Jessica's Reviews > The Killer Across the Table

The Killer Across the Table by John Edward Douglas
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bookshelves: arc, crime, nonfiction

"The Killer Across the Table" is not the first and will likely not be the last written venture for John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. As one of the pioneers behind behavioral analysis in the FBI, Douglas has written about, interviewed, and studied some of the most fearsome criminals in America. While I've always been interested in true crime and behavioral analysis, I was most drawn to the book because of his portrayal (as the character Holden Ford) in Mindhunter on Netflix.

Douglas explains that his latest book is about "the way violent predators think" and focuses on the work he has done in the field since his "retirement." He profiles four murderers, all white men (to be expected, honestly). I appreciated that in his analysis, Douglas was clear that while these men were clearly mentally ill, that alone did not make them insane. Insanity is a legal term, not a diagnosis, and therefore speaks to culpability. These men were mentally ill, but still wholly culpable for their actions. I appreciate that the author did not give them an out that way.

The book was well-written and structured. I was intrigued and interested throughout. The choice of profiles was also good because they are lesser-known killers and therefore the reader is more likely to be hearing these stories for the first time.

While I learned a great deal from the book and am glad I read it, I felt it had some issues. I know Douglas was striving for an academic analysis of these murderers and their crimes, sometimes the descriptions veered into the realm of obscenely explicit. Further, he would go on tangents about other unrelated crimes and the narrative would become muddied and often repetitive.

Another problem I had was with the language used in the book. There were often sexual components to the crimes referenced. Instead of sticking to the word rape (and each crime indeed meet the definition of the word), the authors would use "sex" or "sexual assault." Sex carries a social implication of consensuality whereas rape is a violent criminal act against a person. People who commit rape are rapists. We should not dance around this language. Call a spade a spade.

I wish Douglas would delve more into what it has been like for him after he performs these interviews with convicted murderers. How does he decompress? Has it ever become too much for him? Why does he continue to come back to it, even in retirement? Have we entered the realm of obsession and is that healthy? In at least some of these interviews, Douglas said some pretty atrocious things to get killers to talk. How does he cope with that? What price has he paid in his psyche for getting inside the mind of the killer across the table?

Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins, and Dey Street Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Reading Progress

March 17, 2019 – Started Reading
March 17, 2019 – Shelved
March 17, 2019 –
23.0%
March 18, 2019 –
44.0%
March 19, 2019 –
56.0%
March 20, 2019 –
68.0%
March 20, 2019 – Shelved as: nonfiction
March 20, 2019 – Shelved as: arc
March 20, 2019 – Shelved as: crime
March 21, 2019 –
75.0%
March 22, 2019 –
88.0%
March 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

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