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on 28 April 2017
An excellent read. Wilson wisely moves away from the standard guessing game about the psychology of the perpetrators and examines the victims and the social contexts which they inhabit. This is a master-stroke and it tells us more about the victims and the perpetrators than the usual accounts. A first-rate analysis.
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on 8 September 2017
Great book, goes into detail...
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on 12 December 2016
great xmas gift
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on 5 October 2017
This man is a genius-check his IQ!
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on 19 November 2011
This book is different from the norm, in that it sets out to tell the story of British serial killings as opposed to the killers themselves, the aim being to focus on the victims rather than the perpetrators. A laudable attempt is made to achieve this aim, although, as the writer acknowledges, it is much harder to access their life stories than those of their killers.
Where Mr Wilson lets himself down is with a very obvious, and, towards the latter end of the book, rather predictable, anti-police bias, which I found surprising in a former prison governor. Some of the criticism is justified, the nine interviews of Peter Sutcliffe prior to arrest being a case in point. Some, however, is unfair. He finds fault with the failure to search Sutcliffe's garage and car, without redressing the balance by pointing out that there was no power to do so without a warrant. This underlying bias demeans what is otherwise an interesting and enlightening analysis.
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on 16 June 2010
Although there are plenty of books about serial killers, this one aims to be different by concentrating on victims, not killers. This is to be applauded, but I am afraid that it could have been somewhat sharper in its execution. There is also some interesting analysis on serial killing, too. For those who are new to the subject, this will be informative, but even old hands should benefit from it too.

It begins chronologically, with accounts of the Ripper, then Cream, Chapman and Smith, then Haigh, Christie and Manuel, then decides to produce victim focussed chapters; prostitutes, the very young, the very old, homosexuals. No obvious reason for this change in emphasis.

The author, despite his intention to avoid the pitfalls of others, spends a few pages on the guess the Ripper game, and though this is done sensibly, it doesn't really add anything and goes against what he claims he is aiming to do.

His wider historical comments are not always accurate - Britain didn't grind to a halt in 1926 and there were women on the electoral registers prior to 1918.

Some of the chapters are solely based on secondary sources and these are not always factually sound - especially chapter four.

The author states that information on victims is not collected - he should read police files on murders located at the National Archives, where such information is available - also newspaper accounts. For a victim focussed book it is odd that victims of Jack the Stripper are excluded and there is no obvious reason for this.

Although the author says he isn't interested in killers but victims, we often learn more about the former than the latter, as in the case of Haigh - interesting as it is.

Finally, I am afraid I am someone who believes that individuals kill, not society, so was out of sympathy with the major thesis (constantly repeated in case the message isn't clear), whilst agreeing that victims tend to fall within the vulnerable groups identified here (on the whole). The link between society and murders isn't made clear, except at a generalised level, and as this is the book's thesis, this could have been made more explicit. The thesis of social deprivation, though, doesn't always hold water - why no serial killers in the depressed regions in the 1920s/30s, whereas the only serial killer at this time was from a prosperous suburb? Her victims aren't featured here, incidentally.

A rather tighter product could have come from all this.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2010
David Wilson is well qualified to write about this subject. Prior to take up an academic post he was a prison governor and has experience understanding disruptive prisoners. Whereas many writers focus on serial killers Wilson concentrates on serial killing. He looks at the victims to "try to make sense of why they were vulnerable to attack." He admits that while he has met criminals who have frightened him the serial killers he's encountered left him bored and depressed. Far from being charismatic they tend to be fascinated by themselves.

Wilson agrees with the categorisation drawn up by Ronald Holmes and James DeBurger. They identified four types of serial killer, the visionary, mission-orientated, hedonistic and power/control killers. The visionary, who is usually psychotic, kills people because he hears voices telling him to do so. The mission-orientated killer murders specific groups of people he considers are unworthy to live. The hedonist enjoys his actions and is often sexually aroused by them. The power/control killer is obsessed with capturing and controlling people forcing them to obey his every command.

Wilson covers the 120 years from Jack the Ripper in 1888 but does not cover all serial killers. He provides brief details of those involved, amounting to 31 people and 375 victims. Although a serial killer is defined as someone who has killed at least three people Wilson excludes those who were only convicted of one crime (even if they committed more) and, with the exception of Jack the Ripper, excludes unsolved cases of multiple murders. In an interesting note he asks why "were there no British serial killers in the 1920's and 1930's while in the same period Germany produced twelve?." He also notes that British serial killing appears to have peaked in 1986 when there were four serial killers active simultaneously.

Wilson claims serial killers flourish in societies in which some people matter less than others. He suggests certain social groups on the margins of society are "invisible" and thus vulnerable to attacks by serial killers. They include the elderly, babies and excluded social groups such as the young homeless, prostitutes and homosexuals. His argument is that society and its institutions particularly, though not exclusively, the police, have a structured view of such groups which tends to discount their evidence. For example, a clear description of Peter Sutcliffe by a prostitute was filed away. Dennis Nilson avoided detection by claiming the man he had just tried to strangle was his homosexual partner convincing police to write it off as a lovers' tiff.

Wilson's analysis, though well researched, gives too much weight to the social exclusion argument and too little to the personality of the serial killer. The social backdrop was significant in allowing George Smith, John Haigh and Reginald Christie to initially get away with murder. Yet there is no reason to suppose that anyone other than Brady or Hindley would have committed the Moors murders. Wilson's argument that certain groups are undervalued misses an important point. The "great and the good" by providing mixed messages about the quality of justice, practicing moral relativism and failing to be tough on crime or the causes of crime, undervalues all of us, not just socially excluded groups. Some emerge from a fractured background and fall into a marginal lifestyle characterised by isolation but others respond positively to become productive members of society. While society can put procedures in place to protect vulnerable people such procedures without a strong statement of values are meaningless.

Wilson's wanders into sociological perspectives requiring political solutions. For example, he writes "Prostitutes' calls for safe zones in which to operate have consistently been ignored." This is a gross overstatement. They have not been ignored, they have been resisted. Those who would make prostitution legal or acceptable have yet to convince society as a whole that it is a worthwhile profession. Society's priorities are governed by the Establishment which looks after its own and is more concerned with political correctness than consistent moral values.

Wilson suggests Aaron Kominski was Jack the Ripper although I still consider there is strong evidence it was Montague Druitt. In addition, although the "Black Panther" Donald Neilson (who has been told he will never be released) is identified as having killed three people in fact he killed four. Although Lesley Whittle represented a departure from Neilson's modus operandi it was planned as ruthlessly as his other crimes. I disagree with Wilson's conclusion that society gives serial killers "celebrity status". Notoriety is not the same as celebrity. Wilson has written an excellent book and, although I disagree with some of his conclusions, it is well worth five stars and well worth reading.
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on 15 July 2011
This was an enjoyable read, and covered new ground, and gave fresh perspectives on the crimes and the criminals that perpetuated these heinious crimes
I did think that there was going to be a slightly different orientation to the novel as David Wilson states that he is going to look at the murders of the killed rather than the killers,though I did find the information about the serial killers and their modus operandi interesting,and there was quite a lot of information
I have always been interested it what motivates someone to go on a killing spree,and therefore I am not convinced about the general social mores being responsible rather than the individual-the old chestnut nuture versus nature.David Wilson did not convince me, but I found his arguments creditable, and were used to fit his hypothesis. His definitions and quotes were well used and supported his arguments. At the time of writing the big news is News Corp and the role of the police, and in the hunting down and arrest of these criminals the police do not seem to come out very well,and I thought the concept of 'cop culture' sums up the attitude to of the police to crimes and society in general, they appear to have a great deal of responsibility, but with not much guidance how to use their powers in a responsible rather than an arrogant and 'I am right, you are wrong'attitude.
This is a book well worth reading, and is enjoyable the whole wat through.
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on 2 September 2013
Not a good book at all. Considering this is billed as 'The definitive account...' it is nothing short of shameful in its failure to get the most common facts correct. Take this as an example. Wilson says Edward Evans, the final victim of the Moors Murderer Brady, was 'picked up in a gay club in Manchester'. He wasn't, he met Brady at a railway station on the night he was killed. Wilson also states uncorroborated 'facts'. Writing about Perry Bradley, killed by Colin Ireland, he states 'Perry had never been interested in S&M, but somehow Ireland found an opportunity to tie him up and attach a noose to his neck'. How does he know what Perry's interests in S&M were? Could the fact that Colin Ireland met Perry in a known S&M haunt, the Colneherne Pub which Perry was known to frequent regularly, and then took Ireland back to his flat indicate otherwise. Almost every page is peppered with similar inconsistencies and uncorroborated statements. There are much better books on serial killers out there.
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on 9 March 2012
An interesting book which, like most other reviers have pointed out, is from the view point of the victims, rather than the serial killers themselves. I think the one thing I took from this book was how different groups in society are at risk, and how serial killers pick and choose their victims. The book is easily accessible, and an insightful read, and contains much of the author's viewpoints on society. I also liked the pinch of historical context which Wilson incorporates into the story of the victims, and try to put it all in context.

Overall, an intruiguing read, which I think most people with an interest in serial killers, will find interesting and unique, I would recommend reading it.
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