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Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  9,357 ratings  ·  644 reviews
Face-to-face with some of America's most terrifying killers, FBI veteran and ex-Army CID colonel Robert Ressler learned form then how to identify the unknown monsters who walk among us--and put them behind bars. Now the man who coined the phrase "serial killer" and advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs shows how is able to track down some of today's most brutal
Mass Market Paperback, 289 pages
Published March 15th 1993 by St. Martin's Paperbacks (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting enough book, but I found myself frequently distracted by the desire to make an armchair diagnosis of the author himself, who spent a good 10% of the book either patting himself on the back via cheesy quotes from letter of commendation, or digressing into the settling of petty scores over past slights. (For example, he spends a good page-and-a-half explaining why he was late for his orientation as a new FBI agent, why it wasn't his fault, and why the superior who called him on it w ...more
Nov 15, 2010 added it
Shelves: 2010, crime
This book contains graphic descriptions of horrific crimes, photos of dead bodies at crime scenes, plus a lot of information that would be quite useful to killers wanting to fool those hunting them.

That being said, I find it slightly disturbing that my copy of this book, which has been so well-read that it is falling to pieces, has come through inter-library loan from my local prison. My county doesn't have any other copies of this book.

Some helpful notations have been added by a previous reader
Johann (jobis89)
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” (Nietzsche)

If you’re a fan of Mindhunter, then this is one you need to pick up, especially since Agent Tench in the show is actually based on Robert K Ressler! Incase it isn’t obvious, as is the premise of the show, Whoever Fights Monsters follows the beginning of criminal profiling and its introduction into the FBI. And it’s truly fascinating!

Tonnes of cases are covered, but special attention is given t
I’ve read a few of these FBI non fiction murder books now, most noticeably Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, which I found more interesting than this. Unfortunately I found Robert Ressler not as charismatic as Douglas in his examination and explanation of various cases - although his knowledge is undeniable. He’s just a bit more sedate and academically inclined compared to Douglas’ more sensationalist approach. I will say his personality is slightly less irritating than Dougl ...more
So I guess I'm on a true crime kick at the moment. Thanks, MY FAVORITE MURDER podcast! It's like I'm sixteen again. This time I read WHOEVER FIGHTS MONSTERS by Robert Ressler, an FBI agent and profiler that has spoken and worked with numerous notorious serial killers over the years. I think that the character of Jack Crawford from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is based off of him as well, but don't quote me on that. I got this book on ILL through the library, and settled in for a morbid and fascinati ...more
Mariah Roze
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mariah Roze by: Matt
This book was suggested to me by a friend because I really enjoyed the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit and my friend did not disappoint! This was a fantastic read and it only took me 1 day to read it all :)

"Face-to-face with some of America's most terrifying killers, FBI veteran and ex-Army CID colonel Robert Ressler learned form then how to identify the unknown monsters who walk among us--and put them behind bars. Now the man who coined the phrase "serial killer" and a
BAM Endlessly Booked
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Audio # 26

Beginning in the 70s with the infamous Ted Bundy and ending in the 90s with Jeffrey Dahmer, this is the tale of the burgeoning BSU and the man who made friends with some of the most notorious killers the USA has known. Certain cases are studied and details are provided on how criminal profiles were developed.
This book is a bit dated. At the end one realizes Gacy and Dahmer were still alive; Harris had just released Silence of the Lambs. But it still packs a powerful punch. If you choo
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is one of the classics - for good reason as it turns out - and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it's held up. First published in 1993, by someone whose career was primarily in the 70s and 80s, there are some things you just don't expect to be handled as well as they were. And though some of the phrasing and the occasional idea have definitely dated, there's also a surprising effort here to discount some old prejudices.

Robert Ressler is probably now best known in the Mindhunter context
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘Whoever Fights Monsters’ by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman, while a True Crime genre detailing the lives and crimes of a few famous serial murderers, is really a history of how Ressler came to believe profiling serial killers would be important to do and how he slowly convinced the FBI to create a profiling department.

Difficult as it may be to believe, almost all police and justice forces never examined perpetrators psychologically or thought it at all important to solving whodunnit until
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Story - 5/5
Narration - 4.5/5

Serial killers, psychology, and profiling!

Mary  Carrasco
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be informative and in some regards, fascinating. That being said, I could not stand the attitude of the author who spent a great deal of time bragging about his many accomplishments, how much smarter he was than everyone else and on and on. By the end of it I was sick to death of him. I still give it four stars because I learned quite a lot.
Tess Taylor
3- Robert Ressler was an FBI agent who spent the majority of his career profiling murderers. His claim to fame is that he coined the term "serial killer." During his time at the bureau, he worked on many of the top crime cases and interviewed many of the most notorious humans of the 20th century. His career is fascinating, but I found his autobiography to be lackluster.

I wanted (and expected) to like Whoever Fights Monsters, but I had a hard time with Ressler's writing style and the book's form
Katherine Addison
This is exactly what it says on the tin: Ressler's memoir of being an FBI profiler. He talks about a great many murderers, and has a wonderfully practical, commonsense style, both in writing and in his approach to analyzing homicidal psychotics and psychopaths. In his hands, the "organized/disorganized" schema makes sense and is a useful analytical tool. (He bemoans the fact that all his students want a checklist, a black box they can put their data into and get an accurate profile out of, and I ...more
Arun Divakar
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
There is a friend of mine who is fascinated with the whole concept of serial killers and we have had long conversations about this topic. A few questions we endlessly debate are : What factors create a serial killer ? Why is society so fascinated with them ? For all their morbid and brutal history, why do people flock to read true crime books, fictional accounts and movies about these characters ? Even after brooding over this for a while now, we have not really arrived at a satisfactory answer ...more
This was closer to a 2.5 stars non-fiction read, if read in post 2010 era. Before 2010, if you read this book, it would be a full 3 or 3.5 star read. The problem is not only core material becoming highly dated, but also in the way it is "told", as well.

First, it could have been far better organized. The last 1/2 of the book read/ felt as all over the place for various profiling past cases and proclivities rationalizations. All types of tangent projections that are difficult to connote as "group
Caidyn (he/him/his)
This is a really interesting one because I've read Douglas's memoir about it and watched Mindhunter. Overall, I like Ressler better. Douglas is a bit outlandish, for me, but Ressler shows the science of it and how they did the research, along with exactly how they had to wine and dine to make sure they got the funding they needed. It's an interesting book full of cases -- some I've heard of, some I haven't -- that highlight what he's interested in. While I don't think that some of the terms or t ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but clearly dated. I found myself chuckling every time the author said something like “as of 1993…” The book makes a distinction between organized and disorganized murderers and the different traits between each. The rest of the book focuses on the actions of various serial killers such as Edmund Kemper and John Wayne Gacy.

Recommended for those who like Mindhunter on Netflix or are interested in learning more about criminal profiling. I’ll also say that this book isn’t for the faint
Jun 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read this book after watching Criminal Minds. I could tell that many details in the show were based on the work of Robert Ressler and the character of Jason Gideon took a lot of inspiration from him. The first quote in the book is also the quote from Nietzche that Gideon reads in the first episode of Criminal Minds “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you”. Robert Ressle ...more
Andre Dumas
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I literally could not put this book down..AND at the same time wanted to read it slowly so that it would never end. For a lot of people this will seem weird as the book is very gruesome and terrifying but I just found it pretty damn interesting.

Whoever Fights Monsters details Robert Ressler's career with the FBI in his revolutionary quest to fine tune the process of profiling serial killers. If you're not familiar with Ressler then just know this--he actually coined the term 'serial killer' He w
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"What is one allowed to do? ... Whatever one can get away with."

Frighteningly enough, this I think accurately sums up a repetitive violent criminal. Robert Ressler's book surpasses Mindhunter for me. It felt more informational. I love hearing how these types of offenders are pursued and how the current common practices were established for seeking them out.
Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Woefully dated opinions and attitudes abound this book.
He utilizes the completely ridiculous body type analysis and even says that while this method of psychology/physiology is no longer considered valid he feels it has it’s value.
He spends a lot of pages blaming mothers for creating the serial killers he talks about in this book, while he does briefly touch upon the fathers role it is clear that he feels it is the female’s duty and responsibility to raise a successful male child and that the
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to review. On the one hand, it was completely fascinating and the author's experience and expertise was a totally new perspective for me.

On the other hand, the author is not very likeable from a modern and liberal standpoint. A couple asides about gay relationships and women making false rape accusations both left a bad taste in my mouth. He places a ton of weight upon confessions extracted under intense questioning, referencing the Central Park Five case with zero skepticism
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In addition to many interesting and morbid details, this book contains (in ch. 4) a profound and insightful ‘deep-dive’ into the inner workings of serial mind. It will be of interest to anyway trying to understand the nature of psychopaths of whatever sort. Ressler also explains the meaning of the term ‘serial killer’, which he coined — not simply a numerical series, but an evolutive series in which fantasy and act develop into an ever expanding loop
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
While some aspects of this work have become outdated in the twenty-odd years since it was published, it still deserves its spot as one of the foundational works in criminal profiling. Ressler offers almost unsettling levels of insight into criminal minds without any of the sensationalism that creeps into many criminology works.
Steve Parcell
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Simply astounding insight in to the mind of a FBI profiler who helped catch guys like Bundy. Yet Ressler is a fascinating individual who although emotionally affected by what he has seen and who he has interviewed still maintains an aura of calm. I can imagine him chatting to a Bundy or a Dahmer as he has discussing murder rather like you would be chatting to a friend. Awesome
Lynda Kelly
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
A great book from a guy who's always been dead close to the "action" if you like, and knows all the ins and outs of a lot of serial murders. ...more
Aug 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
The author, Robert Ressler served 35 years in the Army (20
in Army Reserve). And 20 years w/ the FBI. Among other
Army assignments, he was a Lt of the MPs & worked in the
Criminal Investigation Division (CID). He concluded his svc
as a Major. He had a Bachelor's in criminology & Master's
degree in police administration. After he retired from the
FBI, Ressler served as an expert witness for trials.

Ressler became a FBI agent & trained fellow agents & various
local and state law enforcement on hos
Mrs. Elaine
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this after competing Mind Hunter by John Douglas and they were surprisingly different despite covering the exact same topics during the same time periods. Ressler’s book feels mature, detailed, well laid out, and properly executed. Douglas’ book seemed like an accuse to brag about his exploits and intelligence while giving some great information about profiling. Interestingly Douglas is only mentioned twice in Ressler’s book but Ressler is mentioned frequently in Douglas’ book. I wonder w ...more
Aug 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
it’s just like x files without aliens
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. Loved every second of it. Robert Ressler is the man with the plan
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Robert Kenneth Ressler was an FBI agent and author. He played a significant role in the psychological profiling of violent offenders in the 1970s and is often credited with coining the term "serial killer." ...more

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