As anyone with even the vaguest idea of my reading habits will have noticed, I’m fascinated by true crime – and serial killers in particular. I can’t tell you why that is (although I’ve read lots of theories about why women, and in particular women with anxiety, are so drawn to the subject), but what I can tell you is that Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters is an excellent book on the history of serial killing, the psychopathology of these types of killers and the profiling methods available to investigators (along with the pros and cons of these tools).
Vronksy has clearly done an awful lot of research and his own fascination comes through in his writing, which has enough detail to keep amateur criminal psychologists happy whilst also being written simply enough for the layman to understand. Looking at FBI categorisations such as organised/disorganised/mixed killers, as well as some of the sub-categories such as mission-oriented, power-control oriented, hedonistic etc, Vronksy makes sure to illustrate each of these through the examples of some of the heavy-hitters in each category, making some of the more scientific elements easier to comprehend.
What was most fascinating for me was some of the statistics that have arisen through researching serial homicides – the surges in so-called serial killing epidemics (apparently 45% of all recorded serial killings occurred in the 20 year period between 1975 & 1995) and why that might be (Vronsky’s theory, which works for me, is that incidences of serial killing increase when the public at large has more leisure time – no-one had time for serial killing when they were constantly labouring simply to survive, whereas the nobles did – and gave us some of the only recorded incidences of historical serial killers in the forms of Gilles de Rais and Countess Bathory) as well as setting out the differences between female and male serial killers (unlike their counterparts, female serial killers largely fall into the ‘killing for financial gain’ group (74%) while those who fall into other categories often do so as accomplices to men).
Vronsky also looks at the changing trends in serial killing and what that may hold for the future, with the prevalence of spree killings and mass shootings being on the rise, although quite why that may be (other than the fact that anyone who wants one seems to be able to get a gun in the States) is still open for debate.
If you’re at all interested in true crime, you would do well to pick this up. I already have Vronksy’s next book on female serial killers lined up.