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A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind

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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 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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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 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?”

30 review for A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind

  1. 5 out of 5

    MarilynW

    A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind by Ann Burgess with Steven Constantine Ann Burgess came to the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit after her research on sexual assault and trauma caught the attention of the FBI. Whereas the people she would work with were focusing on those who committed the crimes, her work had her focusing on the victims. She was able to work with BSU agents to interview convicted serial killers so that a structured method of crimi A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind by Ann Burgess with Steven Constantine Ann Burgess came to the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit after her research on sexual assault and trauma caught the attention of the FBI. Whereas the people she would work with were focusing on those who committed the crimes, her work had her focusing on the victims. She was able to work with BSU agents to interview convicted serial killers so that a structured method of criminal profiling could be developed and used throughout the country to catch violent offenders before they could do more damage. But first, criminal profiling methodology had to be established, defined, and refined so that law enforcement across the country would have a means to identify possible suspects without the inference of bias. To be able to understand the criminal mind Ann and the agents had to get inside of minds of thirty six serial killers, a number that they would add to later. This book discusses horrible crimes in great detail. One thing that helped with their research is that the serial killers, for the most part, loved detailing their thoughts, actions, likes, dislikes. They thrived on reliving everything in detail. The book is very interesting but not to be lost in the exposing of serial killers and their motivations and thought processes, are the victims, each and every one of them them a person who mattered, who had a life that was cut short by the cruelty of depraved men. As Ann Burgess says at the end of this book, it was always about the victims for her. That was obvious as I read this book and that is how I could continue to read it. I read mysteries and thrillers on a regular basis, many which deal with murderers and their victims and it can be easy to let it all go once the book is laid down. I know that television, movies, and books have numbed us to violence in real life. It's made serial killers famous, given them cult followings and minimized and erased the names of those whose lives they took so violently. For me, Burgess makes clear that she doesn't want these victims to be forgotten and that was important to me, as I read this book. Pub: December 7, 2021 Thank you to Hachette Books, Scene of the Crime, and Novel Suspects for this ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Petra on hiatus in hospital & not the beach,Cancun

    Do you ever read a book that's kind of meh, and you think you'll finish it when all of a sudden it ups its game and becomes amazingly good? This one did that! You can see from Reading Notes below that I didn't thing much of it, but by the time I finished it I wanted more. The author was working, at a very high level, profiling serial killers when she latched on to something I hadn't thought of that she wanted to challenge. A snippet of overheard conversation: “The Kemper case, though. I don’t kn Do you ever read a book that's kind of meh, and you think you'll finish it when all of a sudden it ups its game and becomes amazingly good? This one did that! You can see from Reading Notes below that I didn't thing much of it, but by the time I finished it I wanted more. The author was working, at a very high level, profiling serial killers when she latched on to something I hadn't thought of that she wanted to challenge. A snippet of overheard conversation: “The Kemper case, though. I don’t know if you’ve heard about him. He’s sometimes called the Co-ed Killer. He did some pretty crazy stuff and didn’t get caught for years. He’s my favorite serial killer.” The author was struck by that, and wrote: What did it even mean to have a favorite serial killer? Then, suddenly and with great clarity, I was struck by the significance of the remark. Serial killers were gaining notoriety for their crimes. As public fascination with these offenders grew, so too did their mythology. Their stories were becoming familiar, compelling, even entertaining—offering a never-before-seen glimpse into the darkest corners of human nature. The killers were becoming distanced from the heinous carnage they’d left behind and transcending into the status of cultural icons. The author worries that these brutal killers who have no emotions that don't relate to themselves and their desires to torture and murder have become media personalities:The public was beginning to accept them as archetypal stories of classic Americana. Somewhere along the line, the public’s initial shock about killers like Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy had changed from repulsion to fascination. It got to the point where a police artist’s sketch of the Unabomber became an iconic T-shirt. It was disturbing. Because despite how obviously horrible these killers were, despite their utter brutality and the pain they inflicted upon their victims, they’d somehow become romanticized. They were a new type of celebrity. That really made me think on just how serial killers have become an industry that is almost exactly on a par with say Hollywood stars (apart from the interviews). There are endless newspaper, magazine, internet sites books, documentaries and even films made about them. We thrill to their vicious coldness, but we aren't feeling them, we are feeling what the media are exploiting for money. The author puts it well:The spotlight of entertainment glosses over reality and focuses on serial killers only in their most appealing forms. Like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, killers were often portrayed as charismatic, even likable. They were given qualities of empathy and charm that made it easier to separate them from the unimaginable malice of their actions. When the truth of the matter to this psychologist and expert forensic profiler is, Serial killers had emotions, yes, but these emotions lacked depth. They didn’t care about others. They didn’t want to make friends. They didn’t have empathy. They only wanted victims. Connection—through charm, flattery, or humor—was part of their act. It was simply a means to an end. These are the worst of criminals, but they get the best, most extensive 'celeb' portrayals in the media. The most powerful part of the book was the extensive interview with the serial killer Henry Wallace where the author had been called in by the defence (which probably made Wallace more open than if she had been on the prosecution side). He was unusual being Black - almost all serial killers are White males - and also, dreadfully, having known well most of his victims - these were his friends and co-workers. He got a sexual rush from strangling them, then demanding oral sex, then rape, and finally murder. He'd never been able to get out of his head the gang rape of a girl in school that he'd witnessed - and enjoyed. Perhaps the sexual element is put best in this sentence by the Bind, Torture and Kill murderer, Dennis Rader, and perhaps this is what lies behind so many serial killers motives, people are just objects to indulge their twisted and murderous fantasies out on, then to be discarded, but with pain, suffering and humiliation. BTK Killer Dennis Rader told the investigators that he “was getting a hard-on” when they showed him his own drawings and photos of his dead victims. __________ Notes on reading Maybe I've read too many criminal profiling and forensics books, but there just isn't anything new in this. One thing I read horrified me though, the author interviewed every rape victim (all female) who came into a hospital after the rape, "In all we interviewed 146 individuals from the ages of three to seventy-three." Three! What kind of man (or let me be politically correc,t person with a penis) rapes a three year old? In the UK sexual assault and rape crimes committed by women went up exponentially. An investigation showed that the rate hadn't actually gone up, the rapes were committed by men identifying as women. Because of planning prisons, probation and treatment, the police were asked to revert to the recording of biological sex. The police in Scotland refused. Women have become the third sex, bottom of the heap, our experience as women whether politically, as feminism, safety as shelters, sports, or in any other way considered irrelevant, unimportant in this time of biology being ignored in favour of personal gender identification. If this offends you, consider what Salman Rushdie said, and he got a death sentence rather then denouncing, cancelling and deplatforming, "Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn't exist in any declaration I have ever read. If you are offended it is your problem, and frankly lots of things offend lots of people." Respect for people and how they want to be identified and live their lives should be the norm and unremarkable. Unless it causes harm or pushes a biological sex into a position to their extreme detriment as with sports and rape statistics, then there needs to be an acknowledgement of biological differences and a consequent negotiation of positions. __________ Criminal profiling. CSI in hardback! I love these books. I always wonder what a murderer is like. I know people who could get angry, who could slap or punch someone, but I cannot imagine anyone who could plan and then kill a person and then carry on with their lives as if nothing happened. I think that the fascination of these books is that wonder I might be able to imagine them, not intellectually, but as people I might meet. I wrote that as I started the book. Having read it, I know I am very lucky not to have met any of them, and really I cannot imagine what they are like, they look like us but are monsters in every sense of the word, the sort that frightened us as children but worse.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Giveaway Win! Two of my favorite tv shows are Mindhunter and Criminal Minds. Ann Wolbert Burgess lived those shows in real life. Ann was one of the first women in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. She studied the minds of sexual serial killers. She was instrumental in gathering the information we now know about serial killers. Some people are just built different. Ann Wolbert Burgess went into a line of work that I do not have the stomach for. The thought of sitting across from a serial rapist o Giveaway Win! Two of my favorite tv shows are Mindhunter and Criminal Minds. Ann Wolbert Burgess lived those shows in real life. Ann was one of the first women in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. She studied the minds of sexual serial killers. She was instrumental in gathering the information we now know about serial killers. Some people are just built different. Ann Wolbert Burgess went into a line of work that I do not have the stomach for. The thought of sitting across from a serial rapist or serial killer and listening to them recount their crimes is just not something I could do but I'm glad that people like her and her colleague Candace Delong exist. We cant know how many lives were saved by criminal profilers. If you love True Crime than you will love this book. This isnt a biography, you learn almost nothing about Ann Wolbert Burgess' personal life. This book is about her work and I respect that. A Must Read for True Crime lovers!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    My decades spent studying serial killers weren't for the game of cat and mouse, nor because I found these killers entertaining. And I didn't do it because I empathized with their plight or because I was trying to rehabilitate and reform them. For me, it's always been about the victims. They are the reason I persist. They are the reason I stared down the darkness, time and time again. They are the tragic human cost of a serial killer's self-discovery, the helpless victims of chance and circumstance My decades spent studying serial killers weren't for the game of cat and mouse, nor because I found these killers entertaining. And I didn't do it because I empathized with their plight or because I was trying to rehabilitate and reform them. For me, it's always been about the victims. They are the reason I persist. They are the reason I stared down the darkness, time and time again. They are the tragic human cost of a serial killer's self-discovery, the helpless victims of chance and circumstance. They are living, breathing bodies of boundless possibility reduced to headlines and statistics. And although many of their names have been lost to history or relegated to footnotes in the retellings of serial killers and their crimes, I will never forget a single one. It's the victims who matter. This story is as much theirs as it is mine. If you're familiar with Mindhunter, you'll be aware they based the show around the real life group of agents - and consultants! - who founded the BSU and established criminal profiling as a discipline. Though her character was the most changed for fiction, Ann Wolbert Burgess was an integral member, and I was so excited to see this book be released. It absolutely lived up to my self-generated hype - I can't even tell you how much of this is covered in highlights, but SO MUCH. Ann's perspective was the most unusual amongst the others that we've heard from, being a professor of psychiatric nursing and firmly the most adept with research methodologies and data interpretation. She'd also taken a victim-first approach for most of her career, as opposed to the agents whose jobs were structured based around catching killers - it turned her approach and her perspective completely around from the usual approach. That's not to say other agents I've read don't care - they absolutely do - but there is a very different "voice" to Ann's writing, one I really enjoyed hearing from. A Killer by Design essentially covers Ann's involvement in research, involvement with the BSU and its formation, and a summary of some of the cases she was involved in and how they changed some level of understanding. The book is conversational and easy to read, and everything I'd hoped she'd write some day - absolutely fascinating, and with a level of insight that speaks to the value of decades spent in a discipline. Definitely one I'd recommend.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    3.5 Stars This was an interesting non fiction book that covered the creation of the FBI criminal profiling unit. A lot of the information in this book has been covered in other books like Mindhunters so avid true crime readers won't find a lot of new details. This book provides the experience of the first female profiler on the team and I expected there to be more about her challenges being a woman in a man's world. Instead, this book mostly recounted the popularized history, rehashing the crimes 3.5 Stars This was an interesting non fiction book that covered the creation of the FBI criminal profiling unit. A lot of the information in this book has been covered in other books like Mindhunters so avid true crime readers won't find a lot of new details. This book provides the experience of the first female profiler on the team and I expected there to be more about her challenges being a woman in a man's world. Instead, this book mostly recounted the popularized history, rehashing the crimes of popular serial killers. It was a well written book with a concise narrative, but it just wanted anything new.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erin Clemence

    Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: Dec. 7, 2021 In the 1970s and 1980s, serial killers in the United States were rampant. So much so, that the FBI decided to form their own team to help understand, investigate and eventually arrest these violent criminals. As one of the only females in the Behavioural Sciences Unit (BSU), Ann Burgess, a psychiatric nurse, teamed up wit Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: Dec. 7, 2021 In the 1970s and 1980s, serial killers in the United States were rampant. So much so, that the FBI decided to form their own team to help understand, investigate and eventually arrest these violent criminals. As one of the only females in the Behavioural Sciences Unit (BSU), Ann Burgess, a psychiatric nurse, teamed up with a handful of male FBI agents to compile a way to analyze and study what they knew of current serial killers- in hopes of using this information to help the FBI capture future serial killers before they got started. John E. Douglas, the writer of “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit”, and one of the founders are the Behavioural Sciences Unit, was a part of Ann’s original team. Having read much of Douglas’ work, I found it interesting to read about the BSU from another perspective, and a female one at that. In an era when females even more stereotyped and pigeon-holed, Burgess brings an interesting take to the criminal mind, and adds a critical component to the developing team. The book outlines various serial killers from this era, both highly known and less so (including BTK), but Burgess also goes into detail about how the BSU was formed, and the challenges and struggles she faced as a non-agent, and as a female, trying to make a difference in the criminal justice system. I really enjoyed the deep-dive into some of the most criminal minds in history, and these chapters kept me engaged and drawn in. I had less interest in the development of the BSU as a whole, and the science behind the formation of the collection of data. I wanted more serial killers (because, who doesn’t?) and I would’ve really appreciated a bit more of Burgess, especially from her days in psychiatric nursing. Dark and creepy, “A Killer by Design” is gruesome and not for the faint of heart. Grisly crimes are documented, many are sexual in nature, so it definitely isn’t “light” reading. However, it is a well-told true crime story featuring many of the most prolific serial killers from the era when there was so many to choose from. Burgess’ viewpoints of being a female in a male dominated world were powerful and eye-opening and I immediately bonded with her. This is a must-read novel for fans of “Criminal Minds” or “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit”, and anyone who wants just a little bit more information on how the serial killer mind works, and how they become who they are.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Miya

    True crime fans will love this! Super interesting. Couldn't put it down True crime fans will love this! Super interesting. Couldn't put it down

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    One of the Best Books on Profilers! Story 5/5 Excellent recounting of the author's time on the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit as a criminal profiler. Very interesting and informative! Highly recommended if you're into this subject. One of the Best Books on Profilers! Story 5/5 Excellent recounting of the author's time on the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit as a criminal profiler. Very interesting and informative! Highly recommended if you're into this subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    I really enjoyed reading about Dr. Ann Burgess and how her serious work on researching sexual violence eventually got her to working with the FBI. She helped refine their work on interviewing serial killers so that it would be more useful. Burgess also shares her experiences on different cases during her time with the FBI in the early days of profiling. Good history here and a woman’s perspective on the subjects for a change. For true crime lovers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by I really enjoyed reading about Dr. Ann Burgess and how her serious work on researching sexual violence eventually got her to working with the FBI. She helped refine their work on interviewing serial killers so that it would be more useful. Burgess also shares her experiences on different cases during her time with the FBI in the early days of profiling. Good history here and a woman’s perspective on the subjects for a change. For true crime lovers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ann Wolbert Burgess, and the publisher.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura Peden

    Ann Burgess’s research on sexual assault & trauma caught the FBI’s attention at a crucial time. They were at the beginning stage of creating the Behavioral Science Unit. This true crime memoir takes you behind the scenes as these “Mindhunters” study and hunt serial killers, but from the perspective of a female. She works alongside John Douglas & Robert Ressler. The first half was a little dry & textbook but once they form the group and start studying & hunting, it really picks up! Highly recomme Ann Burgess’s research on sexual assault & trauma caught the FBI’s attention at a crucial time. They were at the beginning stage of creating the Behavioral Science Unit. This true crime memoir takes you behind the scenes as these “Mindhunters” study and hunt serial killers, but from the perspective of a female. She works alongside John Douglas & Robert Ressler. The first half was a little dry & textbook but once they form the group and start studying & hunting, it really picks up! Highly recommend. Listening time just under 6 hrs at 1.55x.

  11. 4 out of 5

    thereadingowlvina (Elvina Ulrich)

    "Behaviour reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the "artist," you must study his "art." The crime must be evaluated in its totality." - John E. Douglas A Killer By Design is a detailed behind-the-scenes look into the creation of FBI's Behavioural Science Unit and how criminal profiling has evolved throughout the years to what it is today. And it all begins with the psychiatric nurse, Ann Burgess. Together with her sociologist friend Lynd "Behaviour reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the "artist," you must study his "art." The crime must be evaluated in its totality." - John E. Douglas A Killer By Design is a detailed behind-the-scenes look into the creation of FBI's Behavioural Science Unit and how criminal profiling has evolved throughout the years to what it is today. And it all begins with the psychiatric nurse, Ann Burgess. Together with her sociologist friend Lynda Lytle Holmstrom, they published their findings on their interdisciplinary research project which focused on victim response to rape in the American Journal of Nursing. Their article titled "The Rape Victim in the Emergency Ward," caught the attention of Roy Hazelwood, who was a pioneer of profiling sexual predators. From then on, she has been working together with the FBI in researching, and refining the process of profiling to what it is today. There are a lot of cases discussed in this book - Henry Wallace (Taco Bell Killer), Ed Kemper (Co-ed Killer), Jon Simonis (Ski Mask Rapist), Montie Rissell, and many more. These are violent criminals who committed very violent crimes. I truly admire Burgess' bravery and passion in advocating for the victims through her impeccable research that often means confronting these criminals. The profiling part was incredibly spot on and it gives me chills reading the cases where criminals were caught because of how accurate the profiling was. In a nutshell, this was one fantastic read but definitely not the for faint-of-heart as the crimes were dark and disturbing. But if you can stomach these, then I would definitely recommend this book. You will be amazed by the research done, the interviews, the process of profiling and the kind of work profilers do! TW: violence, murder, sexual assault, domestic abuse (including children and animals) Pub. Date: Dec 7th, 2021 ***Thank you Hachette Books, author Ann Burgess and NetGalley for this gifted review copy to read. All opinions expressed are my own.***

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was really good. I’m very interested in true crime and this was about the birth of “profiling” criminals and I found it fascinating! I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts that go behind catching serial killers and how they studied them. The novel went into detail how profiling began and the persons who would be the first team. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. This won’t give the reader closer but will give insight to what goes on in the mind of a killer. I commend the authors and th This was really good. I’m very interested in true crime and this was about the birth of “profiling” criminals and I found it fascinating! I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts that go behind catching serial killers and how they studied them. The novel went into detail how profiling began and the persons who would be the first team. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. This won’t give the reader closer but will give insight to what goes on in the mind of a killer. I commend the authors and the great detail they took to make this. I chose to listen to this book on audio and the like the narrator. Thanks Hachette Books via NetGalley.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Brief synopsis: A behind the scenes look at the early days of the FBI’s criminal profiling unit (aka mindhunters) from the unit’s first woman. I’m a huge true crime buff- I’ve read Mindhunter, watched the Netflix adaptation, and read one of Robert Ressler’s books- but this is my favorite of the criminal profiling memoirs I’ve read. What I liked: 🔍 Dr. Wolbert Burgess is a badass, she is SO smart 🔍 How victim-focused her work is 🔍 Learning more about the history of the FBI 🔍 Super fascinating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Brief synopsis: A behind the scenes look at the early days of the FBI’s criminal profiling unit (aka mindhunters) from the unit’s first woman. I’m a huge true crime buff- I’ve read Mindhunter, watched the Netflix adaptation, and read one of Robert Ressler’s books- but this is my favorite of the criminal profiling memoirs I’ve read. What I liked: 🔍 Dr. Wolbert Burgess is a badass, she is SO smart 🔍 How victim-focused her work is 🔍 Learning more about the history of the FBI 🔍 Super fascinating lesser known cases 🔍 She makes the profiling process and material easy to understand What I didn’t like: 🔍 I wish I could hear more about what she is up to now (but perhaps this is setting up another book!) This is a fantastic true crime read. There aren’t many female voices at her level of expertise, so it was truly amazing to hear about her experience. She is very data/research driven and a great representation for woman in the science field. You can tell she held her own in the boys’ club atmosphere of the early days of the FBI. Since I’ve read and watched a lot of true crime material, I really enjoyed learning about the lesser known (but intense) cases, but she also discusses more mainstream cases like those of Kemper, BTK, and the unabomber. As this is a memoir of someone who dealt with brutal killers, this isn’t for the faint of heart. I appreciated that a trigger warning was included. ⚠️: violence, murder (including of children), sexual assault, animal abuse, child (sex) abuse, sexism/misogyny, racism, mental health

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dive Into A Good Book

    If you have always wanted to know the inner workings of a serial killer's mind, A Killer by Design is the book for you. Ann Wolbert Burgess is a forensic and psychiatric nurse who worked with the FBI for over twenty years. Her work helped develop criminal profiling as it is used now and establish the Behavioral Science Unit. Her masterful writing makes you feel as if you are sitting in on one of her lectures at Quantico, learning the steps to profile one of the elusive killers that is on the loo If you have always wanted to know the inner workings of a serial killer's mind, A Killer by Design is the book for you. Ann Wolbert Burgess is a forensic and psychiatric nurse who worked with the FBI for over twenty years. Her work helped develop criminal profiling as it is used now and establish the Behavioral Science Unit. Her masterful writing makes you feel as if you are sitting in on one of her lectures at Quantico, learning the steps to profile one of the elusive killers that is on the loose. A Killer by Design brings you down into the underbelly of the FBI, where the most brilliant investigators work to come up with new techniques and steps to catch a killer. Burgess' does a masterful job of balancing the know-how of catching a killer, with the chilling, nail biting, hair raising cases that she worked on while at the FBI. Tears were streaming down my face as I read about the children who were abducted and later killed in Nebraska. Fear raced down my spine as I she described Edmund Kemper, also known as the Co-Ed Killer. I am in awe that there are people who are willing to work for the victim and their families. Their dreams must be haunted, and their thoughts must be terrifying. This is a book for all the Criminal Mind lovers out there. You will not only delve into the dark, terrifying world of these serial killers. You will also learn what made them killers, and how you can catch them by understanding their thought processes. Burgess' is a master when it comes to writing and drawing you into the inner workings of the FBI and the reality of how they are caught. One point of the many points that stood out for me is that criminals are always changing, whether they must adapt to DNA, to profiling, new technology. Which means to catch them law enforcement has to change as well. The BSU was not always highly thought of. They had to dig and scratch their way to the surface, to prove that what they are learning is useful and beneficial to all. Thank you to Ann Wolbert Burgess, Novel Suspects and Hachette Books for sending me this fascinating, stimulating book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I'm a true crime addict so I was super excited to review Ann Wolbert Burgess's account of her time working at the FBI. I would recommend this book for fans of John Douglas and Robert Ressler, but her account is different from those written by other members of the behavioral science unit. Burgess brings a different perspective as a woman, and a forensic nurse instead of an FBI agent. Her book explains not just criminal psychology but also examines how the agents' minds worked. Burgess goes into d I'm a true crime addict so I was super excited to review Ann Wolbert Burgess's account of her time working at the FBI. I would recommend this book for fans of John Douglas and Robert Ressler, but her account is different from those written by other members of the behavioral science unit. Burgess brings a different perspective as a woman, and a forensic nurse instead of an FBI agent. Her book explains not just criminal psychology but also examines how the agents' minds worked. Burgess goes into detail explaining the profiling process and how it was applied to early case studies. I would recommend this book if you want to know how serial killers develop, how the science of criminal profiling was created, and/or how the FBI modernized in the 70's and 80's.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Fantastic book!! I quick liked learning her perspective on profiling and how she helped shape how sexual assault is thought of. It's perfect for the true crime lover!! Fantastic book!! I quick liked learning her perspective on profiling and how she helped shape how sexual assault is thought of. It's perfect for the true crime lover!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

    This is a hard one for me to review. A Killer by Design was my first true crime read and it didn’t disappoint - I was completely captivated while also being totally terrified. For me it was equal parts page turner, and also, “I need to put this down, walk away, and take some deep breaths”. What people are capable of is so horrific. On the flip side, people like Ann who are willing to deal with the worst of the worst day in and day out, to help make the rest of us safer, are truly amazing. My nee This is a hard one for me to review. A Killer by Design was my first true crime read and it didn’t disappoint - I was completely captivated while also being totally terrified. For me it was equal parts page turner, and also, “I need to put this down, walk away, and take some deep breaths”. What people are capable of is so horrific. On the flip side, people like Ann who are willing to deal with the worst of the worst day in and day out, to help make the rest of us safer, are truly amazing. My need to double check all locks and windows in my house was quadrupled while reading this. 🤣 I so appreciate that a TW is included in the author’s note right at the start so I knew exactly what I was wading into. “…violence, murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, domestic abuse (including children and animals), sexism/misogyny, racism, mental health.” There are photos included in the finished copy, one which I found particularly disturbing. Thank you @novel_suspects and @hachettebooks for the gifted copies

  18. 5 out of 5

    Keith Lytton

    I first want to thank Netgalley and Hachette Books for a chance to chance to read an advanced copy for a true and honest review. I really liked this book...I have always been amazed by the job of profiling...how this is used to get a line on criminals...but specifically serial killers...I have read "Mindhunter" and watched the show on Netflix...I have read many other books on the department...including how the division started...Some of the book covered things that I was already aware of...but t I first want to thank Netgalley and Hachette Books for a chance to chance to read an advanced copy for a true and honest review. I really liked this book...I have always been amazed by the job of profiling...how this is used to get a line on criminals...but specifically serial killers...I have read "Mindhunter" and watched the show on Netflix...I have read many other books on the department...including how the division started...Some of the book covered things that I was already aware of...but this didn't diminish it...it was from a new perspective by the author Ann Burgess...it was great to read her background before joining the FBI ...but she details several cases and how all of the participants come together to form the profiles...it was interesting to hear about the background work...like the teaching of classes and the presentation of information to agents to get them thinking about profiles....there were times that the psych aspect dove deep and made me think but that also was welcome...it wasn't fluff...it was deep analysis of what the process is and how they use it ...but not to the point that it was a turnoff...and then the final determination of where and how ....she also dove into the people she worked with ...to get more of a feel about them as people....which I found very interesting as most other books gloss over this as..I am sure the thought process is that most people wouldn't be as interested in the people but were looking just for the cases....but to know what drives the person to do this work...was very revealing... Thanks Ann and Steve for the great book...another interesting read about such an enthralling topic...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    Ann Wolbert Burgess is a badass. She worked alongside Robert Ressler and John Douglas, creating the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), building a unique criminal database, and formulating the basis of what we now know as criminal profiling. Unlike her colleagues in this male-dominated criminal justice field, Burgess’s background was as a forensic nurse working with rape victims. Her focus on the trauma experienced by victims carried over into her work with the BSU, bringing unique insight to po Ann Wolbert Burgess is a badass. She worked alongside Robert Ressler and John Douglas, creating the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), building a unique criminal database, and formulating the basis of what we now know as criminal profiling. Unlike her colleagues in this male-dominated criminal justice field, Burgess’s background was as a forensic nurse working with rape victims. Her focus on the trauma experienced by victims carried over into her work with the BSU, bringing unique insight to police work. If you’ve read anything by Ressler or Douglas, or watched Mindhunter’s on Netflix, then you’ll be familiar with the setup for Burgess’s story. But her perspective as a female and a victim-focused nurse skews this story so we see things a little differently. We get into some of the infamous cases, but also some of the little known early cases that the team worked on. I really enjoyed learning more about her involvement and contributions. *I received an ARC from Hachette Books.*

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Civille

    If you are someone who loves true crime or thrillers that include a serial killer, this book is a must read! Ann Burgess takes you through her experiences in helping to identify, interview, and track down dozens of notoriously violent serial killers and rapists. She was also one of the first women to participate in these types of FBI tasks. She does such a great job of combining her experiences into a book that will just suck you in from the beginning. There are obviously a ton of content warnin If you are someone who loves true crime or thrillers that include a serial killer, this book is a must read! Ann Burgess takes you through her experiences in helping to identify, interview, and track down dozens of notoriously violent serial killers and rapists. She was also one of the first women to participate in these types of FBI tasks. She does such a great job of combining her experiences into a book that will just suck you in from the beginning. There are obviously a ton of content warnings, so please proceed with caution when reading or listening to this book. Thank you @hachettebooks for my #gifted ARC and final copy and @hachetteaudio for my #gifted audiobook!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I would recommend this to any fans of Mindhunter. This is written by the woman who inspired the character of Wendy Carr. This is a behind the scenes look at how the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI gained credibility. It also explores how Ann Wolbert Burgess' research and deep interest in victims, particularly those of rape, caught the attention of the FBI. I found it especially fascinating how intensely detailed they could get their profiles - - - they would even predict the type of clothing I would recommend this to any fans of Mindhunter. This is written by the woman who inspired the character of Wendy Carr. This is a behind the scenes look at how the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI gained credibility. It also explores how Ann Wolbert Burgess' research and deep interest in victims, particularly those of rape, caught the attention of the FBI. I found it especially fascinating how intensely detailed they could get their profiles - - - they would even predict the type of clothing the un-sub would wear, not to mention their age, occupation, religion, etc. So incredible how accurate they could be. Now if only Mindhunter would come back for season 3!

  22. 4 out of 5

    The Romance Book Disciple (Samantha)

    Interesting perspective. I appreciated her unique talents because it brought something different to the table. I love the books by Douglass et al. but Burgess brings a unique perspective that I really appreciated. The stories are tragic, but I thought Burgess did a wonderful job of trying to understand serial rapists so she could help victims.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I really enjoyed this one. It's one of the few books I've read that actually focus on the victims as opposed to the killer. I really enjoyed this one. It's one of the few books I've read that actually focus on the victims as opposed to the killer.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Maloney

    *I received a review copy from Hachette for an honest review. For those who have read John Douglas' Mindhunter and Robert Ressler's Whoever Fights Monsters, you already know Ann Burgess -- the psychologist behind the groundbreaking studies which drove the development of criminal profiling as a crime-fighting technique. She's authored and co-authored several books, but this is the first I've come across which provides her point of view before, during, and after the development of those profiling *I received a review copy from Hachette for an honest review. For those who have read John Douglas' Mindhunter and Robert Ressler's Whoever Fights Monsters, you already know Ann Burgess -- the psychologist behind the groundbreaking studies which drove the development of criminal profiling as a crime-fighting technique. She's authored and co-authored several books, but this is the first I've come across which provides her point of view before, during, and after the development of those profiling techniques. This is a fascinating, fast-paced look at Burgess' experience with the FBI and some of the most striking cases she explored. It is not for the faint-of-heart. She opens with the murder of two young boys in Nebraska. This case is used to illustrate the profiling process and, as such, contains brutal details -- all of which are necessary to understand why the profiling team comes to the conclusions it does. Burgess' focus is always on the victim of the crime. We mustn't forget that there are real people, some still suffering, because of these murderers. As Burgess herself points out, we (true crime fans) often have a tendency to place serial killers on a pedestal -- Who is YOUR favorite serial killer? -- which is one of the risks with attempting to explain these violent offenders' reasoning and thought processes during the most transgressive acts one human being can perpetrate on another (rape and murder). But Burgess leaves no doubt that these killers are definitely the bad guys. While the stories, explanations, and case studies are fascinating in their own right, I personally found the inter-relationships between the profilers almost MORE interesting. For example, I'd read about Ann Burgess in John Douglas' Mindhunter many years before, so I already knew who she was and what she'd done...from Douglas' point of view. In my mind, Douglas has dominated the criminal profiling conversation for decades. His stories have led to multiple bestselling books and one badass Netflix series. It was very intriguing to hear the same stories told from a psychologist's (and a woman's) point of view.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Kernene

    What a great book! I knew who Ann Burgess was before getting this book, so I was excited to read it. And it was worth it! The book is well-written and flows very well. She explained how she became part of the profiling team at the BAU when it began and gave her input as a forensic researcher that specialized in sex crimes.. I think her research and input was so invaluable. She included stories from offenders and different investigations she was involved in. I think it is a great book, one of the What a great book! I knew who Ann Burgess was before getting this book, so I was excited to read it. And it was worth it! The book is well-written and flows very well. She explained how she became part of the profiling team at the BAU when it began and gave her input as a forensic researcher that specialized in sex crimes.. I think her research and input was so invaluable. She included stories from offenders and different investigations she was involved in. I think it is a great book, one of the best I read this year. I highly recommend it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Clairelouloves

    I enjoyed this book by FBI criminal profiler Ann Burgess, however, I have read most of John Douglas’s books- as well as some other FBI profiler accounts- so much of the material was familiar to me, as were some of the cases. I was also a fan of the Mindhunter series, so I felt like much of it I had already read about. I was far less interested in the background of the behavioural science department as again I have heard it before and found myself skimming these parts. However, I recommend this b I enjoyed this book by FBI criminal profiler Ann Burgess, however, I have read most of John Douglas’s books- as well as some other FBI profiler accounts- so much of the material was familiar to me, as were some of the cases. I was also a fan of the Mindhunter series, so I felt like much of it I had already read about. I was far less interested in the background of the behavioural science department as again I have heard it before and found myself skimming these parts. However, I recommend this book to anyone interested in behavioural science, criminal psychology, and true crime. The author details some highly disturbing crimes of an upsetting nature and the FBI approach in these cases to identifying the perpetrator is fascinating.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    If you’ve watched “Mindhunter” on Netflix, you know the basic outline of how the FBI came to create their Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), which, among other things, profiles serial killers in order to assist in their capture and understand their crimes. The series, which fictionalizes the work of three of the unit leads, is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by one of those subjects, FBI agent John Douglas. Another seminal figure of the FBI’s work on serial killers was Ann Wolbert Burg If you’ve watched “Mindhunter” on Netflix, you know the basic outline of how the FBI came to create their Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), which, among other things, profiles serial killers in order to assist in their capture and understand their crimes. The series, which fictionalizes the work of three of the unit leads, is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by one of those subjects, FBI agent John Douglas. Another seminal figure of the FBI’s work on serial killers was Ann Wolbert Burgess, and now she shares her own account of the BSU work, the science of profiling, and how she helped examine and try to explain this type of terrifying crime. It probably goes without saying that A KILLER BY DESIGN is not for the faint of heart: it is grisly and graphic. However, it is also a totally compelling look at crime investigation, extreme psychological disorders, and the contributions of some top-notch scientists and law enforcement specialists. Burgess’ professional life is equally as fascinating, if not more so, than the “Mindhunter” character on which she is loosely based. Burgess holds a doctorate in psychiatric nursing, a field that emerged in the mid-1950s. She became especially interested in victimology and the psychology of violent crimes when she began to recognize the abuse --- often sexual --- suffered by many women in mental institutions, including those convicted of violent crimes themselves. The goal of Burgess' early research was to “better understand the emotional and traumatic effects of sexual violence, which often far outlasted the physical effects of the act itself.” This groundbreaking work caught the attention of the agents working at the nascent BSU, and they invited her to join them. However, she was never an FBI agent, and shared her experience and expertise as a contractor. Add to that the fact that Burgess was the only woman on the team --- and, at the time, one of the only women working for the FBI in an expert capacity --- and her story gets even more interesting. In its basement offices in Quantico starting in the late 1970s, the BSU began interviewing serial killers in prison to create criminal profiles that could be of use in identifying and apprehending others like them as quickly as possible. Their work was at once urgent and slow going. It was urgent when they were called into cases where a serial killer was suspected, and they raced to save lives. It also was slow going as, over the years, they refined their techniques, clarified their concepts and articulated their ideas. They always reviewed and examined evidence, interviewed the country’s most terrifying murderers, and shared what they learned with FBI agents and others in law enforcement. The BSU developed some of the fundamental methods and concepts of criminal profiling. Even as America’s interest in and romanticizing of serial killers grew, Burgess and the others worked to fully understand the mental health of the perpetrators and analyzed their pathological issues of control and fantasy. Chapter by chapter, she introduces cases that were fundamental to the work of the BSU --- not to sensationalize, but to illuminate where psychiatry and law enforcement came together to create new methodologies for profiling and categorizing serial murders in the hopes of saving lives. A KILLER BY DESIGN is unflinching and horrifying, a clinical yet humane intersection of true crime, science writing and memoir, and the reflections on a career of a woman doing innovative and unprecedented work. Much of what the layperson has in mind when they think of profiling or the investigations of murders is based on the work of Burgess and her amazing BSU colleagues. This is an absorbing and disturbing read, a thoughtful and honest counterbalance to the pop culture fixation on these brutal and complex crimes. And, perhaps above all, it is a testament to the genius of the BSU and Burgess’ focus on the victims and survivors. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Hadley

    Ann Burgess walks into a FBI briefing room in the 1970s and immediately realizes how difficult a task she has. Not only is she there to tell FBI agents that their gut instinct isn't the most effective way to catch killers or rapists, but she is a woman about to tell them this. This is how A Killer by Design opens. Burgess' inner monologue recalling what happened when the FBI brought her in to help them be more efficient. Watching the faces of the male agents as she takes her place at the front o Ann Burgess walks into a FBI briefing room in the 1970s and immediately realizes how difficult a task she has. Not only is she there to tell FBI agents that their gut instinct isn't the most effective way to catch killers or rapists, but she is a woman about to tell them this. This is how A Killer by Design opens. Burgess' inner monologue recalling what happened when the FBI brought her in to help them be more efficient. Watching the faces of the male agents as she takes her place at the front of the room, and then the moment during her lecture where the room shifts, and the men take her seriously as an expert in her field, which had as much to do with her abilities to take in and categorize information as it did, her ability to witness horrific retellings of crimes and stay focused. Because of Burgess's efforts, we have the level of criminal profiling that we do. She developed the series of questions to ask convicted killers that allows agents to create a baseline to build profiles, she developed the systems of research and data collection still used today, she is even a big part of the reason that the FBI has kept up in technology, trying to stay current. But the book is not super technical; I am very much a layman, so when the book started talking about data and research in the sciences--even behavioral sciences--I was worried, but Burgess writes for the common person. She keeps things moving and straight forward before getting back to the stories, which is what the people really want. And what stories they are. We get the BTK killer and the Unabomber as the major stories that she helped work on, including a very intense story about them teasing the BTK killer out of hiding, and what that could have looked like had it gone wrong. Burgess gives the reader details that are tough to take in but they never feel salacious either. She balances the world's obsession with True Crime without sensationalizing or trivializing the pain of the families of the victims. the highlight of the book for me was listening to the story of the time they tried to create a profile for a teenage girl killer. Burgess mentions that serial killers are typically men, and creating a profile on a teenage girl killer really tripped her and her team up. It's a really fascinating story too. Many of the stories are. I am sure Burgess has hundreds of them, but the stories within this book feel like the ones that most informed the process by which they create these profiles. Burgess is also one of the first people to really track serial rapists and apply some of the same principles of profiling that were created for serial killers, which was met with resistance at first--because you know, FBI was all men. Burgess was one of the first people in a position of power to posit that rape wasn't about sex at all, but power and control. it feels so obvious today, but these sections in the book show how uncommon that line of thinking was at one time. I am not someone who consumes a lot of true crime. It's not that I don't find it interesting, but often times, for me, it is kind of icky for this stuff to be all over tv or podcasts. Profiting off such horrifying circumstances. This book felt like a bridge between that. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator is great, but the little skit right at the top of the book almost turned me off to it immediately.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    This review is for an ARC copy received from the publisher through NetGalley. I was interested in this book because the description stated the author worked with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit back in its formative days, including with John Douglas who was a pioneer at the BSU. I enjoyed Douglas's famous true crime book "Mindhunter." and the Netflix series based on it, and Burgess is undoubtedly the figure behind Anna Torv's character on that show. While I wondered what Burgess might bring new This review is for an ARC copy received from the publisher through NetGalley. I was interested in this book because the description stated the author worked with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit back in its formative days, including with John Douglas who was a pioneer at the BSU. I enjoyed Douglas's famous true crime book "Mindhunter." and the Netflix series based on it, and Burgess is undoubtedly the figure behind Anna Torv's character on that show. While I wondered what Burgess might bring new to the table that previous books and the TV show hadn't already explored, it quickly became apparent that there was sufficient untapped material for this book. While the "Mindhunter" book and show greatly focus on serial killers and how the FBI began utilizing the idea of profiling killers, Burgess doesn't focus as much on those famous aspects. While they are mentioned, as she was one of the main people to begin that whole process, the focus in this book is more on sexually violent offenders and those who weren't as much in the limelight or weren't even serial killers, but perhaps killers of one or two victims. Without the hoopla of going into detail about more notorious criminals and instead describing more of the psychological process that she introduced into the profiling scheme this book could have made for some very dry reading. But the narrative flows very well and in a manner that makes you want to learn more about the process behind the system and how it shaped the way law enforcement deals with these violent criminals today. 4.5/5*

  30. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Boobar

    This story was utterly captivating! It focuses on the author's experiences working in a field that deals with violent criminals. It has many layers to it. With a unique perspective of a woman's point of view during a time and in an occupation, when woman were still limited and held back because of their sex in a field dominated by white men. It did a great job getting and holding my attention throughout the whole story. The writing was excellent. It gave all the critical information without feel This story was utterly captivating! It focuses on the author's experiences working in a field that deals with violent criminals. It has many layers to it. With a unique perspective of a woman's point of view during a time and in an occupation, when woman were still limited and held back because of their sex in a field dominated by white men. It did a great job getting and holding my attention throughout the whole story. The writing was excellent. It gave all the critical information without feeling like a text book or info dumping. It looks at how her career started as a nurse. Because of her specific interest, ground breaking research and perspective, she was able to make leaps and bounds, in regards to how victims of sex crimes are treated as well as how to deal with offenders. Because of her tireless efforts on this subject, she caught the eye of the FBI agents. I have read many true crime books as well several on profiling, however this book stands out for me. It showed the back breaking work that not only Ann put in, but all the members that first made up the BSU. How they each brought priceless aspects to developing criminal profiling and the criminals that made up their database. They looked at their horrible deeds and how each one played a crucial role in order to understand the minds of these individuals, which can lead to capturing them. I highly recommend this book! Trigger warnings included but not limited to: Kidnapping, rape, murder, dismembering, etc.. I received this advanced ebook, via Netgalley. This review is my own honest opinion.

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