Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman

25561483FBI veteran and ex-Army CID colonel Robert Ressler learned how to identify the unknown monsters who walk among us–and put them behind bars. Now the man who coined the phrase “serial killer” shows how he is able to track down some of today’s most brutal murderers.

From the victims they choose, to the way they kill, to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them–Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers. With his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler’s gone behind prison walls to hear the bizarre first-hand stories countless convicted murderers. Join Ressler as he takes you on the hunt for toady’s most dangerous psychopaths. It is a terrifying journey you will not forget.


Here’s what I wanted when I read Incendiary – a look into the mind of a repeat criminal. Ressler is a pioneer in the field of profiling and uses cases, both famous and not, to explore the minds of serial killers.  I learned a lot – organized vs. disorganized killers, what may push someone to their first murder, and what drives them to repeat the crime again and again.

While informative and interesting several things put me off, though.  First, the victims are minimized, often reduced to clues to analyze the mind of the killer.  The criminals’ thought process, and the men who work to understand it, are prioritized above all else.  The upcoming book Dead Girls address this point really well – watch this space for a review on release day.

Also, Ressler is full of himself and it grates.  What’s the line… ‘may the lord grant me the confidence of a straight white man’?  That’s Ressler.  He quotes letters of commendation while he humble brags about every little thing.  He tells stories about bending the rules for the sake of the investigation and always comes out squeaky clean.  It’s goddamn annoying but also maybe expected from a G-man of his era. (Note: expected does not equal excused.)

I listened on audio and have no complaints about the narrator or production. While nowhere near perfect, Whoever Fights Monsters provides a foundation to build my Serial Killer Summer on.

…yeah, I’m making it a thing. Heaven help me.

11 thoughts on “Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman

  1. Great review! I felt the same about this one. Some really interesting stuff but his arrogance and attitude!! Looking forward to the rest of your serial killer summer 🙂

    1. Thank you! Nice to know I wasn’t the only one who thought he was a bit full of himself. 😉 My Serial Killer Summer has started off with a bang, so expect some more reviews soon!

      1. It’s funny because I’m reading a book now (Amy: My search for her killer) where a case that Ressler mentioned very quickly is explored at book length. he mentions Ressler’s assertion that a suspect who committed suicide shortly after she was found was the likely killer. And apparently even other FBI agents disagree but he put it in the book anyway. So now I’m unsure about his stories since that one has a lot of other evidence against it, according to this book. Anyway, very much looking forward to your reviews 😊

        1. That puts his stories in a whole new light! If I knew that I would have been casting even more shade as I read, holy cow. Thanks so much for this insight!

          1. I wish I’d read it first too! I guess maybe the case I mentioned was slightly lower profile than some of the other ones he worked on/described so maybe he felt he had a little more leeway in discussing his theories, whereas the higher profile ones stuck more to the cold hard facts? I hope so, at least. It’s also revealed later in the book I read that Ressler changed this short segment about Amy Mihaljevic between the hardcover and paperback releases of Whoever Fights Monsters, taking out the suspect’s name, which is good since he was never convicted, but isn’t the whole thing odd?

  2. Well, i’m quite happy that you read this book and reported on it, so that I won’t have to 😉 ! Looking forward to the next reviews! May I recommend the podcast series You’ll remember this on the Manson crimes? in case you want more audio resources…

  3. I’m pretty excited to hear what else you’ll be reading for your serial killer summer! I enjoyed Incendiary, but would also like more details about how profiling works, so I may be willing to put up with an obnoxious protagonist and pick this up 🙂

    1. I did learn a bunch! Do check out whatsnonfiction’s comments though – best to be prepared for your eyes to roll out of your head 😉

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