A Killer By Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess

Murderers, Mind hunters, and my quest to decipher the criminal mind.

A Killer By Design is a memoir of the woman who was instrumental in the creation of the “mindhunters” methodologies of criminal profiling. Burgess was a forensic nurse who studied victimology and violent sexual crime, and her work was breaking into new ground when the FBI Behavioral Science Unit approached her to work with them. She was the first woman on the team in the early 80’s, and she worked on some of the most well known serial killer cases, including Ed Kemper and BTK.

This book has recommendations on the back from people like Paul Holes and John E Douglas. Which is probably recommendation enough for you to read it, if you’re a true crime reader. I really got a lot out of this book, it’s written in a way that got me in from page one, and not in a voyeuristic, lookyloo way, but because it’s really good.

A lot of the books about the BSU have a focus on cases, which are always really interesting and needed as examples, demonstrating the psychology, the science behind the work they do. Here we have a little something different and I really liked this. Burgess was not an FBI agent. She was kind of an outsider coming in, as a non-FBI person and as a woman. (Let the women do the work! (IYKYK)) Because of this, she tells us about the workplace of the BSU, how it grew and developed, what the office was like and really interestingly, what the work culture was like. We get a picture of the whole and how their work grew over time (and how her work developed in the unit, of course) which you don’t get in some of these books because that context is something only someone coming in would be aware of.

Of course, this book does go into the cases as well, and the profiling process and the psychology behind these crimes, which is fascinating. And terrifying obviously.

To me, this is a new must-read for true crime readers and belongs on that shelf with Douglas’ and Ressler’s books, and The Gift Of Fear, The Stranger Beside Me or In Cold Blood. Sure to become required reading for the genre.

Read It If: a must read if you’re into true crime or you loved Mindhunter (can you BELIEVE they’re not doing a third season?).

Thank you HBG Canada for the copy of this book for review.

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