A Killer by Design: Book summary and reviews of A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess

A Killer by Design

Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind

by Ann Wolbert Burgess

A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess X
A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess
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Book Summary

A vivid behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit and the evolution of criminal profiling, written by the pioneering forensic nurse who transformed the way the FBI studies, profiles, and catches serial killers.

Lurking beneath the progressive activism and sex positivity in the 1970-80s, a dark undercurrent of violence rippled across the American landscape. With reported cases of sexual assault and homicide on the rise, the FBI created a specialized team—the "Mindhunters" better known as the Behavioral Science Unit—to track down the country's most dangerous criminals. And yet narrowing down a seemingly infinite list of potential suspects seemed daunting at best and impossible at worst—until Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess stepped on the scene.

In A Killer By Design, Burgess reveals how her pioneering research on sexual assault and trauma caught the attention of the FBI, and steered her right into the middle of a chilling serial murder investigation in Nebraska. Over the course of the next two decades, she helped the budding unit identify, interview, and track down dozens of notoriously violent offenders, including Ed Kemper ("The Co-Ed Killer"), Dennis Rader ("("BTK"), Henry Wallace ("The Taco Bell Strangler"), Jon Barry Simonis ("The Ski-Mask Rapist"), and many others. As one of the first women trailblazers within the FBI's hallowed halls, Burgess knew many were expecting her to crack under pressure and recoil in horror—but she was determined to protect future victims at any cost. This book pulls us directly into the investigations as she experienced them, interweaving never-before-seen interview transcripts and crime scene drawings alongside her own vivid recollections to provide unprecedented insight into the minds of deranged criminals and the victims they left behind. Along the way, Burgess also paints a revealing portrait of a formidable institution on the brink of a seismic scientific and cultural reckoning—and the men forced to reconsider everything they thought they knew about crime.

Haunting, heartfelt, and deeply human, A Killer By Design forces us to confront the age-old question that has long plagued our criminal justice system: "What drives someone to kill, and how can we stop them?"

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Forensic and psychiatric nurse Burgess debuts with an affecting memoir about her crucial if largely unknown role in helping the FBI develop criminal profiling tool...Admirers of John Douglas's The Killer Across the Table: Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI's Original Mindhunter will be riveted." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An empathetic, insightful behind-the-scenes look at criminal profiling that will be appreciated by true crime fans and readers curious about forensic or criminal psychology." - Library Journal (starred review)

"In a revelatory book that is brimming with the fascinating coupled with the macabre, Burgess details the inner workings of the depraved mind." - Booklist

"Of all the colleagues I've worked with, Ann is one of the sharpest—and one of the toughest. Ann's behind-the-scenes work had a profound impact on the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, since she taught us how to harness the chaos of serial killers' minds and helped us decipher the undecipherable. I'd recommend that everyone read A Killer By Design; not only is it a great page-turner, but it's about time Ann's story was heard." - John E. Douglas, former FBI criminal profiler and bestselling author of Mindhunter

"My career was shaped after reading the seminal text on sexual homicide co-authored by Dr. Ann Burgess—one of the original Mindhunters. Now, in A Killer By Design, Burgess shows how she helped refine the criminal profiling process, with an acute eye for detail and heartwarming compassion for the victims. This book has quickly become a permanent fixture on my bookshelf and is a must-read for anybody who wants to understand the history of exploring the predator's mind. Burgess is truly a hero in the fight against evil." - Paul Holes, FBI Task Force Officer, retired cold case investigator, and co-host of Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad podcast

"I will never forget the first time I heard Ann Burgess speak about her work to a large audience at Penn. We all were mesmerized. Ann brought forensic nursing and her ground-breaking research on crime victims and trauma to the university. She completely upended how law enforcement thinks about victims of trauma and abuse, all while challenging long-held assumptions of American culture. Her story needs to be heard." - Claire M. Fagin, Former Dean, Professor Emerita of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Interim President 1993-1994

This information about A Killer by Design was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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More Information

Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess, DNSc., APRN, is a leading forensic and psychiatric nurse who worked with the FBI for over two decades. She is currently a professor at the Boston College Connell School of Nursing, and she lives in Boston, MA.

Steven Matthew Constantine (cowriter) is the assistant director of marketing and communications at the Boston College Connell School of Nursing. He holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Boston, MA.

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