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

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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 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 murderers. Just as it happened in The Silence of the Lambs, Ressler used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them--Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers of the police to capture. And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler's gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills, is one of the FBI's most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large. Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for toady's most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget.


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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 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 murderers. Just as it happened in The Silence of the Lambs, Ressler used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them--Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers of the police to capture. And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler's gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills, is one of the FBI's most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large. Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for toady's most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    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 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 was out of line.) Overall, this is a nice introduction to the subject of serial killers and the history of profiling in the FBI.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    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 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. In particular, every time he (or she) considers that the police have had a lucky break in a case, "LUCK" is noted in the margin. Thank you, mystery reader, that significantly clarifies matters. I'm not sure what the distinction is between the double-lines-down-the-side and the crosses-in-the-margin, and maybe I don't want to know. Many pages appear to have been attacked by pasta sauce, but I feel that this does not reflect any kind of scholarly annotation. Now, would I get reading experiences of this kind if I bought all my books pristine, or downloaded them onto my hygienic Kindle? I think not. PS. This book's interesting antecedence fails to beat the book I once bought second-hand, called "How Brains Work". This contained, like pressed flowers between its pages, about 20 sheets of tinfoil that had apparently been used to smoke drugs off - blackened underneath, with residues of presumably heroin on the top.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Johann (jobis89)

    “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 “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 to some criminals, like John Wayne Gacy, Richard Chase, David Berkowitz, Charles Manson, as well as some lesser known cases. It’s very well-written, but as is the case with the majority of true crime books, can be quite dry. That didn’t stop me flipping through the pages though, as it was incredibly readable. One of my main complaints about the Mindhunter book was how egocentric John Douglas came across, and even though Ressler contributed hugely to the way criminals are profiled today, he seems very humble in comparison. I wasn’t rolling my eyes every 5 seconds, let’s put it that way... There is also no new information past the 1990s, so it’s perhaps slightly outdated in some ways, but for a history of the introduction of criminal profiling, it’s solid. Keeping this review relatively short as people are either into true crime or they’re not - but if you are, this is worth checking out! As with all true crime, there are graphic descriptions and disturbing scenes, so beware! 4 stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    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 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 Douglas though, as he tends not to self congratulate as much (it does happen though). I would have preferred more talk about the various cases rather than Ressler’s personal background too, but understand that it might have been necessary to include it to gain an insight into Ressler’s way of thinking etc. The book is also obviously dated, with no new chapters referencing anything past the early 1990s. I really need to find more modern texts, but so far nothing is quite as superior as these for definitive facts and information relating to violent crimes etc. Overall, this was good but historical, and covers a fair few crimes I hadn’t heard of and examined them in a clean analytical way. Any recommendations for something more recent would be appreciated!

  5. 4 out of 5

    ElphaReads

    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 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 fascinating read. Robert Ressler was an FBI agent and profiler whose work focused on the minds and psychology of violent criminals. He gave input on numerous cases and did a lot to bring attention and education to the pathology of murders, and this is his story and his insights of his time working with the likes of Bundy, Gacy, Kemper, and others. Ressler really knows what he's talking about when it comes to violent offenders. He had a certain way with them that he could build a rapport with a few of them and get information from the as to what motivated them (when they were willing to cooperate, that is). I liked his insights not only into their minds, but his thoughts on the criminal justice system as a whole. I was put off by his unrepentant crowing about being an undercover plant in anti-war groups during the Vietnam War, but was heartened to hear his thoughts on why the Death Penalty doesn't actually do anything constructive. And yeah, I was super fascinated by his personal stories of interactions with people like Gacy, Dahmer, and Kemper. He did a good job of not glamorizing them, while also reminding the reader that the darkness in these men came from somewhere, and that it's a disservice to merely write them off as monsters. It didn't really tell me anything new, but it was still a pretty good read for a true crime fan.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mariah Roze

    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 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 advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs shows how is able to track down some of today's most brutal murderers. Just as it happened in The Silence of the Lambs, Ressler used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them--Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers of the police to capture. And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler's gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills, is one of the FBI's most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large. Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for toady's most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget."

  7. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    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 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 choose audio the narration is excellent.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    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 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, or as a name said alongside that of John Douglas. There's obviously some common ground between the two when they write, but I found Ressler much more academic and far less prone to the moments of over-inflating ego that punctuate Douglas' books. That can make things slightly dryer in places, as there's no attempt to sensationalise or dramatise any events, but I'll take slightly dry over an overactive ego any day. Despite it's age, it's still definitely a very informative book, and spans quite a few cases that the reader will most likely have heard of, as well as a couple that were less well-known. Very worth the read if you're interested in this period, but also definitely a book that's withstood the test of time surprisingly well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary Carrasco

    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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    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 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 formatting. He covers a lot of ground in regards to his career and the cases he created profiles for, but instead of being insightful, it felt disorganized, egocentric, and ungraceful. I understand that he helped catch many violent criminals, but Ressler pats himself on the back a lot for his profiling work throughout the book. He even opens the book with one of his own quotes. Oh brother. Ressler's autobiography contains many engrossing sections, but for me it just didn't add up to a complete or compelling FBI-based true crime novel. If that's what you are interested in, might I suggest Gary Noesner's Stalling for Time instead?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Whoever Fights Monsters was disturbing as heck but incredibly detailed and well-written, definitely worth reading if you're a fan of true crime, behavioral analysis, police procedural or psychology.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    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 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 to these questions. This was when Mindhunter aired on Netflix and we both discovered Robert Ressler and his book. When the cover of a book says : ” My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI”, then I did feel the urge to look for some answers or interpretations here. My interest was not entirely misplaced since the author has some fantastic credentials : he is often credited to have coined the usage “serial killer”, served as an adviser for Thomas Harris while the latter was creating a bare bones outline for Hannibal Lecter, has had face time and multiple interviews with many ruthless serial killers etcetera. But all considered, I still did not have a lot of answers to the questions that brought me to the book and subject matter in the first place. Not many people can really talk about serial killers and their perverse relationships with humanity in the depth that Robert Ressler can. This is since he has had a career spanning time with the Army and the FBI and was one of the pioneers of employing psychological profiling to track down serial killers. The tone of the book is very much akin to what a professional would write – to the point, concise and clinically detached. In other words, Ressler does not sensationalize his subject even when he had ample opportunities and resources to do so. Even the most grotesque details of the savagery of the murders are mentioned as a law enforcement professional would have and the approach is to always understand why the said killer would have resorted to this behaviour. The author having been one of the forerunners of the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) in the US also does extensive conversations with incarcerated serial murderers which sheds some light into the minds of these apprehended criminals. Ressler’s classification of the criminal mind is broadly into the organized (planned, canny, adaptive killers) and the disorganized (no effort to cover trails, violent and erratic behaviour patterns etc.) is illustrated by numerous examples that he brings up during the book. Maybe it is the celebrity aspect of these infamous killers but he does extensively take case studies from the lives of Charles Manson, Ed Kemper, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy more than most others in the book. It is equal parts fascinating and terrifying to behold such labyrinthine minds. The aspects of this book that did not sit well with me were : Women : Ressler mentions as an aside and devotes maybe half a page to the topic of female serial killers. Granted that there have not been as many women serial murderers as men but then this would have made a great inclusion into the book. Ressler dissects the psychological undercurrents of men and gives insights into what may have driven some of them along the point of no return and that begs the question, why are there not many women serial killers ? What aspects of their psyche could be different ? It might be too vast a topic but an inclusion of this argument would have made this more well-rounded. Does not age too well : The book closes by the mid 90’s and there has not been any revisions ever since. This means that the cases discussed and debated close by the time the law apprehends Jeffrey Dahmer. The world has changed significantly in a myriad of ways in the last 27 plus years and how has this changed crime ? Perhaps I am asking too much and this is material for another book. Americanized : This is a no brainer, being an FBI agent it is only natural that Ressler would stick to the geography he knows best which is the US of A. However, a quick glance around tells you that there have been serial killers in almost every part of the world. So how different are the mentalities of these individuals ? What social, cultural or demographic factors would have caused these individuals to jump off the precipice ? “I am good and I know it” : Any memoir is about beating your own drum but a skillful writer knows how to mix this along with the events that he/she is describing so that the reader does not feel the narrative to be disjointed. From all that I have written here, it is quite easy to understand that Ressler is a very intelligent and efficient professional and it would have been great to leave it at that. In his version of the stories though he goes a few steps further and congratulates himself every now and then. I did notice these and let a few such instances pass by when I finally reached a point where he had mentioned verbatim a letter of commendation in his name that was sent to the FBI director ! It doesn’t get more explicit than this fellow readers ! All considered, if you are keen to understand the details of the criminal mind and especially of the serial killer kind then this would be a good albeit dated work. The questions that my friend and I were debating has now attained new perspectives but not answered yet. We better get back to our discussion !

  13. 4 out of 5

    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 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 totally see how that desire has shaped a lot of "profiling" since Ressler's retirement.) He has the same problem that bedevils all the books in this genre; "I did this and this and this was awesome and this got me a commendation and this changed the way we understand sociopaths . . ." I know Ressler isn't bragging--he and Bill Bass are the only two of these guys I've found thus far who will tell stories on themselves--but there's no way he can explain why he's writing this memoir without sounding like he's bragging: because it's a memoir about what he's done, not who he is. Much of who he is shows through in what he does, but the emphasis is most definitely on actions and accomplishments--and how can we possibly know why what he's done is important unless he tells us? Ressler comes across better than anyone except Bill Bass. I appreciate deeply pragmatic people. And he writes very lucidly about some very murky subjects.

  14. 5 out of 5

    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 ‘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 recently. A crime is committed, nearby people are interviewed, suspects are rounded up and questioned based on their likelihood of having a reason to kill which is common to the usual reasons - money, jealousy, sex, rage, especially past convictions involving violence - done. Police had no interest in profiling. Indeed, most police were suspicious of profiling, even today. Crime scene facts and physical evidence are what matters, along with witness statements, if any. Who cares why killings happen if the perpetrators can be convicted by physical evidence and/or confessions? Serial murderers are a different kind of killer than with whom the police usually deal. Even the FBI, the agency Ressler worked for as an agent, could not grasp how different serial killers are for a long time. Or that even though serial killers are individually quirky, there are psychological categories and subset categories that they each can be fit into. Or that by identifying a killer’s psychological style could help in identifying a serial killer. But most important, knowing how to talk to a serial killer can lead them to confess. Many serial killers have psychological twists that normal people are not able to believe a person could possibly have. Police have allowed serial killers to walk free out of sheer disbelief of their confessions or even the evidence of their own eyes, as in the Jeffrey Dahmer case. There is the issue that many serial killers move their killing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, state to state. Police hate sharing cases with other police agencies, and they are reluctant to discuss active investigations with others. If murder A was exactly like murder B in another town, in the past cops would never know it. It still happens today cops in town A are unaware cops in town B have the same kind of crime with the same physical evidence discovered at the scene of the crime. A lot of new ideas about detecting and collecting evidence, and computers, and police-friendly for-profit genealogical research companies which process DNA kits, have met the challenge of identifying similar styles and physical evidence in murders, as well as tracking cases across state lines from different jurisdictions. But cooperation between police departments, from what I’ve read in newspaper exposés, is sometimes still a problem. Although computers can compile cases with similar attributes from a national or regional database, police departments have to pay to buy access, and not all can afford to buy access. Police also need to hire extra employees to fill out and send in the paperwork forms regional and national databases require to input cases. Police in many small jurisdictions still refuse to participate in sending local crime information to regional or the national FBI and other criminal justice databases. But how did police agencies begin to accept profiling? That is what this book is about. I copied the cover blurb below. It is an accurate description: ”Face-to-face with some of America's most terrifying killers, FBI veteran and ex-Army CID colonel Robert Ressler learned from them 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 he is able to track down some of today's most brutal murderers. Just as it happened in The Silence of the Lambs, Ressler used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them--Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers of the police to capture. And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler's gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills, is one of the FBI's most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large. Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for today’s most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget.” Well, ok, the blurb is a little bit more breathlessly dramatic than the book is, actually. The tone of ‘Whoever Fights Monsters’ is closer to a flattened ‘just the facts’ voice of an academic professional. Nonetheless, I thought it fascinating. There is an Index.

  15. 4 out of 5

    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 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 thoughts have aged too well, it's a very solid book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    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 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 of heart because it is incredibly graphic in its discussion of various murders. I had to put it down several times and go read something else because it’s so disturbing. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    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 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" too. NOT in the classes of "organized" and "disorganized" murderers. That parsing to description was excellent. And Ressler was one of the first who described each. In the autobiographical sense, I think his personal story was above average interesting. Also so representative for the cognition re "education" for his time and generation. For instance, his first application for a Chicago Police Officer Job was rejected because he had 2 years of college. Deemed "too much education, he will cause too many questions". I really did LOL on that one. Now college education is enabled and required in great measure. His early life and especially the progressions of military services, moves, and being supported while both serving and becoming high degree "educated" were excellent. 4 star in specific pertinent information to the development of profiling itself as well. But STILL, the various cases over the years took away the clear cut path to the professional development story itself of Robert K. Ressler, IMHO. This is super, super dark, gritty and core evil example prone. So anyone who has sensibility to this horrific outcome physical evidence criteria should not read this book. It did teach me more about serial killer pattern of after death deeds that I did not fully know about or understand before reading this. Like the blood drinking fetish. This although highly dated (even in the language used) and especially in the current forensics fields evidence, this still is worth reading for the history of profiling. He's a crux to its early formation, and was the person who actually was core in using the term "serial" killer and defining criteria for that nomenclature. And he does explain profiling and the progression and early birth (starts in early childhood) of a dark fantasy life that is becoming more and more definitive to the mental structure for this kind of mind. He also defines shades of mental illness better than most who are "high priests" in that field today. But other than in "history" development for definitions or terms- this book is extremely dated. And no more so than in the case studies used. In some cases, the perpetrator's "aftermath" is incorrect for the last 15 years. He doesn't at all describe how "wrong" profiling can be either at times. He does state that it is never infallible. But that's not quite the same thing. It's been wrong in some major cases like BTK, Dennis Rader. Not 100% wrong, but just wrong enough to hurt, not help in massive investigations. It's history- no longer as accurate in definitive practice either, as it once was. Ressler is passed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andre Dumas

    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 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 was also the main point of reference for Thomas Harris when he was writing Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. He also started that little interviewing project where FBI agents interviewed serial killers around the country to find out more about them in hopes of identifying future serial killers. The book takes you through actual cases where Ressler's profiles helped the FBI nab the killers, Ressler's actual interviews with serial killers like Charles Manson, Ed Kemper and John Wayne Gacy as well as just some cold hard facts like recognizing the difference between disorganized and organized killers, how and why some serial killers use staging to their advantage among other topics that Ressler's usually covered in his classes. The book also includes 2 series of photos showing serial killers, crime scenes and in some cases gruesome photos of some victims (although these are tame compared to a regular internet search). I would give this 5 stars but Ressler occasionally seemed a little braggy about all his awards and accolades.....hmm actually whatever I'm giving it 5 because he deserves it. Serial killers have always fascinated me mostly on the psychological side of things and this book truly was right up my alley. I found it exciting, terrifying and extremely interesting. A must read for lovers of Thomas Harris or anyone curious to know about inner workings of the FBI and criminal profiling.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    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 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 burden of responsibility for these men lie mostly at their hands. He says he is often asked why he never discusses female serial killers and says there has really only been one, Aileen Wuornos. And then does not go on to discuss her psychopathy the difference between male and female killers. Literally puts a period on that sentence and then never revisits it once. It’s as if in his mind female serial killers hold so little value to him that they don’t even deserve study. On the plus side he discusses many killers that aren’t big names that I didn’t have any knowledge of. I enjoyed reading about these lesser known yet just as dangerous criminals and getting a glimpse into their minds and thoughts.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leksa

    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 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 (the book was written in 1991, so you can't blame him for not seeing the future, but it's concerning that he mentioned it as an example of a well-conducted investigation similar to one that he himself was involved with). Even from the beginning when he describes his early work with the army, going undercover to infiltrate anti-war student movements during the Vietnam War, I knew I was not going to agree with his politics. Nevertheless, his experiences and knowledge can't be dismissed and I learned a ton about serial killers and profiling. I do recommend it despite my distaste for many of the author's positions and biases; just keep that in mind going in.

  21. 5 out of 5

    AC

    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

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kai

    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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve Parcell

    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

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynda Kelly

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    Story - 3.5 Narration - 4.5 This book was okay, but like most FBI profilers, this guy likes to blow his own horn a lot. And after a few of these books it all gets repetitive.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle

    "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.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I don’t know how I’d never heard of this book before. First hearing about it on My Favourite Murder, I’d already read and loved Mindhunter, by Robert K Ressler’s sometime partner John Douglas. Having loved that, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Whoever Fights Monsters was even better. Robert K Ressler was the FBI agent who pretty much started the whole profiling ball rolling, when he took it upon himself to start interviewing some of the worst serial murderers the American justice system h I don’t know how I’d never heard of this book before. First hearing about it on My Favourite Murder, I’d already read and loved Mindhunter, by Robert K Ressler’s sometime partner John Douglas. Having loved that, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Whoever Fights Monsters was even better. Robert K Ressler was the FBI agent who pretty much started the whole profiling ball rolling, when he took it upon himself to start interviewing some of the worst serial murderers the American justice system has ever caught and incarcerated. If you’ve heard of them, he’s interviewed them – including Charles Manson, Ed Kemper, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and many, many more – and recounts much of their interviews within (including a truly terrifying anecdote about interviewing Ed Kemper). Far more than detailing his career and the cases he’s worked on, as in Mindhunter, Whoever Fights Monsters is far more interested in the art of profiling itself, which made it infinitely more interesting to me. Whether it be talking about how to interview a subject, the different backgrounds and stressors that can apply to different kinds of murderers, how one goes about assessing a crime scene, how the art of profiling has evolved or the prospects of rehabilitation, every single page was packed with fascinating material. I spent all of my lunch breaks for the past week feeling like I was taking the best class of my life, and I would give anything to have been able to have sit in on any of Ressler’s real-life lectures on the subject. I’m more disappointed than ever that my younger self didn’t pursue the education I’d have needed to have gone into this field, and will have to be happy with armchair detecting instead. If you’re at all interested in profiling, stop what you’re doing and buy this book immediately. You won’t regret it. **Also posted at Cannonball read 9**

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Brady

    Creepy and fascinating...the tales told from the perspective of Robert K. Ressler, an FBI agent who tracked down multiple serial killers by profiling them. His interviews and insights into the minds of those convicted of serial killings. Knowing the difference between organized and disorganized serial killers was truly insightful. This took me months to read as the shudder factor was too strong, and I had to look away and read something light in between chapter. Deciding on the rating was diffic Creepy and fascinating...the tales told from the perspective of Robert K. Ressler, an FBI agent who tracked down multiple serial killers by profiling them. His interviews and insights into the minds of those convicted of serial killings. Knowing the difference between organized and disorganized serial killers was truly insightful. This took me months to read as the shudder factor was too strong, and I had to look away and read something light in between chapter. Deciding on the rating was difficult because while it was informative (excellent), the subject matter was not (horrible).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eve

    DOPE!!!!! to all my fellow criminal minds , dateline , and law & order SVU junkies out there - this one is for you. (PS totally watching mindhunter now) DOPE!!!!! to all my fellow criminal minds , dateline , and law & order SVU junkies out there - this one is for you. (PS totally watching mindhunter now)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Amazing. Loved every second of it. Robert Ressler is the man with the plan

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