Peter Vronsky’s fascinating book is jam packed with an abundance of cultural, psychological, sociological and investigative insights into how and why serial killers emerge. The amount of detail and in-depth exploration in this work will certainly carry a reader into the dark unimaginable inner realm of human evil. And there in an abundance of case histories (some notorious, others less so, but still unimaginably horrific and disturbing) from which Vronsky cites. However, before he journeys into the lives of the monsters he chillingly writes about, he recounts with a vividness his own incredible and inadvertent meeting with not one but two (not yet captured) serial killers, most notably Andrei Chikatilo, a.k.a., The Butcher of Rostov as well as Richard Cottingham, a.k.a., The Torso Killer of New Jersey and New York. Long before Vronsky acquired a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice History and Espionage in International Relations, he worked in many facets of the documentary and film business, and these two chance encounters only helped in germinating his budding interest in the dark area of the human psyche.
While there are many aspects of this book that are quite compelling and well laid out (read the Brief History of Serial Homicide in Part I, most notably the case histories of Gilles de Rais, the original Bluebeard near Nantes, France and Countess Elizabeth Bathroy, The Vampire Blood Countess of Transylvania), I found the section, labeled Part II and III, to be especially informative, essentially because Vronsky addresses the various aspects and operations of the Behavioral Sciences Division of the FBI; he lays out the criminal profiling team’s system of categories and subcategories, of organized sexual homicide, disorganized sexual homicide and mixed sexual homicide. From these categories emerge subcategories all the way downward, almost like a trickle down effect whereby a behavioral scientist can decipher-via the available evidence at a crime scene-whether or not the perpetrator is married, was a bed wetter as a child or had a speech impediment while growing up, et cetera. Every behavioral nuance is labeled and micro analyzed repeatedly until a likely and credible profile is established. It is like a fractured and scattered chain whereby investigators try to connect the correct link with the previous one. The blow-by-blow depictions of the tools and techniques that are used in the cat and mouse chase of police against criminal is heart pounding, to say the least. And while the abundant descriptions and histories offered in the book-from killer to victim profile-does pander, intellectually, at least, to the baser interests of the wider public, it does offer some good scrupulous insights as to why men and women develop into the gruesome and nightmarish monsters that are so often depicted on celluloid. But truth is more disturbing than fiction. Vronsky’s case assessments and facts attest to that truth.
As stated above, the book is certainly filled to the brim with a laundry list of serial killers, some more well known than other, but they are all on equal par (in my book) due to their deeds. While they all kill differently and uniquely in their own horrific way, the end results are still the same. And the insatiable thirst for lust and murder is never fully quenched, only more honed and developed, the mask of normalcy adjusted just right so an unsuspecting society does not raise an eyebrow of suspicion. Vronsky’s book, in my view, is probably one of the better ones out there, lest you compare it to the Crime Classification Manuel (CCM) or even remotely to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM). If anything, works like this and others similar to it will certainly raise a clarion call of alertness to a general apathetic populace. A disturbing yet informative read!
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