Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: criminology, death, murder, suicide, psychology, psychopathology.
Goodreads Rating: 4.5 Stars
Most of you know that I’m not a huge fan of scary novels, but every once in a while a book that I know will creep me out catches my eye anyway… just like The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas.
The book encompasses the career of Douglas, with a focus on the investigative interrogations of many notorious serial killers. Douglas dives deep into some of the most brutal and sadistic criminal minds in the United States, including the likes of Ted Bundy, Charles Mansion, the BTK Strangler Dennis Rader, the Son of Sam Killer David Berkowitz, and the Angel of Death Donald Harvey.
Most impressive is the interpretation between the interview discussion and the psychological analysis. Here, Douglas shows that though “the killer across the table” might be stating what they believe to be true about themselves or the events that occurred, these truths are most often clues into dissecting the psyche of the killer. For example, a perceived slight leading to violence is instead a blow to an narcissistic ego, or a “decision” to murder someone is an internal attempt to seize control of a situation. As Douglas mentions, often the reason people are so fascinated by true crime is because we have a natural curiosity to understand human nature, and why we do what we do. On a few occasions, he notes that those whose behavior he investigated are often eager to understand themselves and their actions, and to gain insight into why they did what they did. For Douglas, it was the ability to further the study of the criminal mind in the hopes that the information will help profile other cases quickly. He states the formula as:
“Why plus how equals who.”
I, too, found myself fascinated by the psychopathology and Douglas’s ability to compartmentalize his own personal emotions to gain trust in those he interviewed. He notes,
‘Whatever my personal feelings, what is important to me in all prison interviews with violent offenders is not to express my own moral outrage, which accomplishes nothing, but to learn as much as I can by establishing a connection with the subject.”
He has to have amazing self control. However, as I listened to the audiobook, I couldn’t keep my face from contorting as some of the killers discussed their actions in calm, blase tones. While The Killer Across the Table is factual, conversational, and well written, the quotes from these rapists, sadists, and power-hungry murderers made me squirm with discomfort. Personally, I was troubled by the fact that Donald Harvey was a murderer who resided in Kentucky, a little too close to home. Even more disturbing in the way he flew under and evaded the detection of authorities. While not necessarily scary, this book isn’t for the faint of heart- but definitely a must read for all true crime fans.
Published: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Dey Street Books
TL/DR: The Killer Across the Table: Unlocking Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI’s Original Mindhunter by John Douglas (FBI criminal profiler) is nonfiction true crime memoir of Douglas’s interrogative interviews with notorious serial killers.
Read it? Definitely. It’s haunting, thrilling, scary, scientific, and brutally honest.
Recommend it? Absolutely.
Buy it? I would snag a copy if you’re a true crime fan!
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