The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: You won’t want to be a criminal profiler after this. You may want to be Dirty Harry, though. Is that reference too old? Ok, you’ll want to be the Punisher.

Quick synopsis: John Douglas (the guy who made criminal profiling a “thing”) recounts four scum he interviewed. They are all really, really terrible and disgusting people.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: None of this is fun. It’s very interesting, but certainly not fun. Douglas writes about not reacting to the killers no matter how disgusted he is. Yeah, I’d fail at that.

Fun Interesting Fact for History Nerds: There are four typologies of rapists: power-reassurance, exploitative, anger, and sadistic. Douglas posits that only power-reassurance can be helped by therapy if caught early enough.  I’m not sure that makes me feel any better.

My Take: This book is two things: interesting and gross.

The killers are pretty disgusting, and their actions are detailed through the book. If you find the show Criminal Minds to be too graphic, then DO NOT GO NEAR THIS. The show is loosely based on the unit created by John Douglas only greatly toned down for network TV. If you liked the show Mindhunter and made it through the gruesome parts, then this is for you. Also, the show is literally about John Douglas.

The book focuses on four major interview Douglas conducted. Three were face to face and one was through a survey. Douglas will sprinkle in the similarities he sees with various other famous serial killers and how their minds work.

The whole thing is a little disjointed. While each story is interesting, there doesn’t seem to be one solid theme throughout, other than true crime of course. If this is your thing (like me), it won’t bother you much. If you are jumping in, then this may leave you a little lost.

Verdict: Not for the squeamish but definitely for people who love true crime and the science behind profiling. I recommend you read Mindhunter first as it’s a bit better organized and sets the scene for this book.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Jeff Guinn, The Road to Jonestown
  • Douglas Starr, The Killer of Little Shepherds
  • David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon
  • John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, Mindhunter
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The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
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