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.