"The Serial Killer Compendium" Book Review
Written by RJ Parker
2012, 396 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on March 25th, 2012
The horror genre is tremendously indebted to serial killers. A listing of books and movies that deal with serial killers would almost be a book in itself. Something about their twisted psychology and abhorrent acts have turned folks like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz, and Andrei Chikatilo, to name a few, into household names and media figures. In The Serial Killer Compendium, true crime author RJ Parker offers five books that deal with the names above and also shine a light on killers that are not as present in popular culture but whose bloody actions are worse than any horror movie out there.
The first book, Unsolved Serial Killings, has information about serial killer profiling and a few descriptions that will help readers new to this kind of information understand the entire compendium. From the Axeman of New Orleans to the famous-yet-unknown Zodiac Killer, all the important murderers who were never caught are here. Parker compiled the information available and managed to steer clear of doing what eventually becomes the downfall of books like this: giving opinions and wild theories about the identity of the killers.
Women Who Kill takes a look at female serial killers, a demographic that's very small, but which is known for their careful planning and preferred victims: patients, babies, and husbands. Parker again offers a solid assembly of available information and digs a little bit into the history of some of the most prolific Black Widows and Angels of Death. Although there is very little information out there, seeing sisters Delfina and Maria Gonzalez — who operated a brothel in Guanajuato, Mexico, back in ‘50s and are thought to be responsible for around 100 deaths — was a treat.
The most famous names come in Case Closed: Serial Killers Captured. The author, knowing these guys each have their own books, chose to concentrate on the stories of some of the most recognizable names in crime. Gacy, Bundy, Dahmer, Berkowitz and Chikatilo are all here. While enjoyable, the contents of this book will not be new to anyone interested in serial killers.
School Shootings: No Killing in the Hallways, the fourth tome in the compendium, is the most impressive in terms on research and writing. The massacres at Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, Red Lake High School, Beslan School and the Ecole Polytechnique, along with the University of Texas' Tower sniper, are all vividly described in a very detailed manner. The actions of the killers before, during, and after the killings are recounted in a very straight, informed way. This is the most chilling portion of the book and even includes a list of victims and, in some cases, weapons used.
The last book, Doctors Who Killed, is almost as good as the previous one and shines a light on the very flawed medical systems of a few countries and the way doctors can create circumstances in which death can go unpunished for a very long time, if not forever. Just like the school shootings, the cases presented here offer a back story, information on the murders and victims and, when it applies, how the killer was apprehended.
There are only two small drawbacks to this great collection. The first is that, perhaps because of the reduced page count, there are a few famous names that serial killer connoisseurs will find missing. Aileen Wuornos, Albert Fish, Edmund Kemper and Carl Panzram are a few known names not present in Case Closed: Serial Killers Captured. Also, some portions of the book seem to have been sent to the printer without being edited. Although noticeable, this last flaw is not enough to interrupt the reading.
Ultimately, The Serial Killer Compendium is a solid gathering of Parker's work and, considering you're getting five books for the price of one, it's also a great deal. If you like reading about real-life horror and gore, this needs to be on your bookshelf.