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4.1 out of 5 stars44
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 26 August 2008
I was disappointed in this book because I was looking for much more in the way of psychology rather than just written descriptions of fairly well known cases (well I'd heard of many of them). There was some interesting stuff in the book, but by the end I thought a lot of it was padded out with just descriptions of crimes and this made me think "Maybe there isn't that much to profiling these killers and the National Centre for the Analysis of Violent Crime just contains a big white board with "White male + head injury + interested in porn + absent father = possible serial killer" scrawled on it. :) (Anyway, just ordered another book to find out. There must be more intricate detail to find out about these people, not just what they did.)

The book also needed editing in another way. For instance, the chapter on 'murderers that have accomplices' had only just got under way when I found myself reading a description of a killer who worked alone. What was the point of that? The rest of the book was littered with killers working alone, this section was supposed to be about dual killers. Some one needs to cut and paste this part to another chapter. (I think this 'going off point' happened a lot.)

Lastly the updated section was very disappointing. Even less psychology the original book - Harold Shipman features in the bumph on the back cover, but all they do is describe his crimes and make a very superficial summary that he may have done it `because his mother died of cancer.'
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on 14 December 2000
This book has the underline - a study in the psychology of violence - which I would like to point out for starters.
For those of you who want to know more about the actual psychology behind serial killers, this is the book to read! It's a great book, but the authors still seem to be more interested in all the gory details. But it also describes different syndromes and behavioural patterns, which I find really interesting. I would have given this book five stars if it wasn't for all the gory stuff, that I can manage without. Still, maybe it is necessary to include it, in order to accurately describe why the killers did what they did. Nevertheless, it's a good book and worth the money!
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Like the book Legal Blunders, this is another book that you can read from cover to cover or just dip into as you wish. I dipped it!
Firstly, I found the stories in this book interesting and revealing: there were crimes here that I did not know about before I read the book and there were crimes that I did know of but I learned more from the book.
However, given that my focus was the psychological aspect of the book, I was disappointed. The book is structured according to a variety of classifications such as sex crimes, the profile of a serial killer, the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome and so on; but I didn't get enough of the psychology out of it that was promised.
I have reviewed books on such murderers as Harold Shipman, the murdering GP from England in which I called for greater insights into the psychology of such people: I really want to know what makes them tick.
As with Legal Blunders, The Serial Killers is a mutli national book in that we are treated to evil people from all over the place. The Fred and Rosemary West utter depravity are documented in greater detail than I have read before: as one comedian in the UK once asked, "How do we breed these people?" Not funny is it? They were perverted people to the nth degree and I can only hope that there like cannot exist again.
The story of Brady and Hindley, the Moors Murderers, gets no easier in the telling; and don't forget that there is still one poor child, tortured and killed by these evil people, still lying unfound out there on Saddleworth Moor: his parents and the rest of his family desperately want the boy home. Brady and Hindley were as evil as the Wests and are rotting in jail as they ought to do.
I'm sure everyone who reads this book will raise an eyebrow or two at the case of the 'girl in the box' who was abducted and then kept 'prisoner' for SEVEN years or so. In the middle of the case, though, the girl was allowed out to work, to shop and even to go home ... definitely spooky given that her captor abused her, beat her and goodness knows what else.
Definitely readable, definitely interesting, but some of the stories are just terrible: what one person can do to another beggars belief. If you are looking for psychology, you will find some here and may be partly satisfied.
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on 13 January 2010
The book concerns serial killers, chiefly in the USA, but there are a few from the UK and USSR. Most are well known, and all are repulsive. There is some analysis about why people turn to serial murder.

Unfortunately, I am surprised that such a knowledgeable author makes a few errors and seems not to want to acknowledge where debate exists.

For instance, the author seems to agree with Chief Supt John DuRose over the identity of the Thames Nudes Murderer, but there is considerable doubt over whether DuRose was correct. After all, the man suspected was in Scotland duirng one of the murders. Although the author states the killer was unmarried, the man he suspects was married with a family! Likewise, the author has no doubt over Christie's guilt as to the Evans murders, but the evidence is less clear (read Eddowes' book or Oates'). Wilson may be correct in his view, but to state it so blandly is less useful. Finally, recent research indicates that Michael Ostrog was in a French gaol in 1888, yet Wilson notes him as a possible Ripper suspect! Having said that, the comments on the Ripper crimes seem very sound.
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on 18 March 2014
This book was very interesting and sparked my initial interest in forensic/criminal psychology. It has comprehensive reviews of the main cases over the past century and also goes into how these crimes have changed along with society. It does give some quite gruesome details so be prepared but it was definitely a good read and one I would recommend.
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on 2 August 2009
Wilson is an extremely good writer. His smooth and literate writing style remains readable despite the often horrific details recounted. His reports of the crimes are fully fleshed out and his accounts of the killer's lives are often enlightening. However, his accounts of the victims are, in most cases, thumbnails at best. Wilson's analysis leaves much to be desired and, for a crime writer and sometime occult researcher, Wilson is astoundingly prudish. He dwells on the sexual habits of some of his subjects in a way that suggests he sees their exploits as much more scandalising than they actually are and his views on homosexuality are just plain factually wrong.

In conclusion: Approach with caution. An excellent recounting of the details of the crimes but the analysis can be skimmed over.
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on 11 May 2010
It is ways better than Mr Britton's books. But I was looking for more psychological facts, like the childhood of the offenders, how they developed their MO, what made them change or escalate and how the victims were chosen. Sometimes it is done well and sometimes the cases are just briefly introduced and not continued. Missing is also the "profiling", it is described in great detail how the BAU in Quantico started, that they interviewed some 30 criminals, some on death row with nothing to lose, but why not let the reader know how this knowledge is applied?

Nevertheless the cases are very interesting and revealing, and I very much liked the writing style of the authors.
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on 18 January 2014
well written book goes in depth on the subject if studying the subject well worth investing in this book have read several books on the subject but this is the most informative publication
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on 24 February 2012
I decided to buy this book as I've always been intrigued by the motives behind serial killings. This book provides an in-depth range of psychological, environmental and sociological explanations to what drives people to commit such sadistic crimes and historical inventions that have been used to try to prevent it. I haven't given it 5 stars as at times, it didn't seem to link - but then again, it's not a story book, so this may be why. I'd recommend this as a read for a beginner fanatic or someone who wants to do some further reading for the Crime & Deviance module in Sociology A Level.
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on 9 July 2011
Although this book is a bit dated (originally published in 1990, this is the updated 2007 version) it is a very interesting read. The book can be slightly repetative in that it brings up the same points from the same cases (i some times felt i was even reading the same paragraph)over and over again. The book is very detailed but still brief on many of the serial killers we have all heard of. It does, however also include many cases from outside the UK and US which is refreshing.

One of the more interesting chapters was (chapter 3) about the profilers themselves and the way the Behavior Analysis Unit came to be. I thought this chapter helped to show how Psychology is used not only in finding out why these people did what they did, but also in helping to identify the "types" of people. I also found the "evolution of killing" and the comparison with Maslows needs theory very interesting.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Psychology of serial killers and profiling.

(a word of caution.... some of the crime details are fairly graphic)
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