Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert Ressler and Tom Schachtman
Non-Fiction, True Crime
Audible Audio, Unabridged Audio
Published July 16th 2016 by Tantor Audio (first published 1992)
As a murderino, true crime is my jam. Many true crime books, however, can be rather pulpy and sensationalist. Thankfully, this one is not. Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler was recommended by the lovely Karen and Georgia of the podcast My Favorite Murder. They had been specifically listening to the audiobook, and I thought, hey, I have an audible subscription! I should check this shit out. Not only so, but 1.5 episodes a week of My Favorite Murder just isn’t enough. I need some other murder-y thing to listen to to keep me going. Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler was just the thing.
Whoever Fights Monsters is an overview of Robert Ressler’s career working for the FBI. He started his career in the army, then as army police, and then made his way to the FBI. There, he helped found the use of behavioural science in the catching of serial killers. Also, he coined the term serial killer.
Let’s pause for a second. Have you watched the show Mindhunter on Netflix? This show is loosely based on the work of Ressler and his colleague John Douglas (who wrote a book by the same name). How neat is that? These dudes went around interviewing the most notorious serial killers to be able to catch killers in the future. So. Dope.
Whoever Fights Monsters is a fascinating book. Much of it takes place in the seventies as technology was beginning to develop and ideas were beginning to change. Before Ressler was on the scene, the FBI didn’t know much about killers, and they didn’t care for psychology. As Ressler studied and learned more about killers, he knew there was much more they needed to find out.
He interviewed the most notorious murderers of his, and our, time, compiling research to find common traits among killers. Using this information, the FBI was able to begin using this behavioural science to profile killers. This is extremely useful in apprehending them.
Ressler describes these interviews, the process of profiling, and how he used profiling to help catch killers. He was involved in many interesting, high-profile cases and dispels any myths there might be about them. Not only so, but he talks about the invention of ViCAP (Violent Crime Apprehension Program) and his hand in it.
Throughout the book, Ressler is straightforward and full of facts. He doesn’t mess around or linger over gruesome details, though he does describe them. At times, however, he is a little self-congratulatory. And whether it’s deserved or not, I could have done without.
As with much of true crime, this book is not for the faint of heart. Many of the crimes Ressler details are gruesome and graphic–he was, after all, working with terrible killers. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and listening to it on audio. Had the content not been so interesting, I may not have been a huge fan of the narration (it’s a bit monotone at times).
If you’re a murderino, too, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.
Beth O’Brien is a library assistant and book blogger. Born and raised in Atlantic Canada, she lives in picturesque Nova Scotia with her cat Edith. You can often find her rocking double denim with her nose in a book and a craft beer in her hand. Follow her on Twitter @fuelldbyfiction.