Pat Brown doesn't look like the author of a book about serial killers.
She's a wife and mom with a good grin. And she's a criminal profiler.
Founder of the Sexual Homicide Exchange (SHE) , Brown clearly hopes that
having presented this book in question and answer format, she can turn the
reader with a basic interest in the subject and a lot of misconceptions
into an educated graduate of "serial killing 101" who will "pay attention to
sexual homicides and give any assistance you can to law enforcement."
But this shouldn't give the impression that the book is too breezy. It's
peppered with hair-raising quotations from serial killers: "Every man to
his own tastes...mine is for corpses;" "I kill the first man that bothers
me;" "Big deal, death comes with the territory...see you in Disneyland."
The quotes range from poignant (almost) -- like David Berkowitz's "Dad, the
world is getting darker now. I can feel it more and more...the girls call
me ugly and they bother me the most" -- to defiant -- Richard Ramirez: "You
maggots make me sick"-- to the chilling simplicity of Jeffrey Dahmer's "I
Brown explores some reasons why people might mistakenly sympathize with
serial killers -- such as women who fall in love with them once they're
incarcerated. The "extra-kindhearted (dumb)"....type who "believes that
serial killers are just misunderstood and vulnerable men who suffered
terrible abuse." But she counters this with the fact that
time in prison, serial killers rarely break down even so far as the admit
that they alone were responsible for their acts. They usually elaborate on
some dreadful childhood happening that made them a killer...it's always
somebody's else's fault, they're not really guilty, they were just acting
out against the abuse they suffered at some point.""If the serial killer
were not incarcerated, " Brown asks, "would he feel this sorrow; or would he
still be out there killing?"
Brown's book looks at common stereotypical notions about serial killers -- that they are usually "white, male", for one. She notes that crimes against
primarily white victims often are better investigated and get more press -
"they tend to focus on stories where the victim is the 'All-American' girl."
But other racial groups have their share of monsters, too. And women,
though less overt in their crimes, are in the lineup. They may murder
children with medicines, hard to trace, poisons or smothering. There are
women known as "childcare angels" who murder a helpless victim and then call
911, getting attention for their role in the excitement that ensues. Women
with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) "find that they can receive
attention for being 'a good and loyal mom' by taking their child to be
treated by a doctor." The process continues until the child is medicated to
death, and begins again with the next pregnancy.
We learn that the Bible and the Koran are reading favorites among serial
killers, along with Salinger's Catcher in the Rye (because the hero is
convinced that other people are all phonies, an adolescent scenario that the
killer can identify with) and John Fowles' The Collector, a book that gets
inside the head of an upper class loony who collects butterflies and seeks
to "pin down" a lovely young woman.
Serial killers like their women "pretty, if they can get 'em." Small
women, women who jog alone, women who frequent bars - all these are
potential victims. To the feminists who "would like to yell and scream at
me," Brown says succinctly, "it's better to be safe than dead." Sound advice
when trying to outthink someone like Edmund Kemper, who when seeing a
pretty girl walking down the street, is thinking, "I'd like to talk to her,
to date her," while "the other side of me says, I wonder how her head would
look on a stick?"
Serial killers are not all clever - in fact they often make stupid mistakes
that lead to their capture. Sadly, as with any crime, serial killings are
sometimes not recognized for what they are at first due to faulty reports by
witnesses and failure to put evidence together to lead to the correct
These monsters among us (possibly psychopathic, rarely psychotic) generally
have personalities which make getting along with others a less than common
ability, leading to the profiler's description of a loner who works at a
"Profiling is a logical process where each aspect of the crime
is analyzed carefully and placed into a dynamic psychological picture of the
killer." A good profiler isn't worried about being a good profiler. A good
profiler is someone who, like Jack Webb on Dragnet, sticks to "just the
facts."Brown answers the question "How many serial homicides are actually
solved?" with the discouraging "Not enough." Never enough. If this book
is frightening, it is because the crimes, usually alluded to rather than
laid out in exhaustive detail, are horrific. But if it serves to get one
monster off the street by helping someone recognize the potential killer in
a workmate or, God help us, a relative (as in the case of the Unibomber),
then Brown has done her job.