Tuesday, July 24, 2012

32. Obsession by John Douglas and Mark Olsaker

Published 1998
Special Agent John Douglas, a legendary figure in law enforcement and the model for the Scott Glenn character in The Silence of the Lambs. (He was also the original choice to play the role.) As chief of the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit — the team that tackles the most baffling and senseless of unsolved violent crimes — Douglas is the man who ushered in a new age in behavioral science and criminal profiling. Now, after 25 years of service, he has retired and can finally tell his unique and compelling story.
Offering insights into the minds of criminals and their prey, John Douglas focuses on sexual predators and their victims. Among others, he uses as horrifying examples the cases of Ronnie Shelton, the serial rapist who terrorized Cleveland, and New York's infamous Preppie Murder. Douglas’s commitment to and compassion for the victims of such crimes is evident throughout, as he teaches us how common these crimes are, why we should never blame the victim, and how we might protect ourselves from danger.

I started reading this not realizing how little the actual cases would be focused on.  As the subtitle states, the great focus is on  identifying types of offenders and offering advice for victims post-crime and tips on surviving these crimes and on how lessen the chances of becoming a victim.  Douglas conveys his advocacy for victims with a passion that hints at the heartbreak he has seen after contact with victims and the family of victims.  The  author talks about his opinions on victim advocacy and the need for 'others' to not judge how a victim chooses (in as much as they can given these dire circumstances) to react.  It's all about survival, as Douglas states, that is where the first victory lies.    Years ago  I had read Mindhunter, also written by this duo.  This time around I felt as though I had read parts of it before.  Perhaps there is some repetition from Mindhunter or the similarities in subject from the same authors simply felt that way.  Some of the sections felt odd next to the others, such as the one on how the Silence of the Lambs killer, Hannibal, came to be written.  
This book is focuses more on the theory and classification of offenders with brief examples from real cases.  As I read I found I had more questions about those cases than this book would answer.  

With the prevalence of books, films and TV shows about profilers, serial killers and rapists, forensics and the psychology of it all over the last 15 years, Obsession is still relevant but it's style feels a bit behind the times.

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