of these murderers. Douglas tries to put the concerned readers mind at ease, every now and then, by pointing out that these killers are not necessarily lurking everywhere. Nevertheless, a person should always be on guard and should be wary of any type of approach by a stranger.

Douglas might come across as arrogant to some readers, because he speaks with authority and he has proof of his success to back up his words. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him conceited, but I think he is definitely a confident man who knows his job and performs it meticulously well.

If you decide to read this book, be prepared for lots of blood, guts, gore, and harsh language. This is, after all, a book on serial killers, so you have to expect it to be this way. It might be a little too scary to some people, but I found it to be an enjoyable, educational book that gives me a whole new perspective on people. Before you pull over to pick up that hitchhiker, or stop your car at night to help a person with car trouble, read this book. You will never look at these strangers the same way again!


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