Book Review – John Douglas & Mark Olshaker’s “Journey Into Darkness”

Back in late February I finished reading Journey Into Darkness, another set of brutal and horrific true crime stories from famed FBI Special Agent John Douglas.  This book goes along with his previous book, Mindhunter.

Just like MindhunterJourney Into Darkness takes a look at a few bloody and brutal cases that John Douglas either worked on personally, or that he had heard about during his time with the FBI.

John Douglas & Mark Olshaker — Journey Into Darkness

This time around, authors John Douglas and Mark Olshaker seem to be generally focused with sex crimes and the murders that accompanied them.  The book begins with a short story of a man abducting and killing a young lady in the Marine Corps, told from his point-of-view.  We later learn that the story is what Douglas believes happened as he helped investigate the crime and placed himself in the killer’s shoes, searching for his motive and methods in an effort to later capture him.

Like in MindhunterJourney Into Darkness has several true crime cases.  Most of these tend to showcase the murders of women and young children, and most of them were sexually assaulted as well.  Some of it is quite graphic as we read about what monsters can do when they strike and release their rage.

For me, much of this book was actually pretty boring and read like it was written straight from John’s personal notes about the crime.  We get to read about the crimes, but there’s actually very little about analyzing the motive and the hunt for the right criminal.  Most of the stories follow the same pattern of the discovery of the crime, a brief analysis of the killer, and the capture of the killer himself.  It’s actually rather bland when it’s the same pattern repeated again and again when any one of those killings could have had an entire book written about it.

But that’s just part of Journey Into Darkness.

The other half of the book goes into almost too much unnecessary detail surrounding some of the crimes.  In the case of the murdered female Marine, the book has several chapters of her life story, information completely irrelevant to her murder.  For her capture and murder, she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a predator was on the prowl.  We really don’t have to read about how she was adopted at a young age and moved to different cities with her adoptive family, and how she was somewhat of a rebel as a teenager.

None of that mattered with her murder as she was jogging late at night on a military base, something that she had done frequently.  She was also jogging on paths that routinely had other people and vehicles as well.  The fact that she was actually abducted and taken off base where she was sodomized and murdered is rather amazing considering her intelligence and physical fitness as being a Marine, and that she was on base and not too far from other people as well.

John Douglas also feels the need to lecture to us about how to teach children how to handle strangers, as well as basic safety precautions.  Most of the material is common sense, and it feels a bit unnecessary in this book.  After all, if people have been paying attention to the true crime stories in Mindhunter as well as Journey Into Darkness, then they should already have a good idea of what it takes to be safer around strangers.

Of course, there are a thousand other variables involving murderers and psychopaths that you simply cannot anticipate no matter how prepared or smart you think you are.  Until you’re actually in that life-or-death situation, you’ll never know how or when such an attack may happen, if it ever does.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The true crimes in Journey Into Darkness are a combination of fascinating yet chilling.  It’s yet another example of just how sick and twisted some people are when they lash out against innocent members of society.

This book is a let down, especially when compared to Mindhunter.  The writing style in Journey Into Darkness is boring and repetitive, and about half of the book feels like a complete waste of time.  Don’t look for John Douglas to put much detail into analyzing, profiling and hunting for the killers in this book.  Here it’s the crime, a quick analysis, a guess at the motive, and then the answer — a.k.a. the captured killer.  Between all of that is unnecessary filler material, much of it being a complete waste of space.

It’ll be easy donating this book to a local thrift store.  For comparison, I still have my copy of Mindhunter.

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