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The Serial Killer Whisperer: How One Man's Tragedy Helped Unlock the Deadliest Secrets of the World's Most Terrifying Killers

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  983 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
From New York Times bestselling author Pete Earley—the strange but true story of a man who suffers a traumatic brain injury and as a result is given the ability to converse with the world’s most terrifying criminals.

After suffering a horrific head injury, fifteen-year-old Tony Ciaglia discovered he could no longer control his emotions or social responses and found himself
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Touchstone (first published January 5th 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 04, 2013 Tony rated it it was amazing
Hello Everyone.
My name is Tony Ciaglia, and I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. I am also the subject of this book, The Serial Killer Whisperer. I love to go online and read the mixed reviews of this book. I do understand that because of the controversial subject matter, this book is not for everyone. Some have questioned the sanity of my parents and brother as to how they could let me engage in such a hobby talking with such heinous people. I can assure you all that I have the most loving f
Serial Killer Whisperer seems a must for fans of true crime. That’s me even though I haven’t read many in the past few years. This may be due to the subject matter or it’s possible I haven’t found a case that interested me.

My plan while reading Serial Killer Whisperer was not to review the book on GR. I was reluctant to share that I actually read this going so far as to suggest it to a GR friend through a message who I knew would want to read it rather than sharing my thoughts by posting any co
Jan 05, 2016 Shaun rated it it was ok
This is a hodge-podge of oddness.

I'll be the first to admit that I am somewhat fascinated by true crime books, mostly to the extent that they explore the darker side of human nature. The blurb on the back of this book also reminded me of a character from Hannibal the TV series, Will Graham, a sort of savant who has an uncanny ability to empathize, allowing him to feel and think like the killers he is attempting to profile.

Needless to say, the main character in this book (Tony) is no Will Graham
Laura Cowan
Apr 26, 2012 Laura Cowan rated it really liked it

It's a good story, I enjoyed reading it, it's fairly well written (though quite disorganized) and I have a couple of complaints. First is with the title/subtitle. It's incredibly misleading. SPOILER: Tony doesn't get any secrets from any serial killers until the epilogue. The EPILOGUE!!! Sure he talks to them often by mail and phone but is he told secrets? No. It's more like he's cannon fodder the way they detail their kills to him, but hey, no one should expect stories about rainbows from these
Apr 18, 2012 Katherine rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: 2012
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ishmael Seaward
Mar 06, 2012 Ishmael Seaward rated it did not like it
Interesting but disappointing in many ways. I was hoping for some more insight along the lines of "The Science of Evil", but not so far. I'm about 2/3's of the way through the book.

A young man (Tony) has a horrific accident, suffering traumatic brain injury (TBI). The damage manifests itself as periodic fits of uncontrollable rage, defensiveness, memory issues, and social miscues, all of which alienate him from his former friends and society at large. His parents and brother stick by him, and wi
Jun 19, 2016 Lee rated it liked it
As a person with a fair interest in serial killers, I was intrigued by this book, written about Tony Ciaglia, who suffered a severe head trauma as a teenager. His communication skills were very strongly impaired and he was unable to control his anger at all.

In his thirties, Tony saw the commonly quoted fact that most serial killers that have been caught and profiled suffered head injuries as children, although not as serious as the one he had. Tony began corresponding with many serial killers i
Aug 22, 2012 Wanda rated it did not like it
I am sorry I read this awful book. It contains a plethora of morally bankrupt narrative composed by some of the most monstrous killers on death row. Unlike others, I did not consider it pornographic, so much as boring. These are empty people who think and act in horrible ways. They do not need an audience for their rants and their reliving of their vicious deeds. I was not particularly shocked as others have been because this book contains no more shocking material than the average Ann Rule book ...more
Kimberly Jackson
Jul 20, 2016 Kimberly Jackson rated it it was amazing
Pete has wrote a fantastic book that I really enjoyed. The Serial Killer Whisperer is a book that will have you thinking twice about how you treat others around you. Tony was a young man who was in a bad accident that left him with a major brain injury. To his surprise writing to Serial Killers made him believe in himself once again. What he does is amazing but the end was even better. I would recommend this book to anyone!!
Feb 15, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
This book was suggested to me by a random woman at the library. I normally do not read this type of book however it was good. It is about a boy who is involved in an accident that leaves him with brain damage. It is about that whole process of him ( and his family ) going thourgh the issues that come with his type of damage. One of the things that happen is that the kids at school alienated the once popular child. It is hard for him and with the type of brain injury already suffers from extreme ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Tlingit rated it liked it

I'd already written this review until my browser crapped out. GRRRRR. Anyway, to sum it up: Good story, good composition, basic writing, dumb title. I'd seen a movie called "Dear Mr. Gacy" this Spring. It's a true story about a young guy who wrote to some serial killers: Dahmer, Manson, Ramirez, and Gacy. And he didn't just write to them he got involved with them. The people here who have issue with Tony's parents and their involvement would do good to see this movie (I haven'
Mar 28, 2012 D'Anne rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This was, by far, the most graphic and explicit book about serial killers I have ever read. And I have read many. At the beginning of the book the author quotes author Jack Olsen: "I start every book with the idea that I want to explain how this seven or eight pounds of protoplasm went from his mommy's arms to become a serial rapist or serial killer. I think a crime book that doesn't do this is pure pornography." It is, in many ways, a warming: shit's about to get real. But honestly, I'm not sur ...more
Feb 19, 2015 Janice rated it did not like it
This is the story (or one aspect of the story) of Anthony Ciaglia, a dynamic young man who against all odds courageously fights to reclaim his mind, body and spirit following a traumatic brain injury at the age of fifteen. After years in rehab, frustrated with an altered personality, impaired judgement, boughts with rage, boredom, depression and shunning by his friends, Tony struggles to find meaning for his new life. With the support of his family and doctors, he pursues a hobby: writing to con ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crimen
Wow! Great book! Such an interesting approach. True, inspiring success story. Wonderful example of: “When life gives you lemons . . . make lemonade.” Contemporary, well-written and not padded—gets right to the point. Good pictures, good title, good cover, a real page-turner. Emotional tearjerker, at times. Hugs for you, Tony.

I was not scandalized by the material because I have also interacted closely with inmates, worked in hospitals and attended autopsies, etc.; (Criminal Justice degrees).
Feb 24, 2016 Paul rated it liked it
A very chilling and rather horrifying book about a young man who lost part of his brain in an accident and it made him suddenly capable of understanding serial murderers. He begins a years-long correspondence with a significant number of them and the return letters he gets from these convicts are revoltingly specific in regard to their murders, for which they feel no remorse. The book promises that the young man turns his unique skill (of listening without throwing up, evidently) to a profitable ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Apr 02, 2012 Nicola Mansfield rated it really liked it
Reason for Reading: Various reasons really. First of all I have an interest in serial killers. Secondly, I was intrigued by Tony Ciaglia's brain injury and what led him to write to serial killers and finally I enjoy books that contains letters.

This book is not for the squeamish. It contains brutal letters from serial killers describing their crimes in graphic detail. Without having read the book, one will first wonder what purpose this serves. Is it gratuitous and voyeuristic or does it serve so
May 05, 2013 Aubrey rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book - not only as a criminology student, and lover of true crime. Also having an honours degree in psychology, I found the aftermath of the brain injury a fascinating journey. Lack of emotion control, changes in behaviour patterns, and so on are common in certain forms of brain injuries. They're also known to be displayed in the profiles of serial killers. Sharing these aspects, it was easy for Tony to be able to empathize with many serial killers now in the prison system. ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Tina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True Crime Readers
Shelves: listened-to
WOW… if you like true crime books, this one is a MUST!!!

This book is well written by Pete Earley and the Audio book was narrated by Alan Sklar, one of the best narrators around.

BUT BE WARNED - this is not just a true crime book and IT IS NOT for the squeamish. This Book is not what you would first expect, as it is so much more. As a reader you are drawn into the minds of these monsters, murderers and rapist like no other book has. This book is filled with actual brutal letters from serial killer
Christina Vo
Dec 20, 2013 Christina Vo rated it liked it

Pete Earley's The Serial Killer Whisperer tells the story of Tony Ciaglia, a boy with a head injury who gains an obsession with contacting America's most infamous serial killers. The book follows the life of the Ciaglia family throughout Texas to Nevada, where they simultaneously deal with Tony's brain injury and his dark world of serial killers. Tony's head injury causes him to be obsessive and easily angered, greatly burdening the Ciaglia family, who have to constantly force him to take his me

Aug 18, 2012 Kristi rated it liked it
I think I struggled somewhat due to the dual nature of this book. On one hand, it's a story about someone who suffered a terrible traumatic brain injury that he was not expected to survive, but he did. How he struggled, how he and his family dealt with the life-altering changes that such an injury causes in the person who suffers from it, how refocusing on a few subjects helped him cope with life thereafter: all these are part of that story. And, honestly, though I empathize with those who have ...more
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
Not for the squeamish, this story is about a teenager who suffers a traumatic brain injury and develops mood swings and intense anger as a result of the accident. He also develops an affinity for the minds of serial killers, writing to them in jail and trying to find out if they are like him. Filled with gory details, such as the man who made sandwiches out of his victims, this book will shock you. I"m not that easily shocked, so really, the only thing that filled me with wonder was the entire f ...more
While it was not what I hope for, it was a pretty good book. The title is misleading in the sense that it's more of a biography than about serial killers and how Tony used them to solve cold cases. The whole book was pretty pretentious and it still bothers me that Tony would send pictures of his girlfriend in bikinis to killers and rapists.
Pamela Smith
Jul 02, 2012 Pamela Smith rated it it was ok
Shelves: borrowed
There were points where I had to take a break while reading the graphic, exaggerated letters, moreso out of boredom than disgust. The last part was reminiscent of The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo, though nowhere near as satisfying. I also began to wonder why the author had chosen to present so many detailed descriptions of female victimes being raped and murdered, when Ciaglia had been in correspondance with killers who had done the same to men. It almost felt disrespectful and pornographic at ...more
Robin Dilks
Feb 14, 2015 Robin Dilks rated it it was amazing
I found this book both disturbing and inspiring. As a parent to be allowed inside the heads of serial killers disturbed me and made me want to make my grown daughters read it. Tony's story is amazing, and how he took such a horrific life experience and turned it into something helpful and productive was inspiring. It gave me nightmares to hear what his pen pals had to say. If your a parent, or not, a young woman I recommend you read this, if nothing more it may make you think before putting your ...more
Anna Polanco
Gosh, this book was disturbing. I loved reading about how the serial killers killed their victims but I hated when it would tell Tony's life. His life was so boring I want to hear about the killings. These killers are just disgusting.
hmmmm. Perhaps what disturbed me the most was how closely Tony identified and admired his killers. The lack of boundries he had with them also I found very hard to understand. Why would you want to share such intimate details with such morally corrupt people, and choose to call them friend? As the proverb goes "Bad company currupts good character"
Now I do find it interesting the juxtaposition of how tony handled his demons vs the serial killers. It appears family, love and faith play a higher r
Mercedes Yardley
Oct 08, 2015 Mercedes Yardley rated it really liked it
I loved this.

This book is not for the squeamish. It tells about an accident that leaves Tony with a Traumatic Brain Injury that affects his personality. He becomes ostracized from his friends and eventually becomes obsessed with writing serial killers in prison.

The reporting is done well. The letters are graphic and made my stomach churn at times, but also showed surprising tenderness at other times. I was astounded by the love and care that Tony's parents and brother gave him after his TBI. Thi
I admit it. I've become a weak wimp in my old age. I was fascinated with this story of a boy who gets a traumatic brain injury and ends up corresponding with serial killers. I only got about halfway through though because I couldn't stomach the actual letters. Killers talked about rape, torture, mutilation and in one case cutting up bodies and feeding them to unsuspecting customers at a roadside barbeque stand. They were too graphic and gory for me but I wish they hadn't been. I think this is a ...more
Feb 27, 2016 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
This book is a great read as long as you don't mind how graphic it can get. This story gives you a wonderful perspective on how this sick horrible serial killers act. I'm glad that a good thing can come out of a mans terrible accident.
May 08, 2015 Lela rated it really liked it
I'm not sure on when I finished it, let alone when I started it. So, pardon me.

But, this book was fairly interesting!
If you've ever wondered, 'what leads someone to murder?' Or, 'what goes through their mind?'
This book gives a startling approach.

When I first picked up this book, I thought only of it as mere fiction, but as I dove into it, I realized I was learning someone's actual story and reading actual letter's from notorious serial killers.
(Raw and unedited!)

Although the letters came off vul
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Pete Earley is a storyteller who has penned 13 books including the New York Times bestseller The Hot House and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.
After a 14-year career in journalism, including six years at The Washington Post, Pete became a full-time author with a commitment to expose the stories that entertain and surprise.
His honest
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