Book Simple: Books About Serial Killers That My BF Recommended
a blogumn by Amy Brown
It’s been serial killer book week, chez Brown. I started the week off finishing Mindhunter, an early courtship gift from my boyfriend. John Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s book summarizes Douglas’s really interesting FBI career spent profiling serial killers, rapists and arsonists. Luckily for the boyfriend, there have been no other warning signs of derangement.
Mindhunter outlines some clear symptoms. A guy demonstrating a history of childhood abuse, cruelty to animals and frequent fantasizing (not the good kind) is not a guy with whom we want to spend a lot of time. Luckily for the human race, John Douglas has been willing to take one for the team, so to speak. Over 25 years, Douglas has interviewed and studied criminals such as Charles Manson, Son of Sam and Ed Gein – the creepy guy who made an appearance in Silence of the Lambs wearing a size 14 skin dress. Now, I don’t totally buy into the concept of profiling. It has a whiff of the “psychic,” where people hear what they want to and ignore the rest. But the book sure is fascinating, and worth wading through the boring bits about Douglas’s failed marriage and abortive college career.
The police force is sorely lacking in The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks, where our narrator is also the killer. Diggs, the town policeman, spends much of the story tracking the narrator’s brother Eric, recently escaped from a mental institution, while the serial killer remains cheerfully at large. He kills animal (and human) victims with an artist’s precision. John Douglas would never have overlooked him.
The narrator’s main prey, the source of the novel’s title, are wasps, trapped and released into a killing “factory” imbued by the narrator with god-like properties. The factory chooses the manner of each wasp’s death, by fire, electrocution, poison, drowning, natural predator or weight.
The violence of the book can make it difficult to read, but the mysteries – why is our narrator “half a man,” why does the father limp, where is the mother, what happened to Eric? – are incredibly compelling. I found myself, late at night, reading chapter after chapter, thinking, just a little longer and I’ll know. And the ending! I’ve been thinking about its meaning for a while now, and I may have to read it again to find a new perspective.
On the flip side, the likelihood, while I’m working late at the office, that I freak out and mace the janitor has grown alarmingly high. It hasn’t been helped by reading Helter Skelter, the book about the Manson killings written by the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry. It’s a ridiculously detailed account that should, by any measure, be beyond boring. It’s not.
It was also a recommendation from the boyfriend. Should I be worried? All three of the books make a very convincing case for violent crime requiring a trigger of emotional stressors and situational opportunity. So, just in case, I’m going to keep the boyfriend very happy. And away from sharp objects.