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Criminal Shadows: Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer. A Book By David Canter. Book Review

1022 words - 4 pages

David Canter, professor of Psychology at Liverpool University, has written more that a dozen books on psychology, and his biography states he "....is the pioneer and leading expert in psychological profiling......" Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer (1994) is a factual book, based on his own experiences, on the evolution and development of profiling and is set out chronologically. He explains that he believes a criminal leaves behind a shadow of himself at a crime scene in the form of clues to his behaviour and therefore his character. Identifying and interpreting these shadows is the story of criminal profiling. Writing this book may originally have started as an introduction to this field but as technology and communication have developed so fast it starts to read like a history book. The book is set out in four main parts: Problem Solving, Approach, Development and Resolutions and draws the reader through the book in an ordered way.The book begins in 1980 with the unsolved murder of an eight year old girl in Staffordshire whose killer goes undetected for eleven years. This was used to highlight the difficulty of capturing a criminal when a connection could not be made between them and the victim at that time.The book then takes you through various violent crimes and, at first, concentrates on the connection between the writers own experiences, and those of the British police he is working with. He shows how their "gut feelings" often overlapped with his own theories based on behavioural psychology. He then moves towards the advances made by the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, and its methods used to build a massive data base on crime. In chapter three "Enriching Intuition" he pin points a breakthrough when he writes "The Behavioral Science Unit focused on what actually happened in the crimes, not on the introspection of the criminal." viewing a crime scene as a picture of the lives of people rather than a single crime.By chapter eight (Objects of Murder) we, as readers, have been given a foundation of what is important about the actual crime scene and its location. Here we are shown, by learning as much as possible about the victim, we can start to theorise about the criminal.Part four, (chapters 9 -12) brings us to the real nitty-gritty of psychology with references to the work of Freud, Skinner and Piaget and explains how their approaches work (or don't) within modern psychological profiling. Here Canter summarises lessons learnt over the years and brings them all together with some excellent writing. He has neatly collated the information, almost text book style, by adding previous information from the book to a large splash of classical psychology and well educated opinion.Much of this book covers what is now almost common knowledge (if you watch enough TV) about profiling, but by the time you reach the end of the book you are shown, how in the past,...

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