Book Review – John Douglas & Mark Olshaker’s “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit”

It’s said that the truth is stranger than fiction.

It’s also stated that the horrors of reality will always exceed the deepest and most chilling images that Hollywood could ever create.  That statement couldn’t be more true than in John Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s horrifyingly true book, Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.

John Douglas & Mark Olshaker - Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime UnitInside Mind Hunter you’ll learn just how sick and twisted some people can become as they torture and murder innocent victims.  Not only will you learn about some of the most horrific murders in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but you’ll also take a trip into the mind of the killers as the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit learns how to profile the killers with precision and accuracy.

Mind Hunter takes readers through a brief trip in the career of FBI Special Agent John Douglas, from his childhood through his prestigious career in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) at Quantico, Virginia.  It’s at the BSU though where Douglas works his magic and fine tune his skills, turning a gray area of police investigation into a critical tool.

The art of criminal profiling takes a close look at the physical evidence at a crime scene and then attempts to create an accurate description of the suspect, from his age to his education level to his occupation to any disability to the person’s vehicle.  It’s a gray area of investigation because it involves common behavioral statistics and composes a sketch of a suspect.  Unbelievers call it guesswork until they see it in action and the “guesswork” can accurately pick out the correct criminal out of a stack of suspects.

Throughout Mind Hunter you learn how pathetic most of the serial criminals really are in real life.  Many of these people are weaklings or people trying to compensate for something whether it’s a disability or impairment, an inability to speak or perform in bed with women, or simply a matter of jealousy.  When you study a crime scene and any additional evidence, you can accurately predict the attacker’s mental problem.

We’re not talking about mercenaries, assassins, Mafia hitmen, or any other professional or contract killer.  This is about seemingly ordinary people who decide to strike back against a person or group of people, all because that attacker, that killer, decided that things weren’t going well for him.

  • He was fired from a job.
  • He cannot perform well in bed.
  • He cannot talk to or approach women.
  • He is jealous of somebody for any reason.

You can pick any reason at all and somebody, some loser out there, will use that as an impulse to attack, torture, and/or kill another human being.  Some of those people will stage their victim’s body to either send the police a message or make the crime look like a different crime.  Other people will dismember the corpse and take home a souvenir, whether it’s a piece of jewelery or part of the person’s body.

You’ll see just how sick, twisted and gruesome some of those killers can be in Mind Hunter.  The book covers a dozen or so different murderers from Charles Mason to the Green River Killer in Spokane, Washington to the Atlanta child murders from 1979-81.

If I had my way it would be the electric chair for ALL of those sadistic bastards.  I’d have a computer program pick a random time and date for their execution, not giving them the pleasure of knowing when their death is approaching.  I’d also have a program pick random times for the biggest and meanest thugs to pay them a visit in their prison cell, allowing them to do anything short of killing the criminal.  All of those twisted f*ckers would learn what it’s like to be on the receiving end of endless beatings and torture.

Mind Hunter is a chilling book as it deals with the reality of not only murderers but serial murderers, those people who continue attacking and killing people until they’re finally caught or killed.  These are real people who thrive on the act of attacking innocent victims.  It gives them a sick thrill that escalates and can only be stopped by their own death in the end.

In the end of Mind Hunter, John Douglas briefly discusses what it takes to decrease this type of crime.  Unfortunately, these killers exist because of society.  Family members, friends and acquaintances allow for bad behavior and poor decision making skills to not only exist in the early stages but to also escalate until it reaches a breaking point.  From bad homes to a weakness in the penal system, these sick f*ckers are allowed to walk the streets and have the rest of society stand on guard, watching their own backs and triple locking their doors and windows at night.

Mind Hunter is an eye-opening experience.  It’s a book that you wish didn’t exist.  This isn’t a television show or movie.  This is reality in a very brutal fashion.  As horrific as the crimes are in this book, you’re captivated to continue reading and learning how the criminals are accurately profiled and ultimately brought to justice.  Your heart goes out to the victims’ and their families, and you pray that you’re never in their shoes.

Not enough credit can be given to John Douglas and his techniques for creating an accurate method of profiling criminals.  One cannot guess the number of innocent lives that have been saved because of his techniques for capturing the killers.

John Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit is absolutely a must-read for anybody interested in law enforcement, the FBI, and some of the worst criminals during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

On a side note, the August of 1996 printing by First Pocket Books is actually a poor version of this book.  Throughout the second half of the book there are numerous punctuation errors from missing periods and quotation marks to commas incorrectly used as periods.  In a few cases I even found a couple of words that should have been hyphenated.

four stars