Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit

4.4 112
by John Douglas, Mark Olshaker

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During his twenty-five-year career with the Investigative Support Unit, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers of our time: the man who hunted prostitutes for sport in the woods of Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer, and Seattle's Green River killer, the case that


During his twenty-five-year career with the Investigative Support Unit, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers of our time: the man who hunted prostitutes for sport in the woods of Alaska, the Atlanta child murderer, and Seattle's Green River killer, the case that nearly cost Douglas his life. As the model for Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs, Douglas has confronted, interviewed, adn studied scores of serial killers and assassins, including Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Ed Gein, who dressed himself in his victims' peeled skin. Now, in chilling detail, the legendary Mindhunter takes us behind the scenes of some of his most gruesome, fascinating, and challenging cases -- and into the darkest recesses of our worst nightmares.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/95.]-Gregor A. Preston, formerly with Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Rima L. Firrone
Douglas…is one heck of a storyteller. Mindhunter is the book that will make you lock up the house, take the phone off the hook and just keep reading. You won't be able to put it down.
—Ocala (FL) Star—Banner

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1: Inside the Mind of a Killer

Behavior reflects personality.One of the reasons our work is even necessary has to do with the changing natureof violent crime itself. We all know about the drug-related murders that plaguemost of our cities and the gun crimes that have become an everyday occurrence aswell as a national disgrace. Yet it used to be that most crime, particularly mostviolent crime, happened between people who in some way knew each other.We're not seeing that as much any longer. As recently as the 1960s, the solutionrate to homicide in this country was well over 90 percent. We're not seeing thatany longer, either. Now, despite impressive advances in science and technology,despite the advent of the computer age, despite many more police officers withfar better and more sophisticated training and resources, the murder rate hasbeen going up and the solution rate has been going down. More and more crimes arebeing committed by and against "strangers," and in many cases we have no motiveto work with, at least no obvious or "logical" motive.Traditionally, most murders and violent crimes were relatively easy for lawenforcement officials to comprehend. They resulted from critically exaggeratedmanifestations of feelings we all experience: anger, greed, jealousy, profit,revenge. Once this emotional problem was taken care of, the crime or crime spreewould end. Someone would be dead, but that was that and the police generally knewwho and what they were looking for.But a new type of violent criminal has surfaced in recent years-- the serialoffender, who often doesn't stop until he is caught or killed, who learns byexperience and who tends to get better andbetter at what he does, constantlyperfecting his scenario from one crime to the next. I say "surfaced" because, tosome degree, he was probably with us all along, going back long before 1880sLondon and Jack the Ripper, generally considered the first modem serial killer.And I say "he" because, for reasons we'll get into a little later, virtually allreal serial killers are male.Serial murder may, in fact, be a much older phenomenon than we realize. Thestories and legends that have filtered down about witches and werewolves andvampires may have been a way of explaining outrages so hideous that no one in thesmall and close-knit towns of Europe and early America could comprehend theperversities we now take for granted. Monsters had to be supernatural creatures.Theycouldn't be just like us.Serial killers and rapists also tend to be the most bewildering, personallydisturbing, and most difficult to catch of all violent criminals. This is, inpart, because they tend to be motivated by far more complex factors than thebasic ones I've just enumerated. This, in turn, makes their patterns moreconfusing and distances them from such other normal feelings as compassion,guilt, or remorse.Sometimes, the only way to catch them is to learn how to think like they do.Lest anyone think I will be giving away any closely guarded investigative secretsthat could provide a "how-to', to would-be offenders, let me reassure you on thatpoint right now. What I will be relating is how we developed the behavioralapproach to criminal-personality profiling, crime analysis, and prosecutorial strategy, but I couldn't make this a how-to courseeven if I wanted to. For one thing, it takes as much as two years for us to trainthe already experienced, highly accomplished agents selected to come into myunit. For another, no matter how much the criminal thinks he knows, the more hedoes to try to evade detection or throw us off the track, the more behavioralclues he's going to give us to work with.As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes say many decades ago, "Singularityis almost invariablya clue. The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult it isto bring it home." In other words, the more behavior we have, the more completethe profile and analysis we can give to the local police. The better the profilethe local police have to work with, the more they can slice down the potentialsuspect population and concentrate on finding the real guy.Which brings me to the other disclaimer about our work. In the InvestigativeSupport Unit, which is part of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis ofViolent Crime at Quantico, we don't catch criminals. Let me repeat that: we donot catch criminals. Local police catch criminals, and considering the incrediblepressures they're under, most of them do a pretty damn good job of it. What wetry to do is assist local police in focusing their investigations, then suggestsome proactive techniques that might help draw a criminal out. Once they catchhim-- and again, I emphasize they, not we-- we will try toformulate a strategy to help the prosecutor bring out the defendant's truepersonality during the trial.We're able to do this because of our research and our specialized experience.While a local midwestern police department faced with a serial-murderinvestigation might be seeing these horrors for the first time, my unit hasprobably handled hundreds, if not thousands, of similar crimes. I always tell myagents, "If you want to understand the artist, you have to look at the painting."We've looked at many "paintings" over the years and talked extensively to themost "accomplished" "artists."We began methodically developing the work of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit,and what later came to be the Investigative Support Unit, in the late 1970s andearly 1980s. And though most of the books that dramatize and glorify what we do,such as Tom Harris's memorable The Silence of the Lambs are somewhatfanciful and prone to dramatic license, our antecedents actually do go back tocrime fiction more than crime fact. C. August Dupin, the amateur detective heroof Edgar Allan Poe's 1841 classic "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," may have beenhistory's first behavioral profiler. This story may also represent the first useof a proactive technique by the profiler to flush out an unknown subject andvindicate an innocent man imprisoned for the killings.Like the men and women in my unit a hundred and fifty years later, Poe understoodthe value of profiling when forensic evidence alone isn't enough to solve aparticularly brutal and seemingly motiveless crime. "Deprived of ordinaryresources," he wrote, "the analyst throws himself into the spirit of hisopponent, identifies himself therewith, and not infrequently sees thus, at aglance, the sole methods by which he may seduce into error or hurry intomiscalculation."

What People are saying about this

Jonathan Demme
John Douglas knows more about serial killers than anybody in the world.
Patricia Cornwell
…in this chronicle of his remarkable and chilling career, John Douglas allows all of us to accompany him into unthinkably dark places where we find the bloody tracks of the Ted Bundys, John Hinckley Jrs., and Charles Mansons.
—(Patricia Cornwell, bestselling author of The Body Farm and From Potter's Field)

Meet the Author

John DouglasDuring his twenty-five years with the FBI, John Douglas became theleading expert on criminal personality profiling and the pioneer of moderncriminal investigative analysis. He conducted the first organized study into themethods and motivations of serial criminals and has aided police departments andprosecutors throughout the world on some of their most puzzling cases. A veteranof the Air Force, Douglas holds a Doctor of Education degree and is the author ofnumerous articles on criminology and co-author of the landmark books SexualHomicide: Patterns and Motives and Crime Classification Manual. WithMark Olshaker he wrote John Douglas lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

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Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 reviews.
GonzoRN More than 1 year ago
At the end of this book you come away feeling as though you have been through a lot of this with Mr. Douglas, and you have a strong since of who Mr. Douglas and his team are. If at some point you are not disturbed by this book there is something wrong. You find yourself feeling for, and with, John throughout the book. To start you find yourself in the middle of something that had to leave him shaken and worried. Then you have to follow the hard work (mentally and physically) that John had to go through to hone his craft. He truly proves to be one of the best ever in the business. This is the first of John Douglas' books that I have read and I can't wait to dive in to the next one I can put my hands on. If you have interest in true crime, serial killers, violent crime, or the hard work and stress that profilers have to go through, make sure you have this book, and when you are done keep it for reference. This book is fully indexed so it is easy to find what you are looking for. For either the veteran true crime enthusiast or your first look into the dark underbelly of human race, make sure to pick up this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found Manhunter both disturbing and fascinating . First and foremost I believe the people in the Investigative Support Unit deserve a great deal of thanks for their work. It is traumatic experience to put yourself in the mind of the serial killer and or victim. This book shows that this is what must be done to solve these cases. It shows that a keen understanding of behavior can turn up leads for investigators which may go unnoticed in a classic investigation. I also learned that parental support during a child¿s younger years can either help them lead a full and rewarding life. The lack of it can lead to consequences that are shown in this book. Serial killers are made, not born. I loved the part where John Douglas lays into a psychiatrist who believes a particular criminal is almost ready for release. Douglas asks if the psychiatrist knows the details of his crime. He doesn¿t and when John informs him he becomes irate. Well too bad, I¿m glad John stood up to this guy. He has no idea this criminal can¿t be rehabilitated. If he gets out he will kill again. It has been proven time and time again. Don¿t read this book if you don¿t have a strong stomach. If you do read it expect to be VERY affected by it.
tattooedmommie More than 1 year ago
Being a criminology major, loving true crime and interested in the mind of serial killers, this was a great read. I've heard of John Douglas in regards to his association with big profile serial killer cases but never really felt that I "got to know him" more. Not only did you get to "get to know" John Douglas but you get to see more of how the FBI's elite serial crime unit grew into what it is today!
JWWitness-III More than 1 year ago
I read this book. It had some interesting information in it. I like the book but it seems that the author John Douglas likes to take credit for a lot of things that Robert Ressler did before him. The Author comes across as certifiably narcissistic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book while home alone for a weekend while my husband was away...NOT a good idea! I just couldn't put it down and was scared. You'll never look at your neighbor or an unmarked white van again!
eversewenglish More than 1 year ago
Dear John, I just finished pouring over your book Mind Hunter, the one you signed and gave to Mac as a gift. Thank you for your pages of experience. Congrats on a well written book!! I just had to let you know how much I appreciate your line of work and the efforts of your investigative career path travelled. I feel blessed as a citizen to know that there are agents like you and those you have trained and influenced, working hard to keep up with the increasing sophisication of criminals out there. You have am amazing thought process, and it is astonishing to read how you have broken down information to uncover criminals identities. I am the daughter of a murderer, so it was why I picked up your book to read so that I would learn something about criminal minds. My father murdered my mother in 1979, in England in our home. I have spent my life agonizing over his act, and live through the damage he caused to our family, not to mention my mothers life being ended at age 36. Your book touches why he choce the method he used and on his personality type " if I can have her, know one can", my father would make such threats over the years and no one thought he would ever carry out his statement, he was perceived as a "salt of the earth type of guy" to outsiders, but inside our home I knew a different person. If you ever feel up to it, I would love to talk, there are aspects surrounding my mothers case I would love some answers on. I want to send you a "Big" congratulations, on a superb book that enlightens the public on criminal conduct. I feel educated now to keep my wits about me when dealing with the public at large. I can imagine the toll your job in the past took on you and your family. I hope now you are enjoying your retirement and are able to live a peaceful exsistance. Your life deserves a well earned rest. We would love to have dinner sometime with you and Pam. I'm going to research which one of your books I want to read next. Bravo John Bravo. Gratefully... Jennifer Church
Anonymous 5 days ago
The Anatomy of Motive is better.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is good, and if you're a Criminal Minds fan, you'll see how they use some of the real situations and scenarios. It only gets three stars, though, because the book is too expensive. Ebooks shouldn't cost nearly $20.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorite books...
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quite possibly my favorite book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To much of an easy read for my taste. I also found it as a bragging work of a typical law enforcer. I was exspecting more it was really albout him.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and fascinating read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very informative book. I wish the FBI would've gotten involved in the still unsolved multi-murder case, in the book I'm recommending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After years of having watched countless movies and tv shows about profiling, I decided to check out this book which details the beginning of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). John Douglas's life is the basis of the first third of the book, but is very well-written and engaging. By the time I reached the true delving into the criminal mind in the middle third of the book, I really enjoyed Douglas as a "character". Highly recommend to anyone interested in the real history of criminal profiling and behavior analysis.
M-Pritchard More than 1 year ago
This is a GREAT book as far as learning about criminal profiling, so long as you can read through Mr. Douglas' narcissism. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author did a good job of explaining many cases and giving readers a better understanding of criminal profiling. IMO, there was a little but too much grandstanding & self promotion...but some of it was likely unavoidable in telling the true story. I enjoyed gaining perspective of the FBI's tactics for "looking into the mind of a serial killer." I also appreciated that he included information about the impact of such a career on ones personal life, physically and as it relates to family life.
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