📖 Talking with Psychopaths and Savages: A Journey into the Evil Mind. It’s pretty easy to guess what this book is about. The title is straight to the point, unfortunately for me, the book was less so.
✍️Christopher Berry-Dee is quite an interesting author, he is (according to the intro) a direct descendent of Dr John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I. He no doubt has a great legacy in interviewing the worlds most notorious serial killers and murderers. The book has an interesting premise, cool cover and showed a lot of promise. It also did have plenty of detailed content about a small number of murderers which fit a definition of ‘psychopath’.
When CBD actually gets into the content, he takes us through some really interesting cases such as JR Robinson, Kenneth Allen McDuff, Arthur Shawcross, Kenneth Bianchi and more. However, he doesn’t start reviewing the cases until page 73 in a 292-page book (that’s 25% of the book that doesn’t really include talking with psychopaths and savages)! That’s a lot of pre-reading before the reader gets what they came for.
🗣 CBD also has this habit of referring to his other works throughout the book. I found it incredibly frustrating and distracting from the current story. I lost count of the number of times he wrote something along the lines of:
‘I fully documented Ross in Dead Men Talking: The World’s Worst Killers in Their Own Words, first published in hardback by John Blake, 2009, but the book you are reading now is not so much about his life and crimes…
👓 These types of self-promotion are a regular occurrence throughout the book distracting from the actual topic. In my opinion, these should have been a footnote (or a bibliography) to allow the reader to look up later if they felt the desire.
I think part of the reason I found all the waffle and self-promotion frustrating is that the author also mentions (repeatedly throughout the book) how he has a tight word count by his publisher so cannot go into details he would like to.
💭 Overall View: I hate to give a negative review and I realise the content of this review is mostly negative. However, I truly appreciate there is a lot of work and research put into writing any book. This subject matter is not a pleasant one and I think kudos has to be given to anyone who managers to spend time with these individuals and trying to understand their mental state. Even more kudos in the instances the author has managed to convince the killers to reveal details of the crimes which has given the families some comfort they would likely not have had otherwise. In these areas the book is really good. Another reviewer wrote a quote that cannot be beaten when summarising this book:
You know those really annoying blokes down the pub who keep bragging about what they’ve done, and you so want to just tell them to piss off but you’re a little transfixed, so you buy them another pint then instantly regret it as they ramble on some more with just enough interesting stuff to keep you going? This book is like that. (Credit: Alyssa Cowell).
I’ve read Jon Ronson’s The psychopath test recently (my full review of that can be seen following the links below) and in my opinion, it’s a better read than this, although this one does contain many more individual cases. Ronson’s book is easier to digest and a bit more well-rounded.
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